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9 Struggles of Living with Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

Summer is not my season. There are people who don’t particularly care for heat and a dip in the pool, but then there are people like me. I have panic attacks over rising temperatures and the blazing sun.

You may have heard of the “winter blues,” but seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is something that can happen during any season. In my case, I’ve got the “summer blues,” and it’s not fun.

The Cleveland Clinic estimates 4% to 6% of the U.S. population suffers from SAD. While most of these people experience a form of winter depression, 10% will go through the blahs in the summer.

Dr. Norman Rosenthal who wrote about winter blues in his aptly named book, Winter Blues, was also part of the team who identified the existence of summer SAD. Light box therapy is one of the suggested treatments for people dealing with winter SAD, but light is one of the things that bothers me most during the summer. When discussing comments from summer SAD patients, Rosenthal shares, “Some of these people say things like, ‘the light cuts through me like a knife.’”

As a mom, knowing that summer is a rough season for me, I often feel defeated at the outset of long, hot days. I know other families are planning outings and pool parties and hanging-out-in-the-backyard type things. When I think about any of that, I freeze up — and not in the good way. Instead of taking my kid to the playground or a picnic to celebrate his last day of school, I’ll be taking him to the movies. Because it will be air conditioned. And dark. And did I mention air conditioned? We’ll probably spend a lot of our family time this summer inside. Some days I may even need to close the blinds because it will just be too much sun.

I know there are other parents who have the same kind of summer panic that I have, but it’s not exactly the easiest thing to talk about. On the surface it sounds like a joke. Everyone loves the summer, right?! People look forward to it all year. Everyone hates the cold and the winter months … right? I know several friends who suffer from mild depression during the winter months because they miss the heat and the light and the sun. Have you ever asked any of your friends if they are OK with the weather during the summer? You might have some friends like me. (Please don’t take it personally if we can’t come to your BBQs!)

My son W, luckily, doesn’t seem to have any problems with any of the seasons. I am incredibly thankful for this. If he could, he would stay outside all day, every day. Knowing this and knowing that I am ill-equipped to be outside with him very often during the summer months, I made sure to enroll him in a summer camp packed with outdoor activities. Just because I need to stay inside in a dark, cool room doesn’t mean he needs to.

While my summer SAD is sometimes debilitating for no reason other than the date of the year, there are some triggers that make things even more difficult. Here are nine struggles of people living with summer seasonal affective disorder:

1. The Heat

It’s hot. Too hot. Make it stop being hot. Seriously. It’s very, very hot.

2. The Brightness

Could someone please turn off the sun?

3. Getting Dressed

People wear less clothes in the summer months. If you have a not-so-great relationship with your butt and thighs, this could be a … problem. Oh, and now it’s time to put on a swimsuit? Great.

4. The Change in Schedule

School’s out for summer. YAY. Oh. Wait. You mean my kid is going to have different things going on every day? And I have to keep track? A change in routine and schedule is always something that is frustrating.

5. Socializing

I’m sorry, I can’t talk to you because the sun is shining and it’s hot and I can’t focus on anything except the beads of sweat sliding down my back.

6. Vacation Guilt

Let’s go somewhere! Oh … wait. Plane tickets for three is a bit out of our budget this year. Let’s pile into the car and go somewhere! Oh … wait. How much is that hotel? Did I mention it’s hot? Should we just stay home? We could make a fort? Order pizza? #vacationguilt

7. Cooking

Sorry, the oven and stove will not be in use until November.

8. Household Chores

I just lost 5 lbs in water weight changing all the sheets in the house. Cleaning the house in this heat is just too much work. Nobody make a mess. See if you can pick up those crumbs, because I can not run the vacuum right now.

9. Working Out

Going to the gym in the summer … ha ha ha ha ha.

When I feel myself getting overheated or in a panic, I take steps to cool down. One of my summer tricks is running cold water over my wrists to bring my body temperature down. Or turning off all the lights. Too much light can overwhelm me and simply closing my eyes doesn’t always fix it. When this happens, I have to find a dark room and get still. Being aware of my limitations is helpful so I don’t overextend.

I still feel like I am missing out on fun things, but I know I will catch up with the fun when the temperature drops.

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