Part 111: SAD aka Seasonal Affective Disorder

July 23rd, 2017

In this final blog on SAD, I am going to discuss a few more facets of the condition. First, its history.

SAD was formally described and named in 1984 by Norman R. Rosenthal and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health. Rosenthal gave the disorder its name and pioneered the first treatment that proved somewhat effective for SAD.

Winter SAD seems to be caused by a biochemical or hormonal imbalance due to the shortening of daylight and the lack of sunlight in winter.

The status of SAD was changed from a “unique mood disorder” to a “specifier, called with a seasonal pattern, for a major depressive disorder that occurs at a specific time of the year and fully remits otherwise.” In other words, it is a major depressive condition that comes and goes with either the winter or the summer.

SAD is now recognized as a common disorder. 1.4 per cent of the population of Florida suffer from it and 9.9 of the Alaskan population, to name just two states. Throughout the U.S. thete are considerable numbers of people who suffer from either winter or summer SAD.

To summarize the causes, let us begin by saying that the exact cause is unknown. However, the onset of the condition is associated with three factors: the person’s biological clock or circadian rhythm, and reduction of serotonin and/ or melatonin levels. Reduction of sunlight in the fall and winter may be the cause of winter-onset SAD. The reduction of sunlight plays havoc with the body’s biological clock, which leads to a depressive state. Also, changes in season may have an effect on the balance of serotonin and melatonin in the body, which disrupts mood and sleep levels.

Some of the more specific causes of “summer” or “reverse SAD” have to do with the higher temperatures and the lower production of both serotonin and melatonin, which are mood regulators. This reduction increases the risk for depression and other mood changes.

In my previous blogs, I have included a variety of treatments for SAD in either of its forms.

Whatever you may do, don’t ignore the symptoms. If the simpler methods (more exercise better nutrition, light boxes, etc.) do not work, you may need the advice of a medicsl doctor or psychologist. Perhaps, medication and/or psychotherapy might be necessary.

We should not allow changes attached to the seasons to adversely affect our lives and make us miserable.

More About SAD

July 22nd, 2017

What causes Sad or Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Lack of sunlight

What can lack of sunlight cause?

1. Upset your “biological clock,” which controls your sleep-wake pattern and other circadian rhythms.

2. Cause problems with serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood.

As stated yesterday, some symptoms are:

1. Feeling sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious.

2. Losing interest in your usual activities.

3. Eating more and craving carbohydrates, such as pasta and bread.

4. Gaining weight.

5. Sleeping more but still feeling tired.

6. Having trouble concentrating.

If it is winter SAD, the symptoms start in September or October, last through the cold months and start to disappear around April or May.

if it is summer SAD, it begins around March or April, and you feel better around October or November.

Now you are ready for remedies!

Medical treatment includeszantidepressants and psychotherapy. But what about home remedies?

1. Light Therapy Boxes

These are used for Winter SAD. Light therapy boxes emit light that is like sunshine for the patient. This treatment may help a person recover from this disorder . Actually, light therapy boxes have brighter lights than those of regular light bulbs, and their wavelengths vary.it would be necessary for a person to sit in front of the light box for about thirty minutes a day to to activate the body’s internal clock and reduce natural melatonin release. It is best to use the light box early in the morning upon awakening.

2. Exercise

Exercise is another remedy for SeasobalAfgective Fidorder. Why is exercise important? It promotes the production of chemicals that help us to feel good and fight the depressive state and brain fog.

Actually, walking for 30 minutes on a treadmill for ten consecutive days can lead to a considerable reduction of depression . More important than the duration and intensity are the frequency and consistency. So do it every day! A fitness class is highly recommended! It is frequent and consistent.

3. Outside Exposure

For the fall and winter type of SAD, exposure to the sun is a wonderful way to manage SAD. What could be better than a long walk, sitting on a bench in the park or even eating lunch in the park, even when it is cold or cloudy.

Did you know that exposure to the sun increases vitamin D levels, which helps to reduce depression.

More on future posts. Material based upon article by Linda Beckmann, entitled “Seasonal Affective Disorder Causes, Symptoms and Remedies.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD

July 20th, 2017

Seasonal affective Disorder or SAD is a condition, characterized by depression, that is related to a change in seasons. It begins and ends at about the same time every year. For most people, the symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months as they consume your energy and increase your tendency to be moody. Less frequently, but just as valid, SAD can also cause depression in the spring and in the early summer.

SAD can be treated with light therapy(photo-therapy), psychotherapy and medications.

SAD is a real condition and not just a case of the “winter or summer blues.”

Professional help is needed to keep mood and motivation balanced throughout the year. If affected, one should not decide to “tough it out” on one’s own. Even if symptoms begin as mild, it may become more severe later in the season.

SAD is a subtype of major depression that may begin and end, based upon seasons. So having SAD may include symptoms of major depression, including…

1. Feeling depressed most of the day, every day.
2. Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
3. Experiencing low energy levels
4. No longer having interest in
activities once enjoyed
5. Insomnia
6. Changes in appetite or a loss
in weight
7. Feelings of sluggishness or
agitation
8. Difficulty in concentrating
9. Frequent thoughts of death or
suicide

Winter SAD includes symptoms of…

1. Irritability
2. Tiredness or low energy
3. Problems getting along with
other people
4. Hypersensitivity to rejection
5. Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the
arms or legs
6. Oversleeping
8. Appetite changes, including a
strong craving for foods high
in carbs.
9. Weight gain

Symptoms of summer- onset seasonal affective disorder , aka summer depression, may possibly include…
1. Depression
2. Insomnia
3. Weight loss
4. Poor appetite
6. Agitation or anxiety

Remember that most of us have days when we feel down. However, if you have the “blues” for days at a time and cannot motivate yourself to do activities that you would normally enjoy, it is recommended that you see your doctor. It is most important if you have noticed a change in your sleep patterns and appetite and if you have experienced any of the following…

1. Hopelessness
2. Thoughts of suicide
3. Turning to alcohol for comfort
or relaxation

More tomorrow!

Material based upon information online from the Mayo Clinic

Finally! A New Blog!

July 18th, 2017

I know! No excuses for not writing in a while. But I’m going to write a few anyway, my friends and readers.

Those of you who conscientiously follow my blogs know that I am basically a happy person who normally loves to write, and, although I am not currently working on a new novel, I delight in writing on this page, on my three community pages and, of course, on Facebook. Now I’m back on all of the above. But why the hiatus?

There’s something about summer that is, of course, exciting and beautiful… the flowers in abundance, the gorgeous trees in bloom and, on perfect days, the 70 ish degree warmth and summer breeze! Kids and many adults are on vacation, whether they enjoy local places of interest or travel away beyond the powers of imagination!

But summer is also enervating sometimes. We have heat waves! We get tired more easily, even if we try to stay inside in air conditioning or in shady, more comfy outdoor areas like maybe a backyard hammock under a tree, which is pleasant if the temperature is under 85 degrees!

But some of us, like me, often get more lazy and tired over the warm, summer months! For instance, I think about the past sometimes too much… loved ones whom I have lost and miss… people close to me who are suffering from serious, chronic illnesses and the strength and vitality I myself had in the past that is affected by medications that are absolutely necessary for my continued good or even fair health! I guess negativity affects all of us sometimes… even someone like me who is basically optimistic, spiritual and believes in a paradisaic society promised by God and the promise of everlasting life. Negativity, anxiety and fear at times touches all of us, but, for me, for some reason, it affects me more during the summer.

But I feel more optimistic and even happy now that we are at a mid-point of summer. I have a few more hobbies, including art, and my husband looks and feels a little better.

So I am going to write more and more and hope you enjoy the results! After all, it is a two-way street! I have to enjoy writing for you, and you have to find some value in reading what I write! I hope we both will find fulfillment in the process! Love….

Remembering the Good,Old Days…

July 6th, 2017

Somehow, things never seem as good as they once were when we were young! We remember the food as fresher, tastier and more succulent. Soft drinks were more refreshing, and activities were more exciting! It’s probably not that everything has changed that much. It is more that our perception of things is altered as we get older. The past looks a lot better than it actually was!

Isn’t it true that every new experience is exciting and sometimes even mindboggling to a young person, especially a small child? Most likely, that is because children, especially, but even teens, to a certain extent, are like blank pages that life is constantly writing upon.

Therefore, when we get older, we remember aspects of our lives as they appeared to us then. They are probably so much brighter, fun-filled and more exciting than they actually were! I guess that applies to my memories of summers,too! And probably your bits of nostalgia as well.

But I nevertheless remember with joy how my dad got our family out of the sweltering heat of Brooklyn each summer in exchange for cool nights and days at my grandmother’s summer rooming house in Rockaway Beach. Joy was looking forward to the beach almost every day, parties, excursions to our favorite amusement park, Playland, and games of various kinds, including Mah Jong, with relatives and newfound friends.

Old-fashioned summers also included childhood innocence, sweet daydreams, and a healthy and strong body that allowed me to move more nimbly than I have in years. There were carefree days and evenings that never seemed to end, and wonderful adventures that only children can appreciate!

Being a woman of faith, I can see myself with friends and relatives one day in a simply beautiful place where innocence and sweetness are the norms, life everlasting is filled with a balance of work and fun, and we can run with the strength and endurance of our best childhood memories! Yes, a strong, youthful body, along with wisdom and vigor…and wonderful people to share it with, peace and the justice that only God’s blessed kingdom can provide: this is the best of my summer memories in the every day reality of an eternal paradise! And it is not a dream! All this is promised to us in the Bible in Psalm 37 and Isaiah, to name just a couple of Bible books!

My Teacher, My Conscience, My Dad…

June 17th, 2017

If you are blessed to still have your dad, tell him how much you love and appreciate him …and tell him often, not just on Father’s Day! Ask those of us who have lost our fathers in death, and we will overwhelmingly agree! Our dads may not have been perfect (no one is!), but, to many of us, they came awfully close! And we miss them every day!

When I was already an adult and an English teacher by profession , I tearfully gave my father an essay that I had written about him, entitled “My Teacher, My Conscience, My dad.” At first, neither of us knew what to say, but then he read my essay, and he understood. He had tears in his eyes.

A good, loving father is a teacher as well, whether he knows it or not. We try to emulate our dads in so many ways. I respected my father’s strong work ethic, and all my life I have been a hard worker, too! My dad was a good provider, and he inspired me to be responsible and do my share of taking care of the bills and helping my family as best I can in every phase of my life. My father taught me to help others, to be respectful and kind. He also showed me how important it is to lighten up and have a good sense of humor. Dad always showed me the importance of having faith in God and loving Him and family.

Dad was a humanitarian in so many ways! He didn’t have millions of dollars to donate to charities, but he gave what he could; on an individual basis, he helped others. Dad showed me how important it is to care about people, to treat them with dignity and do what I can to make their lives happier, if only by a sincere smile and a cheerful hello. He showed me that it was important to put others ahead of myself and to be there to inspire others rather than concentrating on my own problems.

My dad was a wonderful father in every sense of the word. He was always there for me, no matter what! When I needed it, he gave me gentle love and kindness, but at other times, he knew that I needed tough love, and he administered that, too. When I had some problems in college, he took a seven-hour ride to be there for me! He always made me feel special, capable and very much loved!

I don’t have the actual essay I gave my dad msny years ago, but I have included the essence of it in this blog! Don’t wait to say heart-felt things about your dad until he is no longer with you! Tell him now and show him the affection he deserves! Visit him, not only on Father’s Day, but whenever you can! If you don’t have time, then make time! And if your dad has already passed, pray to God that you will one day see him in the Resurrection and tell him these wonderful things yourself!

A Very Close Call!

June 16th, 2017

I have commented many times that my summers as a young girl were almost blissful…to me, at least. And maybe to my older sister as well! But probably not so much for my parents, however!

It’s funny when I look back on those days. Summer rooming houses at the beach back in the 1950’s may seem a little primitive by today’s standards. For example, most small families lived in one large room, which we basically slept in. The whole point was to go to the beach as much as possible, being that we were less than a block away. Not to stay too long in the room.

There was a small kitchen unit in each room, including a stove, but not an oven, as I remember. I guess we had a lot of fried food those summers and anything else we could heat or prepare on the stove.

My sister and I could sleep late, but Mom got up early to make breakfast for Dad, and Dad had to go to Brooklyn to work each week day.

Mom had to stay in the room much more than the rest of us. She did our laundry, organized our things and cleaned the room.
And it wasn’t that cool in the room!

In addition, there were three floors in the rooming house and only two bathrooms per floor. Imagine not having a private bathroom and sometimes having to wait on line to use the bathroom or take a shower!

My dad could put up with anything because he loved the beach and the ocean. I was just like him and, in addition, I was excited to be free for the summer. My sister had a few good friends and enjoyed her time off, too. So my mom probably had the most challenging time. Yet, she managed to enjoy shopping on the boulevard and going to the beach when she could. My sister and I went to the beach almost every day, either with Mom or our aunt and our cousins.

I guess, once you know the background of our summers at the beach, it is easier to understand why, one day when my dad had the day off, he decided to go swimming with my sister and me, despite the fact that the weather was cloudy and damp.

I loved to watch my dad run into the water. He was a good swimmer and seemed fearless! I guess I inherited his love of the ocean and even its rough waves. I loved to dive under the waves, bypassing those that looked formidable. Often, I could determine which was too rough and which seemed just tight. But, unfortunately, not always. On that particular day I couldn’t seem to perceive the difference!

I dove under one wave finally and tried to avoid its force before it came towards me, but I just didn’t time it right! As a result of my poor judgment, the wave pummeled me, and I wound up struggling in deep water.

In addition, there was something pulling me down, and I was caught in the riptide. I quickly panicked, and the more I tried to swim towards shore, the more I was pulled into the deeper, darker water!

Since I didn’t know then about the wisdom of swimming parallel to the shore, I kept trying to swim towards the shore. If they say that, doing the same thing again and again, but expecting a different result, is a good definition of insanity, then I was acting like one who is insane.

I must have started to move in another direction finally after praying silently and frantically because I felt myself moving towards shore. Slowly, I made progress until I could eventually pick myself up.

I was exhausted, drained and ready to collapse. My father was frantic since he had lost track of where I was. My sister was upset but eager to find me in good shape. I was just happy to be alive!

Yesterday two New Jersey cousins, aged 15 and 12, respectively , were caught in an ocean riptide, too. The older girl died, and the younger cousin is fighting for her life while on life support. I can identify with their struggle!

There were no lifeguards when the girls went into the water and no lifeguards years ago when I went swimming with my dad and sister. Never should any of us go swimming without lifeguards present! Also, diving under the waves, as I did, is reckless and foolhardy.

If we want to enjoy and survive the summer months, we have to practice safety measures and have proper respect and even a healthy fear of nature’s strength and risks. It is paramount that we understand and act upon these simple truths! To this day, I feel such gratitude to God that I survived that day and I am still here to tell this tale!

The End of an Era…

June 13th, 2017

Many of you might have heard of a time in the 1960s or early ’70s when what were once block after block of summer rooming houses in Rockaway Beach were demolished after plans were approved to improve the area in terms of building condos, malls and new stores, etc.

But what you might not be aware of is the end of an era that was brought about by these major changes. The only things that could never be destroyed are the memories of those people who comprised the life of that era, and I am so proud to be part of that era … gone, but not entirely forgotten!

As a child, I looked forward to the summers at my grandparents’ summer rooming house when I would spend my free time going to the beach just a block away and enjoying the cool, refreshing waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The friendships, adventures, trips to our beloved amusement park, Playland, and general ambience of those years will always be, not only a part of my memory, but an intrinsic part of myself as well.

From the time I was seven until I was eleven years old, every summer my family and I would leave our home in Brooklyn a week before school let out and drive to my grandparents’ summer rooming house in southern Queens, an area known as the Rockaways or, specifically, Arverne. It was a time of great excitement and joy for me. Many of my stories on this website relate to this special time in my life. As a naive child, I thought my summers in Rockaway would last forever!

But nothing good, bad or indifferent in this system lasts forever! When my grandmother announced at the end-of-the-season Labor Day party soon after my eleventh birthday that this would be our last season at Miller’s St. Regis, (the name of the summer rooming house), I can only know what I felt in my heart.

For a while, my heart was broken. I did not want my little world to be disrupted in any way by change! I knew that my life would never be the same, and I was not happy about it! I took it very hard and was, in a way, emotionally numb.

You see, every year, we would have our Labor Day party on the eve of the holiday, and the next morning, to me there would be a seemingly endless line of cars leaving our summer home that in my dramatic childhood heart I would compare to that of a funeral procession. It seemed so sad to me that the summer vacation was almost over, and soon my family and I would be returning to our home just like the others. Since our school began a week after Labor Day, we would stay on in Rockaway, along with my aunt, uncle, cousins and, of course, my grandparents, who owned the house, for several more days. But, like being given a death sentence, the deed was as good as done, even though time would intervene before its execution!

But knowing that this summer would be our last in Rockaway made the end of my eleventh summer the saddest of all. How can I put into words the broken-hearted spirit I experienced at that time? Young people have deeper feelings than that for which they are given credit. At that moment, I felt depressed, alone in my thoughts and anxieties and inconsolable.

Yes, I grew up and I moved on, but the very fact that I have chosen to tell this story testifies to the seriousness with which I internalized this loss. I even wrote a novel about it, which I called “The Wacky World of Winnie and Willie.”

Magical memories of my youth, my family, my friends and all the innocence of those precious years…my microcosm of
life…were all lost in a way that summer of my eleventh year, and it is therefore something that I can never forget or mitigate.

A Summer’s Tale

June 12th, 2017

Most of my summer stories are immersed in happy memories, much like fresh strawberries generously coated with rich dark chocolate. But this story is different! It starts off cheerfully enough, but, as it happens too often in life, unexpected events occur along the way!

Yes, my story has an innocent enough beginning. My sister was babysitting for the three-year-old son of one of the summer residents in my grandparents’ rooming house. With the parents’ permission she was allowed to take the little boy in his carriage to the park.

“Can we go, too?” My cousin, Dick, and I asked simultaneously in a slightly whining way.

“No!” My sister said, immediately and firmly. But when we kept nagging her by repeating the question over and over again, she eventually gave in to us.

“Okay, okay,” she said, “but you two better stay out of trouble. Babysitting for little Mike is more than enough for me!”

“You’ll forget we’re there,” I said with an innocent smile on my cherubic face.

“Just let Mom and Aunt Claire know that you’re going with us!”

“Okay, okay,” I said, on my way to Mom, who was on the porch of the rooming house. She would tell Aunt Claire.

Once Dick and I got the okay,
the four of us began our adventure.

“We’re going to the park a few blocks from here,” my sister told us.

“But that’s so boring,” we whined. There’s a much bigger and better park about a mile from here,” I said. “That would be so much more fun for Dick and me.”

“She’s right,” Dick repeated. “It’s a much better park!”

“Okay, okay,” my sister finally said, caving in once again. “But don’t complain about doing all that walking! There’s no room for you two in Mike’s carriage!”

“Very funny,” I said.

We passed the local park within a minute, and I could tell my sister wasn’t happy about bypassing this cute little park for a much bigger one a mile away.

We walked and we walked and then we walked some more! Little Mike was sleeping the whole way, and my cousin and I were holding in our frustration with the walking. If we said anything, Stephie, my sister, would just say, “I told you so!”

When we got there, Stephie stayed on the side of the park, essentially for parents and young children with baby swings and just a few pieces of equipment. Dick and I were immediately bored.

“This side of the park is too babyish for us! We’re going to the other side with the other swings and stuff for older kids!”

Then we walked away as my sister called after us to stay put. At that point Mike awoke and started crying. Dick and I just continued to the other side of the park.

When we got there, we headed for the swings, but we didn’t get too far. Out of seemingly nowhere came a gang of five kids , just a little older than we were. Immediately, they started punching us on on our faces and then anywhere they could. They kept shouting, “This is our park, not yours! Get out of here!”

We fought back as best we could, but it was five boys against a boy and a girl. The odds were obviously way against us!

And then they were gone, leaving Dick and me speechless, except for a few whimpers and with black eyes and bloody noses. When we reached my sister and Mike on the other side of the park, we were totally exhausted. We looked like a couple of retreating soldiers after a lost battle! I was crying!

All I remember was my sister screaming “Oh, my God,” and, because it was only the 1950s and mo cell phones, she led us to a pay phone booth to reach our moms so someone could pick all of us up. Thank God Mike’s little stroller could be folded up and put into the car!

I don’t remember much after that. It was a woeful tale, but I humbly learned some lessons about being obedient and not being reckless.

Most of our physical scars healed, but the emotional ones still remain to a certain extent. This tale is my only sad memory of summers spent at my grandparents’ rooming house. In a way it was the first of many reminders that life can be very unfair, and we can never be too careful!

By the way, my sister never said, “I told you so!”

Last Summer Memory From Long Ago

June 12th, 2017

Since I want to make my summer nostalgia into a trilogy, I have been sitting here watching the fabulous annual Tony Awards and wondering what I should write about! There are many memories, of course,but I am choosing only one because I want my blogs to be diverse…and I don’t want to take the chance of boring and then losing my audience!

I remember how the summer parties at my grandparents’ rooming house meant the world to me! The July 4th party was exciting since it served as a beginning of the summer festivities,and the Labor Day party, amidst the fun and good food, permeated an undefinable sadness since it symbolized in a sense the end of the summer and a return to school and work…in other words, reality! So let’s examine those parties in more detail!

Both parties had a few fabulous things in common: great food and beverages to fit every age group! Now what kind of good food are we talking about?

Now I have always loved cold cuts! We had the best pastrami, corned beef, bologna, salami and turkey, which was arranged most attractively amid the freshest rye bread I ever tasted since we know how important presentation is!

And the pickles were so sour they nearly took my breath away! And what fantastic cole slaw and potato salad! So fresh and delicious. Many times, Grandma and some of the other great cooks made their own salads! During the afternoon preparation, I would watch the ladies washing and slicing the potatoes, adding the mayonnaise and the other delicious ingredients! It was hypnotizing for me to watch them add spices and stir, stir, stir! Wow! Was that a treat!

I vaguely remember a variety of pies, cookies and cake. Of course, there had to be coffee as well!

And how could I help remembering the dancing! We always had a live band, and, as little as I was, I still found the best dance partners: my dad, my uncle and my younger cousin, Dick!

One year I was sick and had to miss the Labot Day party. I felt as though my little heart would break as I heard the music and the laughter while I was up in my room and no part of it! My parents and sister would bring up some food and a soft drink while trying to comfort me with a hug and a kiss!

Then, the day after Labor Day, most of the summer boarders would get ready to leave! There was so much packing and loading of cars! It looked a little like a desert caravan to me, but, of course we were at the beach, surrounded by the ocean on one side and the bay on the other! So maybe that’s a marred comparison! LOL.

However, even though my parents, my sister and I stayed a few days extra to help with the closing of the summer house, it still made me cry to see so many of our friends go back to the city and their real lives, so to speak. I guess I mourned the unofficial end of summer!

Memories! We humans are so blessed by God to have them! Animals live only in the present, but we can live in any time period we want through our mind’s eye! We have the ability to remember!