Calgary women says her struggle with the disease affects her relationships with friends and family members
A year ago Breanna Tamagi lay under her comforter on a frosty winter morning, trying her best to talk herself into getting out of bed.
The Canadian Mental Health Association website said that two to three per cent of the Canadian population suffers from seasonal affective disorder — Tamagi’s diagnosis — while another 15 per cent experience “winter blues” — a less severe form of the disorder.
“I get very sluggish. I don’t want to get out of bed, and I generally start to hate a lot of things,” Tamagi said.
Psychologist Colleen Linney described the disorder as having depression-like symptoms that are affected by low levels of light and changes in the weather.
Making relationships hard
Tamagi said that the seasonal affective disorder, more commonly known as SAD, especially shows itself in the winter months, which strains her relationships — and continues to do so year after year.
She said that the disorder has not only affected her, but has also had an impact on her relationship with her boyfriend of 23 months, Daniel Ham.
She recalled a time last year when her boyfriend was at work in Fort McMurray, Alta., for long periods of time. Since she was accustomed to him being there to support her, she found herself feeling unstable and acting out of character.
“Things became more laborious and almost ridiculous. I was doing a lot less, moving a lot less and talking a lot less. Daniel couldn’t handle it,” Tamagi said.
Linney said Tamagi’s behaviour is common for people with the disorder — that the symptoms aren’t as severe as major depression, but people get lethargic and fatigued.
Photo courtesy of: Breanna Tamagi
“They lose interest, and their typical routines and levels of function are reduced or compromised,” she said.
Although there is no set cure for this disorder, there have been some successful ways to counteract some of its effects.
Linney said that light therapy, where patients are exposed to fluorescent light under specified conditions, has been beneficial for some people.
She added that there are other options for people who suffer from SAD.
Josey Vogels, a sex and relationship specialist, said, “Go south. A week in the sun can be a great way to get some quality time and connect in the winter.”
If a sunny vacation is not an option, Vogels said to plan a “staycation” where you and your significant other get rid of all cell phones and computers, and stay in together.
Tamagi, with the support of her boyfriend, is planning to go into counseling this winter season to address issues that arise from her being affected by the disorder.
With confidence, she said, “I’m going to see if there is anything I can try to get through this a bit better.”