It's that time of year again. I am not talking about the holiday season, I'm talking about my nemesis — Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — a type of seasonal depression that typically occurs this time of year. Since as far back as I can remember, I started getting really bummed out during the winter months. Later, I learned that I suffered from SAD, and there were several ways to treat my depression and make life a little bit more bearable. I've also come to understand that suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder actually prepares you for parenthood in the most surprising ways.
When you have SAD you have to learn some mad coping skills that assist you in overcoming some significant hurdles in order to get through the dark days and nights. I've learned that having these experiences has made me a stronger person and a more badass and flexible mom.
So, what doesn't kill us really does make us stronger? Well, no. However, having Seasonal Affective Disorder has certainly taught me a thing or two about exhaustion, coping with depression and stress, and accepting when things don't go according to "plan." In my opinion, those are important parenting skills. I wouldn't wish SAD on anyone, but for those of us who suffer from the winter blues, it's nice to think there might actually be some perks.
Long before I became a parent, I learned to cope with chronic insomnia, especially this time a year. Luckily, I have been able to get through long nights and exhausting days with meds, relaxation techniques, and lots of coffee. All of which have been crucial to me surviving parenting-related exhaustion and sleep deprivation.
I have come to view the winter months in terms of things I enjoy — pumpkin spice lattes, pie, peppermint mochas, cookies, family, and cheap candy the day after Valentine's day. Living with Seasonal Affective Disorder has enabled me to find the bright spots on cold, dark days. I will probably never love snowball fights or Christmas lights, but pie? Now that's something to smile about.
I can be grumpy, especially on days when the sun doesn't shine or I can't get outside to enjoy it. I am used to being irrationally cranky, so it doesn't hit me as hard now that I have a small human to care for.
I have learned what it takes to help me get through the winter months. Generally coffee, wine, and running will assist me. Now that I have kids, my ability to cheer myself up is crucial on days when my kids test every ounce of patience, and I can't send them outside because it's too cold.
Because SAD comes every year, and I know it's coming, I have learned to brace myself and to accept the things I cannot change.That little thing has made a huge difference. I forgive myself when I'm not perfect and when things don't go as planned.
In my opinion, flexibility and the ability to shift gears are key strategies for coping with SAD and for being a good parent.
When you are able to recognize how your mood is affecting your behavior and develop coping skills, you become a nicer person to be around. I don't always like my kids. Seriously. However, because I love them I try to recognize how my mood might be impacting my attitude towards them.
Having SAD makes me more understanding of my kids' mental health issues. It's made me a more empathic mom and more able to understand when they need extra love or support to do something that is hard for them.
I'm not saying this is a healthy skill, but having SAD (like other forms of depression) has taught me how to successfully make it through the day when I have no motivation to do anything other than crawl under the covers or find a sunbeam to bask in. Being a parent challenges me in the same way, but fortunately, I have had lots of practice.
Having Seasonal Affective Disorder has taught me an incredible amount about practicing self-care. I know what works for me, especially this time of year. I fit in exercise, peppermint mochas, massages, and trying to get enough sleep. I take my meds. I meditate. All of these things help me through the winter blues and help me be a better mom in spite of them.