I am having a terrible anxiety flare up at the moment. Everything is getting my going. I think it is the time of year though. Although neither of us have been diagnosed, I believe both my husband and I suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as we both have depression and/or anxiety issues at the same time each year. Mine begins in September and is worse in the Autumn months. My husband’s is worse in January after Christmas. We both suffer from excessive tiredness and irritability but he mainly suffers depression and I suffer with both depression and anxiety. Oh how lucky I am.
I was researching SAD yesterday and discovered that sometimes it is triggered by a stressful event or an illness. I think that is why mine always happens in September/October. Part of me thinks it is because we went back to school in September but I think it might be more than that. I had Glandular Fever (Mono) in September/October and went on the awful holiday to Ibiza when I had it. Anyone who has had Glandular Fever knows that it takes months to recover. I remember thinking that I was never going to get better. Especially as they didn’t discover it was Glandular Fever until two months later (that was a mistake of the receptionist at the Doctors telling me my blood test was negative rather than positive!). I had an awful time as I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. I stayed at work, went on holiday (as mentioned above) and I remember going to my Dad’s 50th birthday party (as well as both my sisters’ birthday meals) feeling like death warmed up. Christmas was just as bad but at least I knew what was wrong with me by then.
I think I subconsciously remember that experience at this time of year each year. Some years I can cope with it, others it has an impact on me. It was 2005 that I got sick with Glandular Fever and I have had three major flare ups since then (2009, 2012 and 2014). Along with the anxiety comes the stomach issue flare up. It’s hard to say which one causes the other but my doctors and I all believe that the anxiety causes the stomach issues not the other way round. Though I do think it is a vicious circle as thinking about the stomach issues makes me more anxious, which in turn makes them worse.
I am finding at the moment that I am pretty much agoraphobia. I just want to stay at home where I know I am safe. If I have to go somewhere, I want my hubby or Mum, Dad, or sisters with me to keep me safe. But mainly I want to hide away at home where I will be safe if I get sick and it won’t affect anyone else. But then I worry that I am letting people down. I have already had three days off sick in the last two months and it has made me even more scared that I will get a stomach bug as I would probably have to go to work with it as I would get into trouble with more time off sick. Not that my boss has ever suggested that she has had a problem when I have been off but I have only been working for the company seven months.
Sorry I went off on a tangent there!
In the news this morning there is a story about SAD and how scientists believe they have discovered the cause of it (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-29691479). The scientists have discovered that those who suffer with SAD have higher levels of the serotonin transporter (SERT) protein which means they have a greater removal of serotonin in winter. In the BBC news article, Lead Research, Dr Brenda Mc Mahon said, “We believe that we have found the dial the brain turns when it has to adjust serotonin to the changing seasons. The serotonin transporter (SERT) carries serotonin back into the nerve cells where it is not active – so the higher the SERT activity, the lower the activity of serotonin. Sunlight keeps this setting naturally low, but when the nights grow longer during the autumn, the SERT levels increase, resulting in diminishing active serotonin levels.” Dr Mc Mahon then goes on to say that people who are not affected by SAD do not have the increase in SERT activity (www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-29691479 – 21st October 2014).
But how then do we treat SAD. If we take an SSRI (as I do), does that actually help or will the levels of SERT just get higher? SSRI’s work by stopping the reuptake of serotonin to the brain therefore meaning there is more Serotonin in the body. Is it SERT that they are stopping?
All I know is I would benefit from upping my dosage. I was coming off them in June ready to have a baby before everything went wrong (my hormones also have a big part to play in my anxiety). I was actually at a stage when I wasn’t taking any but was having daily panic attacks! I am now on 10mg and thinking I need to go back up to 20mg which is where I am normally happiest. Going to start upping it slowly at the weekend.
The other thing I know for sure is I must save some annual leave for this time of year to make sure I have plenty of time to rest at home!!