Though undiagnosed, I know that I suffer from an element of Seasonal Affect Disorder, also known as SAD.
SAD is defined as a mood disorder that affects people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year, bringing on mild to significant symptoms of depression in the winter or summer. Affected people may sleep too much, have little energy and may feel depressed. The good news is that the symptoms usually clear up once the seasons change.
SAD is a condition that is now recognized as a common disorder. It affects anywhere from 1.4 to 9.9% of the population in the United States. Interestingly, the lower percentages are experienced in sunny, southern places like Florida, while the higher percentages are experienced in norther places like Alaska, where there is continual night for days on end in the winter. Although the cause of SAD is unknown and likely involves a number of different factors, the most common treatment of SAD is “light therapy”.
What this means to me is that I get the blues in the fall and winter. I know that light therapy works, and I even own a sun lamp. And as the days have gotten shorter this autumn, I’ve been faithful about using that sun lamp. Until about three days ago, that is. I was too comfortable to go and sit under the lamp. Besides, the sun had been out more than usual this November. Was it really all that necessary?
By yesterday I was in full-fledged depression. No energy, no desire to do anything except snap at the people I love. About noon, I asked God why I was feeling so depressed, and He reminded me that I hadn’t seen it necessary to sit under the sun lamp for at least three days. He also reminded me of something vitally important: Though He provides the sun lamp to help with my disorder, all I really need to do is to reach out to Him for help in my weak moments! I did. Then and there, I claimed victory over the depression in His name. Immediately the feelings of sadness and heaviness lifted.
As I reached up to switch on the sun lamp this morning, I wondered aloud why God would allow such a disorder to come to me. Immediately I was impressed with the following text: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:3-5)
As I contemplated the words to this text, I began praising God for His wisdom. If I never suffered depression, how would I be able to adequately help my brothers and sisters in the world who are caught in its foul snare? How would I be able to feel what they are feeling? How could I emphasize with them? How could anything I said to them hold any credibility at all?
It is important that we realize we are not here for ourselves, but to help others; and sometimes God gives us the opportunity to experience what others are going through. We may not like going through it ourselves, but He always gives us a way of escape, and when we have passed through the troubled waters, we will be able to comfort and help others with the comfort and help God has given us in our own troubles.
Interestingly, though the solution to depression lies in my hands, I do not always use it. Not only is it important to know the Source of our help, but it is important that we utilize it. Regularly. I need to allow God to carry me through, to be my fortress, for God is truly: “…our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Ps 46:1-3,7)
Don’t forget that God is the ultimate answer to every problem. When He allows us to go through troubles, He has already made the way of escape. It is our job to use it. No matter what, He is there to carry us through, to be our strength in everything; and in the end, because we have gone through this trouble, we will be better able to empathize with others who are going through similar trials.
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.