For when the Winter is long.

It’s still dark when she gets up. Laura feels it like a heavy blanket. The weight of it is oppressive. She’s methodical in her tasks: she finishes her coffee, gets the kids breakfast, makes lunches, and sends them out the door to the bus.

She knows there are e-mails to respond to, phone calls to return. She knows that if she gets dinner into the crockpot early, it will make life that much easier when the kids are home from school. But she goes back to bed instead. She thinks perhaps another hour of sleep is what she needs to get back on track.

Xan griffin

Later, a friend invites her for coffee and she politely declines. The thought of doing her hair and makeup to go out is overwhelming. She dreads the prospect of putting on a smile and making small talk for an hour.

By the time the kids arrive home, shortly after 4 p.m., the sky is already dusky. Lights in the house blaze as dark falls by dinnertime. Her husband notices her lack of energy, her subdued responses; a silly child may elicit a smile, but not much more.

He asks about her day. She gives him a monotone, “Fine.” They are all the same.

Day after day, the story is the same.

Does Laura’s story sound familiar?

It’s easy to ignore the warning signs of depression. Symptoms identified in isolation are easy to justify away. We tell ourselves, “It’s just PMS.” or “I had a bad night.” “It will get better.” “I just need to snap out of it.”

And while it’s very possible that low energy or a bad day is a one-time occurrence, sometimes it’s more pervasive than that. Seasonal Affective Disorder—also known as SAD or winter depression—if left unchecked, can have a devastating toll on individuals and families.

Regardless whether your low mood is circumstantial or something deeper, it’s important to know that you are not alone. In the UK alone, experts estimate one in 15 individuals are affected by SAD between the months of September and April, with women twice as likely to experience symptoms of depression than men.1

Despite much discussion about mental health in public spheres, many women simply don’t feel empowered to speak openly about their depression. There is a tendency to withdraw from relationships because we don’t want to be a burden, we think we can figure it out on our own, or it’s embarrassing to admit that we don’t have it all together.

And because of that, many aren’t finding the support they need, both in the community and in the church. Amy Simpson, author of Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission, writes, “There’s an assumption among many people that if they were honest about what they experienced, it would be rejected or they would be shamed.”

This rings true in light of a 2011 study on prescription usage in the US which revealed that one in four women in the US take some sort of prescribed medication to treat mental illness—that’s 12 million women. And yet, a large percentage of those are still not talking about their issues.2

An enlightening 2015 Christianity Today article titled, Depression: The Church’s Best Kept Secret, shines a spotlight on the lack of support that generally exists in the church regarding mental health. In the article, Dr. Archibald Hart, a licensed psychologist and senior professor of psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, recalls asking a room full of women attending a seminar on depression, “How many of you are on an antidepressant but have not told your husband?” At least half of them stood up, he says.3

Clearly, the church has a long road ahead toward dispelling the stigma of mental illness but that doesn’t mean there isn’t help and support available right now. If you think you may be suffering from SAD, an important first step is to reach out to a trusted friend or family member. Knowing that there is one person who sees you and knows what you’re going through can be a literal lifesaver.

Scripture reveals that depression has actually been part of the human experience for a long time. But it can be easy for well-versed believers to gloss over the passages because they make us uncomfortable or, on the surface, they seem irrelevant.

Hannah was “reduced to tears and would not even eat. . . . [She] was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:7, 10)

Elijah asked God to take his life. (1 Kings 19:4)

Job described his life as ebbing away. “Depression haunts my days,” he said. “At night my bones are filled with pain, which gnaws at me relentlessly” (Job 30:16–17).

The human condition is not a surprise to God. There are real physiological changes that occur in the brain when depression begins to take hold. If a loved one had a broken leg, you wouldn’t hesitate to seek medical help. By the same token, depression should not be minimized as something that will pass.

What exactly is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is a specifier—or subtype—of major depression. People with this type of disorder commonly experience symptoms during the fall and winter months. During the lighter and warmer spring and summer months, the depression often goes into remission.

Though researchers haven’t pinpointed the specific cause of SAD, we do know that several factors may come into play:

The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and circadian rhythms, leading to feelings of depression.

Reduced sunlight may cause a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, which may trigger depression.

The change in season can also disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

SAD appears to be more common among people who live far north or far south of the equator. This may be due to decreased sunlight during the winter or, conversely, unnaturally long days during the summer, which impacts the internal body clock.

If you are suffering from SAD, there are a number of things you can do to change the trajectory of your mental health. First of all, talk to your doctor, he or she can help rule out any other possible causes for your symptoms, such as thyroid problems.

What are some of the symptoms?

Not everyone will experience all the symptoms listed, but if more than one of these resonate with you, you might want to consider looking into some treatment options.

  • * Sleep problems – usually oversleeping and difficulty staying awake but in some cases disturbed sleep and early morning waking
  • * Lethargy – lacking in energy and unable to carry out normal routine due to fatigue. Heaviness in the arms and legs
  • * Overeating – craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods, which usually leads to weight gain
  • * Depression – feeling sad, low and weepy, a failure, sometimes hopeless and despairing
  • * Apathy – loss of motivation and ability to concentrate
  • * Social problems – irritability and withdrawal from social situations, not wanting to see friends
  • * Anxiety – feeling tense and unable to cope with stress
  • * Loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities
  • * Loss of libido – decreased interest in sex and physical contact
  • * Weakened immune system – vulnerability to catching winter colds and flu
  • * Mood changes – for some people bursts of over-activity and cheerfulness (known as hypo-mania) in spring and autumn.

Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder

Common treatments for SAD include:

Light therapy.

Daily exposure a special light for roughly 30 minutes has proven very effective. The light mimics natural sunlight and can effect brain chemicals that improve mood and relieve symptoms. Sixty to 80 per cent of people with SAD find significant relief from light therapy. Make sure you talk to a medical professional about obtaining the right type of lamp.

Medication.

If symptoms are particularly intense, medication might be the best course of treatment. Different kinds of medications work in different ways, so it’s important to discuss with your doctor which is the right type for you.

Counselling (or Talk Therapy).

Working with a counsellor can be very effective in identifying possible triggers for depression, as well as teaching skills to help break negative patterns associated with depression. Altering thoughts, attitudes and actions that perpetuate negative patterns is instrumental in bringing about change. Counselling has proven to be beneficial alongside other treatments and medication.

Self-care.

Low energy and mood often means that there are only so many resources to go around. And, for many women, these are often spent on kids and family, which leaves very little left for self-care.

The Catch 22 is that regular exercise, a healthy diet, good sleep habits, managing stress and staying connected to others are all an important part of navigating SAD in one piece. A good church community can also come alongside if they recognize the wisdom in encouraging these things along with meditation, prayer, and Scripture contemplation.

According to Dr. Hart, “there’s a healthy and healing synchronization that occurs when we realize that our bodies, emotions, and beliefs aren’t separate entities but all play an integrated role in shaping who we are. While the condition of our faith may not play a role in the onset of depression, it is certainly vital in treating it.”4

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

  1. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad
  2. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/women-and- prescription-drug-use_n_1098023
  3. https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2015/september/depression-churchs-best-kept-secret.html
  4. https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2015/september/depression-churchs-best-kept-secret.html

What does the bible say about hope?

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT)

“You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.” (2 Samuel 22:29)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:1-3)

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

“He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

Janine Dilger is a Canadian writer who loves Jesus, her family, and a steaming mug of coffee in a quiet kitchen before the day begins. God wired her with an eye for beauty: nature, art, photography, design and words—these things whisper refreshment into her soul. She is as broken as they come and has way more questions than answers. But after a life’s worth of hard lessons, she is realizing the trick is to just keep her feet moving. To that end, she’s doing her best at navigating the twists and turns of this life with faith, hope and humour. You can Janine blogging about her journey at janinedilger.com

when the winter is long - could it be SAD? Mental wellbeing article for iola magazine

Blooming in the dark

Thrown into the most exhausting and painful time of my life – I’d just had a baby – my third child, our business had gone bust, we had sold our house and had to move, a family member had been diagnosed with cancer – all within weeks of each other. It was all too much. I felt spun around and unsure of which way was up, let alone the next step to take.

I felt like a tortoise, upside down on her shell, wiggling her legs in the air, trying to turn over, but the shell just sliding around on the floor. Eventually, all I wanted to do was hide in that shell and not face pain and disappointment ever again.

It was a struggle to do anything, even the former things that I loved to do. I had worked as a designer and loved to be creative with design and layout, and in making a home for my little family. It had all been taken from me and I had no resources, no outlet, no inclination or energy to be creative at all.

As I travelled the path of depression and learning about my mental health, re-discovering creativity was an essential part of healing. Learning how to restart my creativity against the odds, learning how to rest and finding out what brought me joy. Silencing my inner critic’s voice, creating from a place of vulnerability, and chasing down truth and beauty.

I had to learn to come alive again.

Creative practice helped me to move through disappointments, it helped me focus on the things that mattered, it helped me find meaning in life and feel valued again. Not valued for what I could do, but in knowing the presence of God and him moving me alive.

Creative is the essence of who we all are. Every action you take is a creative act. When we who were made in God’s own image, move into our identity, foremost we are creators. Overwhelmed with life, it is possible to forget who we are. We can lose our voice and courage and as Brene Brown says:

“Unused creativity is not benign, it metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgement, sorrow, shame”

Our unused creativity eventually destroys us. Feeling dis-empowered by life threatens to take away our identity. We can believe the lies that we don’t have anything to offer, we can’t move forward. I had to make a tiny first small step to be creative again and in doing so I discovered more of what I loved to do and what made me feel more like me. The me I was created to be. It’s not always been easy, but I have found ways to keep going.

I have come up with small ways that keep me exercising my creativity and help keep me flourishing. This is good for my soul, it is life-giving. When life is full of boring tasks or lists of chores, then I know I can take just 10 minutes a day to do one thing that will connect me to my creative essence. Maybe these will help you too:

3 tips to start creativity when overwhelmed

1. Carry pen and paper for notes, thoughts, doodles, lettering and more.

2. Make a practice of doing one thing a day even if you only have 10 minutes.

3. Remember that every act is a creative movement and you are creative.

 

 

Abi Partridge is a designer and writer living with her husband and three children in Oxfordshire, on the edge of the beautiful Cotswolds in the UK. She is passionate about good coffee, encouraging others in creativity for wellbeing, and the soulful pursuit of beauty in nature. She has self-published three books and publishes iola magazine on a mac and a prayer.

She writes at abipartridge.com and posts on instagram @abipartridge.

iola magazine articles

For those who live in a land of deep shadows

Having been a school nurse for a number of years, I was well aware of the increasing rise in the number of children and teenagers struggling with incredibly complex mental health issues.

However, I was totally unprepared when we found ourselves facing this issue in our own family.

I remember the feelings of total helplessness when I was called into school because my own precious child had caused physical damage to themselves through extreme self-harm.

I felt that somehow, I’d failed as a parent. How could I, as a trained nurse, have missed this? We had known that they were struggling with some issues, but we had put it down to hormonal teenage mood swings.

Having not experienced any mental health issues myself, I struggled to really understand how my child was feeling. I had prided myself on having a good relationship with all our children and being a family who could talk openly and share our problems. Yet during this time, I felt totally unable to reach my child.

They were completely trapped in a dark prison of despair and isolation and I was powerless to help them.

In their desperate search for a way out, their behaviour and life choices became very destructive and caused us all more heartache and sadness.

We spent many hours at difficult doctors’ appointments and counselling sessions, but nothing seemed to be changing. To my shame, I often resorted to angry outbursts and very unhelpful comments and suggestions. My frustration was overwhelming as I grappled with my desire to ‘fix’ them.

Out of protection and care for them, we found ourselves carrying a huge burden which we were only able to share with a very few people. However, our family and close friends really did an amazing job of consistently standing with us and supporting us during the darkest days.

Living with someone who is battling mental health issues really does affect the whole family. We felt like we were walking through a minefield every day. The pressure on us all was exhausting, as we never knew what might happen next.

I went through a range of emotions each day as I faced the reality of our home life.

Ultimately, I was angry and frustrated at God. We had read all the ‘right’ Christian parenting books and followed their advice as we had brought up our kids. This was not part of the plan and it wasn’t fair. I ranted and railed against God; why us, why my family, and ultimately, why me?

Although I had been a Christian since my childhood, what I really wanted from God was this;

‘It means no worries
For the rest of your days
It’s our problem-free philosophy Hakuna Matata!….
(The Lion King 1994)

However, I was finding following Jesus didn’t mean that our lives were a fairy tale story. In fact, Jesus said that we will all encounter the storms of life as we journey through it.

‘In this life you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.’
John 16 v33

I had read these words, spoken by Jesus to his disciples many times over the years. But it was only during this time, I felt that I came to understand what they really meant.

In the times when I felt I was losing faith in my heart, I discovered a greater depth of God’s love and He met me in my brokenness and pain.

He was and is my Saviour. He healed my heart and He gave me new hope and strength to face another day.

It was during this time that we first heard about Karis house.

This amazing place was to be part of God’s healing for our precious child.

The God centred holistic Xchange programme at Karis house combines counselling and prayer ministry alongside medical care & practical support.

God gives us this promise from these words of truth in Isaiah 9;

‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—light! Sunbursts of light! 
The Message.

God broke into the land of darkness and shadows where our child was trapped.

His light shone and we saw a miracle happen- our child who had been paralysed by fear and despair was released into a new freedom towards health and wholeness.

Our family journey continues; often the roads can be unfamiliar and at times very hard to navigate. My story is that we never have to face it alone; regardless of how difficult the path.

Jesus is the light of the world and His love can reach us wherever we are no matter how dark it is.

Charlotte Osborn

Charlotte is an evangelist at heart and she’s passionate about sharing the good news of God’s love & hope with the world. She is a speaker & event facilitator who seeks to encourage others to find creative ways to share their own stories.

As a qualified nurse, she runs her own home care business, supporting people through the many changing seasons of their lives. She has 3 fantastic grown-up children who she counts as friends and she lives in the beautiful Cotswolds UK with her equally fantastic husband!

www.livemovebe.org.uk