Blue Christmas

Seasonal depression: is it refundable?

Joey O'Kelly

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Photo by Mara Fryer

   It’s finally here – the season we’ve been waiting for all year. The snow is falling (congratulations, seniors), the radio stations are playing Christmas music 24/7 – much to the demise of retail workers – and people’s bank accounts are slowly draining as they buy gifts for their loved ones (or to treat themselves). But there’s an unspoken, seldomly seen side to the holidays that about five percent of Americans experience. While a majority of Americans feel the holly jolly-ness, the other five percent of us are left with a Blue Christmas, thanks to my beloved friend: seasonal depression.

   Seasonal affective disorder, with the oh-so-fitting acronym “S.A.D.,” has troubled my life for a few years now. The disorder is a subtype of depression that begins and ends around a certain time period each year. Seasonal depression doesn’t come for the winter holidays for everyone, but a large majority of people deal with it around this time. Don’t get me wrong, I love the music, I love buying gifts for my friends and I love Christmas movies, but they all come with a little side of S.A.D.

   While daylight savings does give us an extra hour of sleep for a couple of days during the winter, it also makes sure we get far less sunlight than any other time of year. This has an effect on our mental health. It deals with the levels of serotonin (a.k.a. the happiness hormones) in our brain. The more sunlight there is, the more serotonin our brain receives, therefore boosting our mood. Now, I love a good snow day as much as anyone (especially as a senior), but the problem is, they’re so gray and gloomy. Without that necessary sunlight, I find myself suffering from the symptoms of seasonal depression. Those symptoms can consist of anxiety, irritability, sleep problems (sleeping too much), extreme mood changes and general depression.

   I write this in a slightly lighthearted way but don’t get me wrong – this is a serious topic that needs to be talked about. I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. This holiday season, look out for the symptoms and check on your loved ones. Because even more important than any gift you could receive is the company of someone you care about. This season can be difficult but with the love and support of the people around us, we can get through it. So Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and here’s to hoping that this Blue Christmas becomes a happy holiday.

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