- Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression and is more common during the winter.
- I’m in the 10% of people with SAD who experience the summer blues but thrive in the winter.
- My symptoms have flared up during this summer’s record heatwave temperatures.
I’ve hated summer for as long as I can remember. As a child on a family vacation, I would hide under a beach towel for a week so I couldn’t see the sun. In my 20s, I would avoid hot tub parties like the plague and beg my friends to book a table inside the restaurant instead of on the terrace.
Now that I’m older, I avoid wearing sandals, I hate the smell of sunscreen, and I don’t want to wear floaty, floral prints. And I can’t see the appeal of eating burnt barbecue or swatting away wasps while having a picnic.
But I’m not like this year all year. Once September rolls around, and there’s that autumn vibe in the air, I feel hopeful. I come alive, embracing the darkest nights, the rain, the flashing lights and the chance to hole up for a few months under a blanket. This is REVERSAL seasonal affective disorder – or SAD – at its best.
My symptoms start in late spring and peak in the summer
SAD refers to depression that follows a seasonal pattern. It starts and goes away at about the same point every year. Boston University reports that SAD it affects 10 million Americanswith women four times more vulnerable than men.
For most people with SAD, symptoms are most severe in the fall and winter, including overwhelming sadness, loss of concentration, excessive sleeping, and weight gain resulting from unhealthy cravings. The psychiatrist Norman Rosenthalwho first identified SAD in 1984, blamed a lack of sunlight for this winter depression.
But I belong to the smaller group of people with reverse ED. I received a diagnosis in my mid-30s when I took a journal with notes recording my symptoms to my doctor. It wasn’t easy to read, but it helped identify their seasonal nature, and I was referred to a local mental health center for cognitive behavioral therapy — a talking therapy.
I feel sad, tired and restless during the long summer hours and high temperatures, and I lose my appetite in the humidity. With local temperatures breaking records in 104.5 degrees, this summer has been difficult for me. But I know that the freezing cold of winter and the dark at 5pm will bring me back to life soon.
With reverse seasonal depression, scientists believe that too much sunlight in the summer causes a melatonin imbalance. Busy social schedules and disrupted sleep also throw our circadian rhythms into a tailspin. And people with reverse EDE can feel more manic in summer and can only feel calm when the temperature drops.
One of the most isolating things about reverse SAD is being the only person in the mood when the sun comes out. With strangers, I’ll hide my symptoms and make small talk about the beautiful weather we’re having — just to pretend I’m like everyone else.
The truth is: I hate the loneliness of turning down invitations to drink prosecco in the park or a night at the outdoor cinema. I know I’m the party guy of the group, but I’d rather be at home with my wool socks on and the blinds closed. And I’m looking forward to the colder, darker weather so everyone else will want to follow me.
Tips for dealing with reverse EDE
Dealing with reverse SAD is a work in progress for me, but prioritizing sleep is at the top of my list. I’m a firm believer that every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after, so I use blackout blinds to squeeze in a little more shut-eye before the morning birds start tweeting again.
Instead of accepting these summer invitations, I seek refuge in cooler, darker places like movie theaters, bowling alleys, or malls—anywhere with air conditioning. My friends and family sympathize, even if they can’t agree. And if things get really bad, I know I can discuss an SSRI prescription with my doctor — something I’ll seriously consider if next summer is as long and hot as this one.
Rebecca Noori is a HR freelance writer with a strong interest in mental health and women’s issues. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her providing tips for newbie freelancers and raising her three children.