​How the Change of Season Affects my Depression

Winter is Coming.


It seems fitting to write about this subject as the seasons begins to change in the coming days and weeks. Interestingly enough it’s going to be 95 degrees here, which a typical California fall, where it’s hot one day and cold the next. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is defined on WebMD as a type of depression that happens every year during the same period during the winter months. For me, this is always the worst time of year no matter where I am at with my depression cycles.

My official diagnosis is Bipolar One with a seasonal component. My worst months are always November and December. What makes November so complicated and tough is because in my past this month has always been the month of some of my worst depression. The week of Thanksgiving 2007 I tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide and spent a week in the psych ward. I once spent the entire month of December in bed, or at least it felt that way. It was also in December that my second suicide attempt happened and I spent the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 in the psych ward.

I have never been able to figure out why my depression spirals out of control during the winter months. It never fails. Even when I am in a good place with my depressions, as it gets colder, I find myself having a harder time to do simple tasks like getting out bed. It can be a chore to just be me.

The last few years I have been better at tracking things like my moods during the winter months. I start to keep a real thorough record of day to day mood swings, and I rate my depression every day on a scale of 1-10 with ten being the most intense. It becomes imperative for me to work out my body and mind so that I can stay on top of my depression.

One of the most effective things that I used last year during the winter months was my lightbox. I use already daily, but I usually increase the duration of usage during the winter months to an hour a day. I will sit at my desk with the light from box radiating onto my skin and just write. My last full-time psychiatrist before the revolving door of psychiatrist started again told me one of the problems with my depression in the winter months is that I fail to get enough sunlight. It makes sense when the cloudy coastal weather happens all the time during this time of year. It was even more imperative in January/February of this year to have my lightbox when I wasn’t leaving my house at all because of my anxiety.

That is probably the worst part of this time of year. In the past I have used the winter months as an excuse because my depression and social anxiety spirals to not leave my house as often I do during the summer months. It is easy to convince myself that staying in bed feels so much better. The upside? Years of experience has taught me that it is possible to get out there and do things even when I am depressed.

This year it will be different. I will find happiness in the little things like the seasonal drinks at Starbucks like the chestnut praline latte or gingerbread latte. I can revel in the fact that I am not only writing almost daily on my blog, but I am moving closer every day to completing my memoir and other projects. I am submitting my screenplay to several fall competitions and some of my poetry with the hope to get noticed as a writer. I am stronger this year because I have been able to reflect on my past. If I do things right, the ending of this year into the next will be great.

Will I struggle? Of course, its life we are talking about, so it happens.

I would like to hear others share their stories with Seasonal Affective Disorder or a seasonal element to your diagnosis.

Always keep fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: Denys Nevozhai


52 Replies to “​How the Change of Season Affects my Depression”

  1. First off you are so brave for writing and sharing all this useful information…
    I have a hard time during this time of year I blame it on the time change and it gets darker earlier (something I hate!!!)…with a passion!!!…the mornings seem to take forever for the sun to come out and play so I start my day when its pitch dark and go to bed with it being dark…time change sucks and the darkness …
    It seems like as soon as we all have dinner everyone is ready for bed and its not even bedtime lol…I don’t have a bedtime since I have lupus n fibro and etc …I am up all thru the night sometimes well over 24 hours…
    I see (please don’t take offense to this) my koko dr…(I have special names for my doctors lol) since my regular koko dr left the area ..oh how I miss her she was really good…the new one not so…she talks to me about her problems lol.. so really not helping me out much…I see her on the 26th and I will go from there..
    Keep hanging in there that is the best we can do…

  2. I am similarly affected, but January is the worst month for me; it’s the month I tried to commit suicide in 2015, which led to a change in diagnosis from major depression to Bipolar 2. Last year, my family took a 3 week trip from Christmas to after New Years to New Zealand. Having spring/early summer light helped me so much! When we got back, it was really hard to keep my head above water, so I got a light box. Using it wasn’t as good as changing hemispheres, but it really helped. This year I’m getting ready/trying to protect myself so I don’t slip down as much. I started taking vitamins and walking and hope that both of those, along with the light box, will help me make it through winter better. Good luck to you!

    1. Thank you for sharing your story with me, that is what I love about writing on subjects such as these. I am glad you are still here. I have survived suicide three times. It’s such a blessing to finally be in a place where I don’t have suicidal thoughts. good luck to you to as the seasons change!

      1. I’m glad you’re still here too. I had been very open about depression but now that I have a BP2 diagnosis I’m less open, but working on it – the more we talk and write about it, the more the stigma around these illnesses shrinks, so thank you, also, for being open about it and bravely sharing!

      2. That’s my goal of my blog, to really change the stigma around mental illness. It took me a long time to get to this point where I am willing to show the world a glimpse of what it’s like day in and day out. I agree the more we talk, write about it, and discuss it, the more it gets out there in the world. I am glad you are working towards being in a place to talk about your diagnosis. I wish you luck in all things.

  3. I wondered if those lights really do help. I’ve dealt with depression, particularly seasonal, (I live in Eastern Canada so we have winter for close to 6 months) since I was in my 20s. I’m 43 now. It doesn’t get any easier but I try to pump myself with vitamins and nutrition during the winter months and do things that make me happy. I hope it doesn’t get too bad for you.

    1. Light boxes are really helpful. I do live by them and it helped last winter to get me though my depression. It’s not a cure all but if you add it to what your doing already, I think it will help

  4. Same! Except that my worst months are January and February. The light box helps me only modestly, but I use it religiously every year.

    I have an aside for you, which is that I started taking my meds differently. Instead of one 50mg pill, I’m now prescribed 2, 25mg pills per day (which I take at the same time every morning). Go figure, but this has helped me tremendously the last year or so. Sounds so odd, but has made a world of difference for me!

  5. I, too, have SAD on top of my regular depression, anxiety and OCD. It’s really bad where I live, here in Northern Utah. It gets so cold, it’s dark, it’s gray, and the snow. I hate the snow. Right now the weather is actually nice–like we’re having a real fall, but it’s like my body knows what’s around the corner. This happens every year. I get so excited about fall–it’s my favorite season–and then I get totally depressed because I know winter is coming. I’ve never used a light box, but it sounds like a great investment. I also never thought about tracking my mood swings or depression episodes. I wonder if this could help me. Thanks for the idea and for sharing your experiences!

    1. I appreciate the feedback and thank you for sharing your own personal experiences that is never easy. Those things work for me that’s why I highly recommend both the light box and tracking your mood. Good luck I hope you get through you SAD.

  6. How brave you are to share your story!! I look forward to reading more from you. I also deal with depression and follow a similar scale as yours. This helps me plan my day accordingly. You see…some of my family members can be a bit much. So, on my lowest of days I isolate myself with things that bring me joy. My husband kindly joins in. I love how he checks my calender above my desk to see what I wrote…its sort of having the talk without words. Well…best of wishes this winter. If needed, feel free to reach out. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to talk to someone who truly understands☺

  7. SAD is a weird one for me, oddly enough I feel a good deal more stable in the winter months than the summer. But the killer is the transition periods. In Australia there are arguably six clearly discernible seasons, with extremely variable transition periods between. Yesterday was very warm and bright, almost intolerably so for me, but today it’s like the dead of winter. As soon as it settles into one or the other I’m okay, but the transitions drive me into rapid cycles of alternating anxiety and agitation. and melancholia and depression. I know it’s weird but winter is the happy season for me, everyone else is gloomy but I’m always bright and cheerful. I think it might be the light.

    1. I kinda know what you mean. Fall in California isn’t always fall. Like to day hit 99 degrees and it’s been like that since the weekend. But last week we had some cold muggy days. I live near the coastline so the weather always varies. It makes the transitions harder as you said.

  8. Do you think that perhaps part of it is that you’ve come to expect the winter months to be the worst? I think it’s interesting to note that you ‘start’ to gauge your anxiety levels around now, think back to your scariest and lowest points. By no means do I think you should ignore your past or not monitor/pay attention to your mood, but I’m a strong believer in the concept of interrupting a habit. Maybe you could plan something you look forward to mid-November that would help accomplish that (a vacation, visiting a friend, etc etc). Sorry if it seems like I’m being an overly simplistic armchair psychologist lol. Not my intention! Just wondering if you’ve thought of it that way before, or attempted to re-write these winter months?

    1. I honestly don’t mind. To answer your question is a bit complicated because because I have worked on it, and it has gotten better in recent years but I don’t fully commit to making trips because it’s so hard. You have a legit point, maybe it is time to break the cycle. Thank you for sharing.

    1. After Halloween they start the holiday drinks. My favorites are the chestnut praline latte and the gingerbread latte. So good. They have a maple drink out now that is okay.

  9. My therapist gave me some good advice once (well, more than once). I was talking about how I cheat my family out of sitting down at the dining table to have dinner together, all of us. It is because (as she helped me see) dinner time at the table was horrible with my stepfather who would scream, curse, be sarcastic, complain for hours, and some meals smash things. So, the therapist said add new and totally different elements, creating new atmosphere, new memories. She suggested candles, fresh flowers, new dishes and a table that looked nothing like the one with the step-abuser. Why I thought to share that example, I’ve forgotten. I think I was aiming for doing different things during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    I do know where you’re coming from on SAD. Mine are actually the hot summers here in Texas. Heat actually causes me more anxiety, and certainly doesn’t help it. I’ve always felt better on overcast, slightly rainy, cool days…since I was a small child, I mean, and 7p-4a is when I feel best.

    Summer also has bad memories of things that happened to a person in my family. No more of tgat now, praise God, but in March, I still to this day catch myself having an intense burst of “oh my God, it’s almost summer!” So, in summers, we are doing more yard work, looking at volunteering, weekend road trips…changing things up.

    I’m babbling. I hope this made sense. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Well thank you for sharing … I’ve never thought about the effect of seasons on depression ..but then I’ve not really mapped my depression so think I might have a go. Over the years I have been more aware of my moods and been able to manage things better …. its all done on a day to day basis and depending obviously what else life is throwing at me. Great read thanks again and when I get the time i’ll read some of your back blogs xx

  11. Arg yes. My little sad light is doing nothing to appease me just now! Sending you good vibes.. I love the way winter lets me hide but I hate the overall oppression of it! X

  12. Ugh, this is the worst time of year for me. I’m planning to write a post about my experience with it, as well.

      1. Absolutely. Btw, I contacted you through your form. Did you get it? I may have entered the wrong e-mail address.

  13. Something to consider, but might not be an overall component to your personal situation: Many people with SAD suffer from their seasonal depression because, like you mentioned, they are not getting enough sunlight. Meaning that your body isn’t naturally producing enough vitamin D on it’s own during the winter months. If you can, perhaps you could consider taking the vitamin D supplements that could assist alongside your lightbox. Again, I don’t know everything about your personal situation, but I’ve heard it helps for many.

    1. I have heard of taking vitamin D. I will consult with my doctor. I generally don’t try something new without telling my doctor. I do appreciate the suggestion.

      1. Absolutely! If it doesn’t work out, at least you can shorten the long list of suggestions of which I’m sure you get regularly.

  14. I have looked through your blog, and love your style of writing! I suffer from SAD from September through to March. During these months I struggle to even get out of bed, and only manage to leave the house a handful of occasions a week. I’m still looking for something to help to alleviate the symptoms. It’s helpful to read the comments in this post.

    1. Its great that you can use my blog and the comments to help you along with your SAD. I already noticed today how my own SAD is effecting me. I stayed in bed all morning for the first time. I just couldn’t get out of bed to face my day. I was only about 45 minutes ago when I finally got the courage to get out of bed. It happens, but I am letting myself off the hook. I am not going to dwell on it at all. Thank you for sharing your own experience with me.

  15. I get SAD to friend. I think it’s just part of some people’s wiring. I am usually ok until after the US holiday season – like January 2nd it kicks in with thunder and about knocks me down. Craziness. I haven’t read any of the comments above to see if anyone may have touched on this, but I wonder if personality type (introvert/extrovert) may have something to do with it. Maybe or maybe not – just a thought. Thanks for sharing

    1. It may have something to do with being introvert at least in my experience. I have talked about this with therapist before and with the colder winter weather and the lack of sun at times can contribute to wanting to stay within in the safety. For me, I naturally go inward during these months where I feel that I can function the best. My introvert side goes into overdrive and I usually just go with and work through it the best I can. Thank you for sharing your own story.

  16. Thanks for sharing. Every year in the past I’ve had panic attacks November and December. I hate it!!!!! I hate that I feel this way 😞 I check out the light box maybe it will help me feel better 😔 November and December is heel for me. Remind me of tragic events in my life and all I want to do is end my life

  17. Pleased to see that the light box helps you a little too. I was skeptical but I think it definitely helped. Maybe it’s all the little things added up that make the biggest difference – lightbox, vitamin D, getting outside, moving, staying in the present – they add up to something really helpful. Ennjoying your blog 🌞

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