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How many Ds do you have that are actually pretty normal? - Tactical Ninja

Jun. 12th, 2014

08:55 am - How many Ds do you have that are actually pretty normal?

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So a bunch of people yesterday referred to SAD. You might have noticed I also mentioned this in my post. Seasonal Affective Disorder is apparently found in approximately 6% of people at our latitude, and a milder form in a further 20-25%. It's more common in women, and supposedly likely to decrease as one ages. They don't really know what causes it, but one site I read says this:

""Some say it might be because reduced sunlight disrupts circadian rhythms that regulate the body clock, telling us when it's time to sleep and wake up.

"Some have theorised it's melatonin related. This is a sleep-related hormone and production increases during the long nights of winter.

"Other research would say look at serotonin, a neurotransmitter triggered by sunlight. We know quite often when people are depressed they have lower levels of serotonin," Dr Wu says."

Which is all not really saying anything. Anyway, I can tick all the boxes for this disorder (this is not news to me by the way), except the oversleeping one. I pretty much can't sleep in, and am usually awake an hour or so before dawn, no matter what time of year it is.


Why is this even called a disorder? If nearly a third of the population have these 'symptoms', then from my perspective that's getting well out of the range of unusual and into the realms of normal. Fucking elections have been won and countries' futures decided on less than that amount of people.

That business about circadian rhythms being disrupted by reduced sunlight sounds like so much bullshit to me - what disrupts the circadian rhythms in my opinion is the expectation that we'll continue to get up and go to work and function on a timeclock that's out of step with the reduced daylight. We naturally want to become less active in winter, and the further from the equator we are the more this will affect us, but because our society is set up to treat us like automatons who will continue to produce, produce, produce regardless of what's happening around us, we have to squash this natural inclination and force ourselves into an unnatural pattern of behaviour.

And that, in my opinion, is the disorder. Feeling slow in winter is relatively normal. The way we pretend it's not happening is abnormal. And yet, those of us who find this situation difficult to deal with are labelled 'disordered'.

This could lead to a whole rant about how anything that is not inside a very narrow and capitalist-productive-workforce* driven idea of Normal gets labelled 'disorder' and 'treated' so that we can go back to being inside the narrow bell curve.

I can now tick off two so-called disorders. I have all the letters. SAD, OCD. The anagram generator says I could have AD CODS if I want. But the point is, while both of these are labelled as disorders, I don't consider myself to be disordered at all. Sure, OCD can definitely be a problem. Anyone who's been stuck performing pointless rituals in order to not have an anxious meltdown when all they really want to do is go have dinner will tell you that. And I realise there's a spectrum and I'm probably on the mild end of it. But there's another side to OCD, which I've talked about before. The side where repetitive pattern-making is soothing, so I can make almost-perfect replica costumes because I'm quite happy to sit there cutting leather and stitching it back together endlessly. I can make maille, edit documents, write A+ getting essays, and make a very good salary because of my OCD.

So I'd hardly call it a disorder. It's a personality trait that includes anxiety, perfectionism and a liking for repetitivity (hellooo, sheep shearing!) - all of which can affect my life positively or negatively. The negative part is not fun, but it's also manageable.

Meanwhile, in winter I'm slow and lethargic and the fact that society insists I have to pretend I'm not and just carry on producing at the rate it dictates gets me down. In summer I am more active and because the daylight hours are longer I get to get out and about and indulge that, and so I'm happier.

Am I disordered? No more than the next person in my opinion. Obviously there are people who are more seriously affected, whose lives are completely disrupted by obsessive-compulsive behaviours or seasonal changes. Likewise there's a spectrum for ADD, ADHD and every other bloody D you can think of. Seems like pretty much everyone these days has some sort of D they're either claiming, or have been told they have. I wonder how many people reading this have a D of some sort that bums them out sometimes but also makes their life better sometimes? It's probably quite a lot.


So I'd like to respectfully suggest that we should perhaps stop labelling everything outside that narrow band of Normal as a disorder. If 30% of the population are exhibiting a certain behaviour, then perhaps it belongs inside that band, and we should consider widening our parameters of Normal. Just a thought.

However, I'm also aware that society is unlikely to read this and go "Oh shit, Tats is right, perhaps we should shorten working hours in winter and let people hibernate a bit." So I looked into light therapy. If I want to get a light box, I can expect to pay between $200 and $350 for one, with replacement bulbs being $60. Yep, New Zealanders pay the Far Distant Island Premium on EVERYTHING. And yes, I take Vitamin D. It was me that recommended this to some of my friends. I get outside for about an hour a day, get plenty of exercise, and eat reasonably well despite my urge to eat nothing but potato chips and ice cream from May through to September. I can consider adding the light box but again, it frustrates me that I have to consider this rather than society looking at itself and going "This is unnatural and we should stop it."

And yes, I think holidays and rituals do make a difference. Someone pointed out yesterday that in the Northern Hemisphere the holidays are focused in the winter months. While that means y'all probably don't get to go water skiing at Christmas time like we do, you also don't have that stretch of 5 months with no holidays through the darkest part of the year. You have a break in the daily grind of unnatural behaviour to look forward to. We have a great summer full of holidays, and in winter we zombie our way through what feels like The Longest Dungeon Crawl Ever**, and it's hard. I would happily sacrifice Wellington Anniversary Day, Anzac Day and Waitangi Day in order to celebrate the solstice, Matariki and the first day of spring with long weekends. It would make a difference, because it would break the grind into manageable chunks.

(never mind that having to play mind-tricks on yourself such as 'only four weeks to get through till I get one extra day off' is a whole different lot of capitalist bullshit)

* Forget Marx, go read yourself some Foucault on governmentality. It's enlightening. Ha ha, enLIGHTening. I kill me.
** Longer than the Deep Roads, and we all know how long they are.

Comments:

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From:anna_en_route
Date:June 11th, 2014 09:25 pm (UTC)
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One thing I try and do is take a day or at least an afternoon off work once every 2 or 3 weeks

It helps that I usually have a bit of leave to work through but it also gives me something to look forward to (and a nice long walk home through the gardens in the sunlight).
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From:tatjna
Date:June 11th, 2014 09:26 pm (UTC)
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That's a good idea. I will see if I can save some up for next winter.
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From:fbhjr
Date:June 11th, 2014 10:10 pm (UTC)
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I know a blind person who had a lot of trouble sleeping. He tried melatonin and said it helped. He thought it was the light thing. But, it could also be just him thinking it would help, helped.
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From:bekitty
Date:June 11th, 2014 10:18 pm (UTC)
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I tried melatonin in the middle of summer once, to see if it would help me sleep. It screwed me over for days. :-/

You can't buy melatonin over the counter in NZ. You might be able to get it on prescription though?

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From:wildilocks
Date:June 11th, 2014 11:51 pm (UTC)
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I was given a melatonin prescription in New Zealand, so yes, this is possible.
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From:bekitty
Date:June 11th, 2014 10:14 pm (UTC)
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I consider myself to be on the severe end of the SAD spectrum. I first noticed symptoms in 1993, was diagnosed by my doctor in 1996, and have tried various medications since then. The first one was Prozac, because it was 1996 and doctors were handing Prozac out like candy. That didn't work.

Since then, I've tried St John's Wort, Vitamin D, and a bunch of other medications. Most of them only work sporadically. I've had to resign from a job, because the management weren't supporting me enough (my then-manager would come down to the basement where I was working, where they'd turned half the lights out to "conserve power", and tell me that it was a nice day outside so I must be all better now. No, really.)

I have also looked at the price of light boxes and noped the hell out of there. Instead, I got a normal bedside lamp and put a "cool white" compact fluorescent bulb in it. That works well, mostly.

In my opinion and experience, SAD is definitely a melatonin thing. My brain produces too much of it on dark days, and too little of it on bright days. So it affects me all year round, but I get different symptoms depending on the season. In winter (or when we have a day or more of rain) I oversleep and I can't concnetrate on anything. I can't follow a conversation. I don't feel motivated to do anything, including leaving the house. In summer (or after several days of bright sun) I can't sleep, and I'm hyperactive.

The winter blues, which is when you just feel down in winter and aren't affected at all in summer, is completely normal. That's not SAD. It's not a disorder, it's a normal part of life. The trouble is, when people who get the winter blues read descriptions of SAD, they tend to go "oh that's normal, I get that, it's not so bad, why do you need special treatment?" and so the people with more severe SAD get treated worse (or denied treatment outright) as a result. I've had doctors refuse to treat my SAD because they get the winter blues.

Incidentally, I found my symptoms were lessened to a significant degree after my cataract surgery. Possibly because my new lens is letting more light into my brain? So I still have SAD, but it's just not so crippling anymore.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 11th, 2014 10:25 pm (UTC)
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Actually, the winter blues is a form of SAD according to what I have been reading. It's a spectrum, on which 6% of the population are severely affected like yourself, and a further 20-25% of people are mildly affected.

I think that being changed by the seasons is normal, but that at that 6% end of the spectrum there are symptoms that are debilitating. Ignoring that there's a significant chunk of the population who are able to soldier on is doing those people a disservice IMO.

What I would like to see is recognition that being affected by the change of seasons is normal, and therefore something worth adjusting our societal expectations for, intead of labelling a significant chunk of the population as disordered. Along with that there should be recognition that some people get great relief through some preventative measures, and these should be made available in workplaces and to individuals as a normal part of preventative healthcare.
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From:bekitty
Date:June 12th, 2014 02:01 am (UTC)
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Dr Norman Rosenthal, who first identified SAD in 1990, was careful to differentiate between "winter blues" (the mild part of the spectrum) and seasonal affective disorder. It's only more modern definitions that have lumped us all in together.

Recognition that many people have difficulty dealing with seasonal changes would be great! However, there are people who have a tendency to belittle and disbelieve the people who are more affected -- doctors included. And I think those of us who are are at the severe end of the spectrum will end up getting short shrift as a result.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 12th, 2014 02:15 am (UTC)
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It's the same age old question that frustrates the hell out of me - where do you draw the line on a spectrum that runs from 'unaffected' to 'severely affected'?

I'm having a defensive reaction to your statements because while I know it's not intended, I find calling what I am experiencing 'winter blues' quite invalidating, because IMO it contributes the the tendency to belittle and disbelieve. "Oh, it's just winter blues, stop complaining" is something you don't want to hear, and nor do I.

It's frustrating for me because I think all levels of being affected are within the realms of normal, and what I want is recognition that it *is* normal to feel different in winter for many people, and a shift in attitude to accommodate this very normal response to the change of light.

Meanwhile, I do understand that there's a human tendency to lump everyone in together and because more people are mildly affected than severely affected, those in the severely affected minority tend to have to 'prove' their symptoms in some sort of Suffering Olympics in order to get help.

Help should be available to anyone who needs it, when they need it, at the level they need it. Because feeling crappy in winter is normal, and its our societal lack of acknowledgement that leads to these problems.
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From:bekitty
Date:June 12th, 2014 06:35 am (UTC)
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I'm sorry. I never said what you had was the winter blues. If you're at the stage where you're taking medication and looking into light therapy, then you've definitely got full-blown SAD.

I'd always thought of the winter blues as "getting grumpy when it rains", so hearing it referred to as a form of SAD was a bit surprising to me.

Again, I apologise. I'm not very coherent at the moment, and haven't really been for the last week.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 12th, 2014 10:10 pm (UTC)
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Oh hey, look, no need to apologise. I take responsibility for my own reactions. ;-) I'm unclear in my head about this topic because on one hand I want recognition that this effect is normal, but on the other, I also want those who experience more severe reactions than myself to be able to get treatment as needed. On the third hand I don't myself want to be considered disorded purely because I'm affected by the change of light.

All this leads to me being oversensitive about demarcation.

You're awesome, by the way.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 11th, 2014 11:05 pm (UTC)
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I just read the Wikipedia summary (which is often an easier way to get your head around Foucault), and:

1. We're almost obliged to go "Eww" on the topic of paedophilia, but in that there are some interesting questions about societally-decided ages of consent and the governance of adult agency. I've often been confused by these magical ages at which we are suddenly supposed to be able to make adult decisions about various things, from running countries to sexual relations to long-term contractual commitments, to drinking alcohol.

This is especially confusing in light of the way our adulthood is being delayed by things such as extended formal education, youth wage rates and parental means testing, while precocious puberty is becoming more and more common, bringing the average biological age of adulthood down while raising the societal one.

For me, those two paragraphs above are the 'argh' part because to me it's not so simple as going 'eww'. There's a line between 'eww' and 'weeellll, just what are we legislating here?'

2. Which means that if Foucault was a habitual iconoclast, I think I might be too.

3. Life is complicated. That's the 'argh' part of questions like whether being affected by the seasons or paedophilia (won't anybody think of the children?) should be institutionalised, medicalised, or criminalised.

My degree in social policy and criminology only makes these questions more complex, because it reveals all those lines in the sand to very arbitrary, and what has once been realised can't be unrealised.
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From:wildilocks
Date:June 12th, 2014 12:03 am (UTC)
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When I lived in Edinburgh in my mid - 20s I got really bad SAD. I really couldn't function (like seriously couldn't get out of bed), and so I came back to Australia. My symptoms cleared up in a couple of weeks. I never had anything so extreme in NZ, so I think maybe I'm a typical example of it being less prevalent when you get older.

Having said that I have always considered hibernation a sensible thing and approve of seasonal hours, and really wish society did too. Overall I would probably prefer a 4 day work week, PLUS reduced hours in winter, that would be ace.

Somebody pls vote for me to run a country. There would be no daylight savings, but this would just be heaps better 😀
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From:tatjna
Date:June 12th, 2014 12:05 am (UTC)
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I would support your policies wrt seasonal change. I like daylight savings for the time in the evening it affords me, but being an early riser means I would just get to do it in the morning instead.
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From:m_danson
Date:June 12th, 2014 02:34 pm (UTC)
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I hate the spring and fall time changes. The abrupt shift triggers sleep and mood problems for me and I pretty much always end up in trouble. The US's decision to move it earlier/later in the year (and Canada following that lead) has only made it worse.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 12th, 2014 03:34 am (UTC)
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I'm not sure anyone said anything about giving up.

I'm not a fan of the latter method either, but accept that it's an improvement on doing nothing at all. I don't, however, accept that once teh tools we have have been used we should call the job done forever and throw them away. We should continue to question, and think, and have these conversations that make people go "Eww!" Because y'know, once upon a time men sexing men was considered to be job done as far as society's response to it. And by 'we', I most definitely mean 'us' because I don't trust anyone else to ask those questions for me.

Meanwhile, I am interested in how "Winter sucks, giz more holidays" ended up being about paedophilia. At a guess I'd say you've been reading Kant.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 12th, 2014 03:54 am (UTC)
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Mine. Because they're better than yours.

(whether they bring all the boys to the yard is a question still being tested)
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From:siobhan63
Date:June 12th, 2014 12:17 pm (UTC)
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Someone pointed out yesterday that in the Northern Hemisphere the holidays are focused in the winter months.

Depends where you live. In Canada, we don't have that many holidays during the winter. Our Thanksgiving is a month earlier than the American one (October), so that's one long weekend. Then nothing in November (unless you work for government and get Nov 11 off, but that's not usually a long weekend, just a day off during the week). December there's Xmas, but for most people they get only Xmas day off - most everything is open on the 24th (but might close earlier than usual) and some will get the 26th off, but not everyone. Ditto for New Years - just the 1st officially off for again not everyone as movie theatres and pharmacies and like are usually open. Some provinces have one day off in February now, but for the most part, the two worst months, January and February, no holidays. Ditto for March unless Easter is really early. There will be events planned during the winter, like Quebec City's famous Carnival, but that's not a holiday. Schools get a "March break" so families will often take vacation time then and go south during that week to Florida or wherever, but again, not official holidays.

Edited at 2014-06-12 12:17 pm (UTC)
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From:c_maxx
Date:June 12th, 2014 05:30 pm (UTC)
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A good point was brought up with the time changes--screwing over our body-clocks is almost guaranteed to have an adverse effect. I always get sick a couple of weeks after the time change from the sleep disruption.

And you brought up another good point, tangentially- the capitalist-productive-workforce*-- THAT's the unnatural behavior system. Your friend's story about working in the basement is a classic illustration- "we turned off half the lights to save money". Great management! Our bathroom on our floor is so dark and cold, it's a hostile environment. I go use the one on another floor.
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From:downwardlashes
Date:June 12th, 2014 06:42 pm (UTC)
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I read a book about how they're creating all sort of disorders for children with really dubious "symptoms". It really set my mind at ease, because yes, Caspian is weird as can be, but no, there's nothing "wrong" with him. People keep private messaging me saying, "He might have autism/asperger's/ADHD/etc." when I write about his antics. But he's just a normal kid who matures at a different pace than other kids. It's perfectly okay. Annoying, but nothing wrong with it, lol. One day someone will take a stand against all these disorders, demand scientific proof that they even exist, maybe, and things will change. :/
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From:goddessofchaos
Date:June 14th, 2014 01:03 pm (UTC)
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You are right, of course. I think our modern way of life suppresses or works against a lot of our natural biorhythms.
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From:brynhilda
Date:June 14th, 2014 02:32 pm (UTC)
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I'd like to respectfully suggest that we should perhaps stop labelling everything outside that narrow band of Normal as a disorder.

So true!! I totally agree with you!
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