I reckon I get SAD every year. Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression which can be seriously debilitating. It affects around two million people in the UK and more than 12 million people across Northern Europe.
I suffer from the mild sort. Symptoms of the disorder are similar to other types of depression: low mood, a loss of interest in life, leading a less active lifestyle and staying in bed for longer. All those symptoms could explain me with a hangover, but I guess that’s what SAD is, or what it feels like to me anyway, a kind of mind fog that’s brought on the morning after the sunshine before, when the mornings and nights grow darker for longer and the cold, wet weather sets in. It can all feel a bit bleak can’t it?
January is usually the worst. The Christmas and New Year buzz fades, I realise I’m skint and there’s little motivation for going outside. This year I’m determined to beat it.
Life is for living and it’s not good enough to bury yourself for a month, two months or three months even while the hours of sunlight dwindle. My tactic for beating the furrowed eyebrows and hours resigned to watching endless boxset episodes in darkened rooms after work and at weekends is to draw on as many inspirational stories and people as I can to keep my spirits up.
Today alone I met someone with a remarkable story; a farmer’s wife and mother of two young children who, in 2007, suffered an aneurysm and was given a one per cent chance of survival by doctors. Staggering then that there I was, almost six years to the day later, sitting opposite Sally-Anne in her farmhouse, dunking a shortbread biscuit into a mug of tea as she told me about her story and how she was keen for her tale to be shared further to provide a source of strength for others. She’s already penned a book on her experiences and has so far sold 300 copies.
As a result of this hugely traumatic episode in her life, she has a whole new philosophy on how she sees the world. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift,” she said to me. I admit, we both had a tear in our eyes.
Sally-Anne’s story wasn’t the only thing that inspired me today. A friend and former work colleague recently ran 40 miles around the Peak District in one day. I read his account of this exhausting challenge via Twitter. This is something he does for fun. Crazy! But nonetheless, it makes my training for a 10k next month feel less daunting.
Quin Etnyre is also inspiring and for a completely different reason. He’s 12 and he’s a teacher. He wears a massive grin and makes robots. He runs his own electronics company and is already certain he’ll be studying at Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he’s 19. I caught his full story in Popular Science magazine.
All three people taught me in their own ways that the human body and mind are incredible things. Resilient, powerful and capable of amazing feats. Why should we let a bit of wind, rain and darkness stifle the strength inside of us? There’s no time like the present.
This quote, widely attributed to the late rally driver Colin McRae is ammo for confronting SAD demons: “Life’s too short. We’re here for a good time, not a long time.”
Note to self: Get On With It.