Seasonal affective disorder makes life hell for millions

Greg Jerrett

“October, the trees are stripped bare of all they wear. What do I care?

October, kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, but you go on … and on …”

— U2, “October”

Every time I hear that song it sends me into a deep, blue funk a yawning black abyss from which there is no escape. Why?

Is it because it reminds me that U2 used to be all about the message, and now they are all about the money and image they project for fans who hold them in godlike esteem? Only partly.

The reason this song gets me to linger a little too long in the sporting goods section of Wal-Mart is it reminds me that fall is well under way, the days are getting shorter and seasonal affective disorder, or S.A.D. as those freaking quacks like to call it, is here.

What kind of sick monkeys would waste their time coming up with an acronym like this for a serious problem which affects millions of people? Doctors are freaks (especially proctologists), I don’t care what anyone else tells you.

According to Dr. Daniel B. Pearson III, author of “Am I blue or just ‘S.A.D.'” seasonal affective disorder is often mistaken for simply being depressed around the holidays. This is typical.

Who among us thinks that Christmas and Thanksgiving are anywhere near as good as they were when we were children, ignorant of life’s harsh realities and the torment that only adulthood can bring?

Who doesn’t have a grandmother whose mashed potatoes got weirder, lumpier and nastier as she got older, making us all realize that we too would one day grow old and lose the one thing that made us who we are?

Well, don’t believe it, Snappy!

The dread and loathing you feel every day as you wake up nearly incapable of getting out of bed for fear of losing it in front of God and everybody at food service has nothing to do with the Ghost of Christmas Past giving you a wedgie for being an ungrateful twerp who doesn’t realize there is more to a woman’s life than the ability to make decent mashed tubers without going WAY too heavy on the pepper.

Let’s face it — being depressed in today’s society may be one of the few signs that you are a healthy and rational individual. Who wouldn’t be depressed?

Putting aside all of the political doggerel about how happy we should all be because we live in the greatest country on earth, there is very little to be happy about.

What do I care if some rich freak can buy a new jet ski every year or if some hack in middle management got a bonus this year because the boss he brown-noses is impressed that he landed the big account adding to the well-being of some other money-grubbing money changer in the temple of Mammon?

I think I speak for many, many Americans when I say that regardless of the superficial indicators of wellness and financial success, life is about as joyless and empty as an evening of British opera.

Anyone who tells you something different is trying to sell you something, but unfortunately, anyone who agrees is probably trying to sell you something, too.

The market is flooded these days with cure-alls and fix-its for depression. God forbid we do something to actually cure depression like make life bearable. How about one meaningful alternative lifestyle anywhere in the country that doesn’t involve freakish millennium cults and popular psycho-therapeutic fads.

Here is how this one works and the great thing is it’s free.

Seasonal affective disorder is the result of reduced sunlight reaching our eyes during the winter months. This affects our chrono-biological cycles negatively. Now, as “pop psych” as this might sound, it is really quite simple. It means that we have lost control of our circadian rhythms. We get less melatonin from our pineal glands, and then all hell breaks loose.

If we were bears, this would be the thing telling us to hibernate.

If we were birds it would tell us to go south for the winter, but since people are nothing more than cogs in the giant machine of capitalism that grinds us all underfoot like so many ants, we stay put and suffer the torments of winter so Johnny Fatcash can winter in Bermuda.

The great free therapy here is to get out and enjoy the limited sunshine while you can. Let it roll around your eyes and get into your system. Tell that pineal gland to start kicking out the hormones or there will be some real trouble.

The other relatively cheap therapy is chocolate. Chocolate, in case you didn’t know this before, is almost as good as sunshine when it comes to melatonin production. Is there anything chocolate can’t do? I don’t think so.

Of course, I wouldn’t take my word for any of this because I am not a health care professional.

If you are suffering from depression, you are still better off going to a mental health professional than you are listening to the ravings of the lunatic fringe.

And don’t be one of these types who thinks it is better to suck it up and suffer in silence.

The symptoms of depression are as real, legitimate and painful as those associated with a broken arm, and you wouldn’t ignore that, would you?

Doctors these days can figure out just what in the hell your problem is with 15 minutes of questions and maybe one or two tests to see if there is anything seriously wrong with your liver or hypothalamus.

Don’t delay, seek treatment today.

Greg Jerrett is a graduate student in English from Council Bluffs. He is opinion editor of the Daily.