It’s my birthday month! Along with my fellow September birthday celebrators Beyonce, Meat Loaf, Colin Firth, Sophia Loren, Bruce Springsteen, Will Smith, Lil Wayne, Adam Sandler. I hope you sent them all a clever card. Those sharing my exact day include Hilary Duff, Young Jeezy, Brigitte Bardot, and Naomi Watts. I’ve invited them all to dinner, and we will raise a glass to Ed Sullivan, who shares our birthday as well.
Admittedly it’s a disparate group. We have in common our good looks and creative talents, plus we all fall under the sign of Libra, seeking balance.
September, it turns out, can be a very hard month, a time when–even if celebrating Mira Sorvino’s birthday–any of us can feel sad, depressed, anxious, or triggered, as individuals and as a species.
What might be some of the reasons for sadness in September?
* Change of seasons: In at least part of the world, it’s the end of summer, and the days get shorter, darker, and cooler. We stay indoors more. We put on more clothes. We may sleep more, but not feel refreshed.
* September 11 is globally observed as a day of mourning and loss.
* The Autumnal Equinox happens this year on September 22 this year, and the rapid changes of light can disturb our sense of peace. Even Dooce has struggled with it; read her post here. She’s a Leo, by the way.
* September is National Suicide Prevention Month.
* We send our children off to school, an event that is wonderful and hopeful, but also leaves our homes emptier. The kids are growing up. September means some kids leave home completely.
By mid-late September, the glow of summer has faded, and the challenges of school are firmly in place: bullying, homework, learning disabilities, cliques, meetings, deadlines, projects, testing.
* Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is in full swing. It’s real. It affects those with bipolar disorder, as well as lots of other people. It also affects the friends and families of anyone struggling with SAD.
All of the above is depressing, right? Yes. So let’s be with it, talk about it, acknowledge it, and look at ways to understand and deal with it.
It’s that Libra balance that my-ex Keanu Reeves (birthday September 2) and I share (well, maybe): the interest in acknowledging the challenge of September, and in finding the counterpoint in a strategy.
Let’s start with the aptly named SAD. Here is one reason many folks feel depressed and lethargic: Our skin has an amazing ability to take in sunshine and change it into Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps us to regulate our positive moods. Not enough sunshine, not enough Vitamin D, not enough positive mood.
So, extra Vitamin D can help.
Another reason for feeling down and disconnected is that, in darker days, our bodies produce more melatonin, a hormone that helps us regulate our sleeping patterns. More melatonin can mean disrupted sleep that doesn’t make us feel better.
I drew from this source for the above information about SAD.
Another good approach can be light therapy, something quite popular here in the Pacific Northwest and applicable to many other geographies, including your living room. Basically it’s a supplement of artificial light to make you feel better. Read about it here.
A final note about SAD is that it affects not only humans but also some animals, according to this article from Live Science. A quote, casually placed in the article: “For instance, during long winter days, the Siberian hamsters’ testes increase to almost 17 times their size during short days.” Whoa.
Click here for more information about SAD.
Some of us experience disruption and an undercurrent of sadness during September; some of us deal with significant depression. Even if you’re doing fine, it’s hard to see your friends and family members struggling, a little or a lot. I mentioned above that September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Most suicides, though, don’t happen in September. They happen more often in spring or early summer. Find info about myths and facts about suicide here. We humans are complex creatures.
If you have a loved one struggling, or if you are, here’s a site with loads of information and links.
If you encounter someone on the Internet, on Facebook for example, who seems to be dealing with depression or considering suicide, there are ways to reach out and offer help. Here’s a good source for online helping.
Of course, consult your doctor, your mental health provider, your (trusted, trained, experienced) source of medical information, whoever that may be.
You’re not alone with this, whether you are dealing with depression (or related realities), or trying to help someone else. It’s a hard road. The National Association of Mental Illness has a site to share stories and get support, called Not Alone.
I urge anyone struggling with sadness in September to reach out for help. There’s no shame in it. May we be open to asking for and accepting help. May we offer and give help. May we be open to laughter and love. May we find light on dark days, in September or whenever they occur.