"Summertime Sadness" Is Real

When I was a freshman in high school, not only was I diagnosed with major depression, I was told that I had a seasonal affective disorder that wasn't unheard of, but wasn't altogether too common either. It's given all of about three sentences in the DSM-IV, and not many people are even aware that it's a thing. Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder is my own personal nightmare, and it's time people knew about it.

R-SAD affects less than 1% of the population, and is characterized by a yearly return of symptoms that vary from person to person, but usually center around increased – but counter productive –energy, or depression. Some research suggests that warmer weather has an impact on melatonin production, or that it's simply too bright where SAD is too dark. Truth be told, nobody really knows, but it has real consequences on real people.

My symptoms are usually just an increase in my depression symptoms, including sudden fatigue, feelings of hopelessness and despair, and complete emotional shut down. The worst part of R-SAD is it can often be misdiagnosed as only major depression, making it rough to treat. Many doctors assume that the dosage for anti-depression medication must remain constant for it to work. This means that even those who suffer from SAD may not be getting adequate treatment for their disorder. Another negative impact that I have struggled with personally is an increase of doubt in my diagnosis. During the winter months I'm usually feeling much better, so I figure that I'm lying about or faking my disorder.

But even past that, the biggest problem is that many people don't know, don't care to know, or simply don't care about SAD. They dismiss is as a "snowflake" disorder, or something that young people use to make themselves feel special. Other's simply don't know or don't understand why I can't seem to do anything during the summer, especially hang out, or why I'm suddenly so moody, or why I'm irritable. I struggle to explain that it's not because I'm angry or upset with them; it's simply that I have a disorder that prevents me from doing "normal" summer activities.

My plea for the masses is as follows: be patient with everyone around you. They may be struggling with an invisible disorder that impacts their life in ways you can't fathom. And, this summer, if a friend says they'd rather be left well enough alone, understand and respect their decision to take care of themselves. Also, educate yourself on the symptoms of R-SAD that people sitting right next to you may have to deal with. Finally, I encourage all of you to at least check for a diagnosis (not online or something like that – no WebMD searches) so that you no longer have to suffer without at least knowing your attacker.

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