photo by EfrankE

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's a SAD Day

Today was the shortest day of the year. More accurately, it’s the day with the shortest duration of the sun’s rays cast upon the earth in the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice.

I have to say, some of the people I ran into today who ordinarily seem pretty friendly and happy appeared to be a little farther south than usual on the emotion-o-meter. Admittedly, I can’t say that I also don’t feel an impact from the shorter daylight hours, although too, I can’t spend two consecutive days on the Hilo side of the island without feeling pretty much the same thing, no matter what time of year it is.

Returning to topic: Back in the day, this phenomenon (which we called merely, a feeling) was commonly known as the winter blues. Most people probably felt it at some time or other. Today, the same thing has taken on a more modern, a more lofty-sounding, a more jargon-confusing appellation. Today, the winter blues is Seasonal Affective Disorder (that’s SAD – get it?)

Wikipedia cites the US National Library of Medicine, which notes that the SAD mood change "may cause people to sleep too much, have little energy, and crave sweet and starchy foods. They may also feel depressed. Though symptoms can be severe, they usually clear up.” Hmmm… and this is different from the effects of pregnancy just how?

Continuing from the cited source above, “There are many different treatments for … Seasonal Affective Disorder, including light therapy with sunlight or bright lights, antidepressant medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy (wonder what those guys charge?), ionized-air administration, and carefully timed supplementation of the hormone melatonin.” None of these treatments sound very cheap to me.

I suppose most of the SAD-associated players figure it’s a win-win. Researchers get paid to study it, depressed people get a more sympathy-inspiring, higher status-carrying problem to talk about and, of course, there must be some sort of professionally-sanctioned remedy - therapy, if you wish - to treat (notice they don’t say cure) the disorder. Doubtlessly, the various recommended treatments involve costs that contribute to the 1/6 of the economy related to health care.

Here’s a less-costly remedy, one suggested – at the time I would’ve said commanded - by my mother when I was a grade-schooler. “Quit moping around, I’m tired of it! There are plenty of people who are worse off than you! Go find something useful to do if you want to feel better. Go out and run around, get some exercise. Go play with your friends or get out some of the things in your closet and play with those.”

And that’s what I did. After a while, the days stayed light longer, the weather got better and so did we all, kids and adults. We didn’t see doctors or psychologists, we didn’t need professional therapy or drugs, light machines or special air administration. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why health insurance was affordable then, and so was seeing a doctor when you had an actual physical injury like a broken bone or a real illness like an ear-infection or pneumonia.

Perhaps the SADdest thing of all, is that we’ve become such weak characters that there is no problem so small that we don’t expect someone else to take care of it and insurance to pay for it. That’s not just SAD, it’s a shame.

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