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What's love got to do with it???Relationships and Seasonal Depression (a real case study)

A line in a song by Tina Turner! Hello and I hope it's a good day for you. This line and some thoughts on it occurred to me this morning and I started to consider two things. First, the affect on our relationships during our season of depression. Second, how we can be really misunderstood when we are in it.

Addressing the first thought made me think of a book I finished about dealing with relationships in the seasons of depression. And, the second thought led me back to a conversation I had a few months ago with a women that was diagnosed with SAD 20 years ago. She is married with children and was very open about her journey, which she agreed to let me share with you. To conceal her identity, I gave her a name to keep that private: We shall refer to her as Ms Gardenia (for her fondness of the very flower).

My first inquiry was regarding her and her family dynamics during her season of depression (the winter months: Jan - March/April). I asked what it is like with the demands of being a wife and mother, and how does she take care of herself and still take care of them? Because she is well seasoned (no pun intended) in her seasonality, her husband and family know that this is a recurring condition. They understand that it has nothing to do with them or her love for them. They know she needs space and understand that quiet time is part of her care. She was very clear, in our conversation, that her need for life to be unburdened by big decisions is critical to maintaining a sense of stability. She doesn't want to make changes during this time and avoids conversations that require new ideas to change. She indicated that she doesn't try to make new friends when her emotional reserves are low; making new friends requires a lot of emotional investment that she can't commit to. This lead me to ask about loneliness. It is a part of her life when she feels depressed, but her energy needs to be directed to her own care. So, the tradeoff is that she spends a lot of time in solitude when she isn't with her family. Initially this sounded very sad and desperate. However, I was so surprised and happy to hear her response. She was very forthcoming and talked about something I hadn't considered. She said that having a job contributed more than income. She said it gets her up in the morning and that once she is at work, it keeps her focused on her work, avoiding the tendency to linger in bed and then saunter through the kitchen for comfort food. This happened last winter, when she wasn't working. She found herself in springtime several pounds heavier from mindless eating! Not only does winter cause some people to self medicate with food, but when one is back to normal in the spring, it's a new challenge to take off the weight! A vicious cycle indeed! I find it very interesting that she has found ways to balance her own needs in order to be able to handle the relational draw and demands that go with family. Having a job is also gratifying and boosts her self esteem. She keeps her wardrobe simple; choosing a select color palette to make it easy to get dressed and wears only simple earrings and a watch on a daily basis. This routine is very uncomplicated and doesn't require a lot of decision making. Another aspect I think might be helpful to others is in the ways she practices her self care. She chooses to manage her symptoms independently and sets out alone most of the time to refresh and recover. This, she finds, is the only way to recharge her emotional batteries to have a healthy mindset to jump back into real life upon her return. I love that part of her arsenal includes things like: visiting new and unusual coffee shops, art museums with unique cafe's to indulge in decadent desserts, long walks in parks or subdivisions nearby. Being a reader, she likes a great book that takes her to a different country or one that is inspirational. Other good reads include self help guides, mystery stories and historical fiction. Music in the car is for background noise, but she was selective on that as well: soulful music like Etta James, Motown and Contemporary Christian. Lastly, she mentioned her nightly routine included diffusing essential oils like: Bergamot, Lavender and Balance (a blend by Doterra). I surmised that sensory experiences offer not only retreat but involve enjoyment and satisfaction during a time when often it is difficult to conjure up happy emotions. Our conversation was such an inspiration to me. I want to share with others that these ideas could literally change their life if one is open to exploring interesting venues and things/opportunities they may not have ever entertained.

People and relationships are what makes our world go around. In this life, if you are going to be in relationships, it involves people! And, as people in this life, it absolutely involves relationships! So let me ask you: Do you owe it to yourself to make changes that could give you joy and happiness, even when you are walking through your season of depression? What steps will you take to get there? This was a very special post and I am grateful to Ms Gardenia for her willingness to share and be vulnerable. I think she's got a handle on her own brand of seasonal depression and the right ideas that work for her!

Take care and have a joyful week....Jeanine

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