Mental Illnesses Are Real: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

By Meghan Sullivan

The tragic death of Robin Williams, a man who was outwardly cheerful and kind but inwardly suffered with demons, has sparked conversations about mental illness. In fact, as a result of these conversations I recently learned someone very close to me once attempted to take his/her own life.  So I want to continue the conversation because no one should ever feel alone or ashamed about dealing with a mental illness.

I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression which occurs at the same time every year, generally in the winter months but some people can be affected in the spring or summer.  I am one of the many who withdraws and suffers in the gloomy winter months; some years are tougher than others and often for no discernable reason.  Sadly, like many mental illnesses, Seasonal Affective Disorder is often dismissed by many people. Sometimes it’s seen as a joke as result of its common nomenclature, its acronym SAD. Other times, people dismiss it as simple winter doldrums. But depression, in any of its forms is never simple.  And as Jamee said, ‘Your feelings are real.’  (

I’ve never shared this before, but I very distinctly remember one particularly challenging winter of my undergraduate studies I was driving back home to escape and I remember wondering what it would feel like and what would happen if I just drove my car into the wall and off the embankment.  I didn’t do it and luckily I recognized that I needed help.  And I got help.  My coping and treatment does not currently include medication, but if I ever get that low again I know I won’t hesitate to try it.  Medication, just like mental illness, is not something to be ashamed of. We don’t hesitate to take pills for all manner of other problems, so why on earth do we hesitate to take them when it’s related to our mental health?  I personally know many people who take medication to treat their mental issues (I bet you do too and just don’t know it) and every single one of them is grateful and happier because of it. The stigma and differences in the way so many people react to mental illnesses is mind boggling to me.  But maybe that’s because I know what it feels like.

So please, if someone seems a little different and a little more withdrawn during those gloomy winter months, make an extra effort to spend time with them and just be there for them. Don’t push too hard to get them out of their home (it can backfire, trust me on this)d, but don’t abandon them either.  They will be grateful to know that when they are ready to get out, you will be there for them.  I know I certainly will be when my depression hits again this winter.

And because little things that make us smile can sometimes help, I wanted to share a little video that never fails to make me smile:

Image credit: WeHeartIt 

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