tatjna (tatjna) wrote,

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

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.
Tags: bring back the sun, more holidays plz, sad
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