Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Here Comes the (Artificial) Sun

In mid-December I went to the doctor because for weeks prior I had just been feeling off. I was falling asleep during daytime movie screenings (and not because the movies were boring!), my hair was falling out, my nails were cracking down the middle, and I was having a hard time getting motivated to do much of anything (even though I was more swamped than ever before between my film-blogging gig and book promotion duties). I've always been a high-strung stressball, but this was different -- I worried I was nearing my breaking point. If I had to sum up how I felt in one word, that word would be overwhelmed. Another good choice would be exhausted.

Around that time I had read an interview with Tina Fey (30 Rock) in which she said that whenever she got extremely stressed out, her body's defense mechanism seemed to be to bring on such a profound tiredness that she had no other choice but to go to sleep rather than be productive. Which of course just leads to more stress as the To Do list continues to pile up while you're napping. Since there had been a few days where I found myself heading to bed in the middle of the afternoon because I could no longer keep my eyes awake, I started wondering if I was the same way.

So I went to my doctor, who is this awesome German woman known for telling it like it is. I vented to her about everything I had on my plate and how I couldn't afford to continue being so out of it. She took blood to run some tests, but immediately recommended that I seek out a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamp.

She confirmed what I had already suspected for years: I am pretty much just a monster during the winter months. I've always felt like I literally become a different person when the temperatures start dropping and the skies go gray -- a person who's more cynical, pessimistic, unmotivated, and easily depressed. My doctor said to make sure I got a lamp with at least "10,000 lux," and made a comment about how "there's a reason most of these lamps come from companies in places like Canada." I decided I would order a SAD lamp that very day because I really had nothing to lose and was totally desperate for help. As it turns out, both the city where I grew up and the city in which I now live are on the "Lowest Average Sunlight" list. Way to go, Midwest!

I went on Amazon and decided to get this lamp, pictured to the right. I wanted one that could sit next to my laptop on my writing desk/kitchen table. It's not like you're supposed to stare into this thing directly -- its light just needs to be shining on your face in order to replicate the effect of sunlight. And no, it's not using the same kind of rays that can cause skin cancer.

There's a lot more I want to write about what I now believe to be a Miracle Lamp, as well as the other things I learned about what a lack of sunshine can do to you, the power of vitamin B12, etc., etc., but all that will have to be tabled for future posts as this one's already getting too long. For now let me say that I do think the SAD lamp has helped my overall mood. The first few times I used it I got a teeny headache, but haven't had one since and I've used it daily once it arrived right before the holidays. You only need to use it 20 minutes a day for it to be effective, but I have it on for an hour because I'm already sitting here for hours anyway.

I've had at least five friends order this lamp (or similar ones) since I started singing its praises, so I figured I should share my experience since I'm probably not the only one living in an area that doesn't see Mr. Sun for months on end. I think the SAD lamp is the next best thing -- so Let the (Man-made) Sunshine In!


Julie said...

My friend has a SAD lamp! She used to live in Nunavut here in Canada so in the winter months she would get about an hours worth of sunlight, not even full sunlight. She would see the sun barely make it over the hill and start to descend again. I thought that these lamps were just gimmicks until I started to feel very depressed this winter, I tried out her lamp and I could not believe how much better I felt after a while!

Still.. I'm ready for spring!

Erika (aka "e") said...

Yeah, I was kind of shocked that there were nearly 250 positive reviews of the lamp I got... and almost all of them were from people who had also been quite leery of the whole concept in the beginning but then were won over when they actually used the lamp.

I agree, though -- nothing beats good ol' fashioned REAL sun and warmer temps.

- e

Anonymous said...

Move to Manhattan Beach, CA. You've lived in Chicago long enough!

Anonymous said...

SAD affects a lot of people in Finland and the lamps are really popular, they really do work. There is now a new finnish invention called Valkee bright light headset. It's just like an ipod and you only have to use it 10 minutes a day. Studies show that 9 out of 10 people experienced total relief of symptons.

seo consultants said...

I am a SAD Expert and i really appreciate you for the wonderful suggestion on SAD.
See, SAD is easily treated by some logical tips like-
-Take Nutrition diet.
-Be social and neglect loneliness.
-Study in groups to make concentration.
-Use light therapy devices like sad lamps to cure.
These all steps helps you in getting rid from SAD effect.