Three out of the four seasons, I am jubilant, bubbly, cheery, and talkative. The spring flowers make me smile. I absolutely love the long, summer days where I can be outdoors all day and do activities with the people I love. In the fall, I love stomping on the leaves and drinking spiced cider. In the winter, I like decorating the Christmas tree and seeing family; however, it also feels like a drag.
I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is a type of mood disorder characterized by seasonal depression, which usually takes place in the winter. Due to the lack of light, the circadian rhythm is off, which causes the brain chemistry to go out of whack. Anyway, feeling happy was not a problem for the majority of the year—except for the winter. This diagnosis was light; I didn’t feel the effects of SAD much at all until this past winter.
Let me backup a little bit. I’m Rina Newhouse, and I like to describe myself as a simple-minded, social and generally happy person. I love watching “Friends” with my family. I love talking with people. I love Mondays since I get to see my classmates again and ask them about their weekend. I love Tuesday mornings when I anchor on the Titan Broadcast Network; I get to share my voice across the school and it feels awesome. I’m that person who always says ‘Hi’ to people while walking down the hallways. I think it’s pretty clear that I gain my energy through human interaction.
When senior year rolled around, I started to feel a large amount of stress. I was working on college applications day and night as well as studying for the ACT exam. I couldn’t even enjoy homecoming as much as I wanted to. After homecoming week, I started to feel strange: I felt like my brain was being squished in every direction and that everything I was doing felt like trudging through knee-level mud. I denied that I was feeling depressed, because I considered myself to be too happy and cheery to even get to that point.
A few months ago, on a Friday, I felt terrible. I came home, told my dad I felt depressed, and tried to feel better. I took a bath, but it didn’t help much as I was ruminating and letting random, unpleasant thoughts take over me. Plus, it was dark outside. Some may say that little kids are afraid of the dark, but as a teenager, the word, dark, has a much deeper meaning. As I left the bathroom, I sat on the couch, feeling hopeless. The walls started to look different. I swear that the wooden floor looked less saturated than normal. When my mom came home that night, she could clearly tell that I was not looking great. She gave me warm tea and turned on “Friends.” I was distracted, that was for sure, but I still felt strange and couldn’t pinpoint where this feeling was coming from.
During winter break, I was in Bethesda, Maryland. One day, I was feeling very strange. Although I hate to say the word, depressed, that was how I felt. At that point, I was feeling desperate and told her that I needed to increase my medication dosage. She told me to contact my doctor, and I did; however, I received an automatic reply saying that she was on maternity leave. Although I was super annoyed, this trip helped me realize that I needed to take greater action.
When I came home, I sent another message to my doctor already knowing the response I’d get. Wait, what was that? I saw a notification, and I had actually received a genuine response. This was from another doctor covering for mine. I didn’t know him at all, but I called him, and he suggested that I do take a higher medication dosage. I was pumped.
Aside from the higher dosage, I made sure to have as much human interaction as I could. I am extremely extroverted, and when I don’t have my people around me, it magnifies the SAD symptoms. So, I began asking people for lunch dates, I joined a ton of clubs, befriended classmates, and became a lot closer to my family as well. Music also helps me a lot, so I began picking up my violin and/or playing something on the piano. As well as that, I got to discover some of my now favorite songs. With all of these coping strategies, I was able to distract myself enough in order to prevent SAD to creep in.
Today, I am doing a lot better. One thing that helped with that was the beginning of daylight savings time. With the clock set ahead, I am now able to enjoy longer days. My mom also purchased a mini light box. If you didn’t know, lightboxes emit sunlight-like rays that help reset our circadian rhythm, ultimately lifting our mood! As well as the lightbox, I also set up two new (and very bright) floor lamps. Even on the gloomiest of days, with the lamps and the lightbox turned on, my room looks like a sunny paradise! Even now, there is still a lot going on in my life, and it can be overwhelming. But, with my sunshine, family, and friends at my disposal, I’ll undoubtedly be able to get past this.