The SAD truth of ADHD!

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Approximately 30% of people who have ADHD, also have something called SAD otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. In essence, it means that for six months of the year your mental health suffers and so in effect so does your ADHD. It’s been 5 years since I first discovered that I have this condition and in that time I’ve been finding out how and why it also impacts my ADHD.

In 2017, I was doing my teacher training to be a college lecturer. One of my lecturers, the head of the course, was this really lovely lady called Tina. Whereas the frustration of teaching me, was very evident from my other lecturers, Tina treated me like a person in need of support. I’ve never forgotten some of the supportive/hilarious emails she sent me throughout my time on the course, one of them which started with ‘Dear overthinker’ It still puts a smile on my face.

“A lack of sunlight is enough to make anybody miserable but it can also worsen the symtoms of ADHD.”

~adhd gIRL

Anyway, one day in early February on my lunch break, I mentioned to Tina about how I really struggled with brain fog and depression, but it had only really started in the late October time. It was then that she told me about SAD and suggested that it might be something I have. It’s very common to have SAD living in England because it’s essentially caused by a lack of vitamin D AKA sunlight. Anyone who lives in England; indeed the whole of the UK will know that it’s a place where sunlight is hard to come by. The lack of vitamin D not only leads to you not being able to absorb enough iron, so you always feel tired, but it gives you brain fog, makes your grouchy and can have quite an impact on your life from October to March. So not only do those of us who have SAD/ ADHD have to put up with a lack of vitamin D, but also a lack of dopamine. That’s right; we feel depressed due to the lack of sunlight, and we can’t even begin to regulate our behaviour to counteract this.

Now you know what SAD is let me tell you how it impacts my ADHD, it sounds weird to say but it elevates my symptoms. From October to March, I don’t feel great about myself, I’m not as productive, I feel rotten all the time and trying to be organised is equivalent to trying to climb Everest. Of course, I still have my good and my bad days, but during those six months where my SAD is present, I would say I have more bad days than good. This is usually because everything feels more like an effort, I can’t get outside as much, and I still have all that crap to deal with that comes with being an adult and a parent.

“I can literally feel my brain chemistry changing as it begins to get lighter; I wake up early and the change in my overall well-being is just insane.”

~ADHD Girl

I don’t like to moan without doing anything to actively help my situation, I feel like it’s me expecting pity but doing little to earn it. So, in what ways have I found to manage my SAD? Well there are several things I use, but two or three which I have found to be the most effective. Firstly, I take vitamin D supplements from September through to April just to make sure my body doesn’t have to work too hard to maintain itself. Another thing I use sounds ridiculous and you’d probably say it can’t help, but I can assure you it does. I have something called a SAD lamp. It basically looks like a tablet, but instead of having a screen, it has a bright light that you can sit in front of or near. In other words it’s a sunlight substitute, comes in very handy on those gloomy days where it does nothing but rain.

The past few days, I have literally felt my brain chemistry changing as we get more sunlight. It’s an extremely weird feeling, almost like being dehydrated in only my brain while the rest of my body is fine. It’s only really once the sun starts coming out that I realise how out of sorts I’ve been. To put in a more practical way, it’s almost like I’ve been half asleep since late October, but now I’m fully able to appreciate life being wide awake. Fingers crossed now; I’ll be fine for the rest of the year.

So if you have ADHD and you find October through to springtime difficult, it may be time to consider if you also have SAD. It’s not a big deal to have it but managing your SAD may lead to you having a better time of living with ADHD too.

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