I don’t know what is happening

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

It started last year around this time, I began to feel super sad and just overall unhappy with everything going on in my life. I am super stressed and restless and I don’t want to be here (home or where ever) anymore and I want to go somewhere else so that I can get away. Also I’m getting to bed at around 3 in the morning, and waking up at 2, this is fine for school because I do home-school. But I don’t really have a real interest in most things that I used to anymore, I usually know what I want to do for my birthday or something months in advance but this year and last year I couldn’t make a decision and just had my mom plan it out for me, and when my parents asked what I wanted for my birthday or Christmas I didn’t have an answer for them. I didn’t really care that much. This resulted in them not really getting me anything. Every year around Christmas I get really excited about everything going on, like the lights, music, and just the overall Christmas spirit engulfs me and I love it! But this year and last year it hasn’t been there. I end up just feeling really sad about it instead and just sad about everything. I’ve tried talking to my mom about this stuff but all she wants me to do is exercise more and take vitamins. I did all this stuff last year though, I was dancing intensely everyday for two hours and was taking plenty of supplements. also these things she wants me to do would take months for it to help anything at all. She doesn’t understand and I don’t understand.

A: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond to your question. I am glad you are taking the time to write about it now, before the holiday season gets in full swing. I want to respond by (no pun intended) shedding some light on SAD -Seasonal Affective Disorder.

There are three things that jump out at me. The first is that you say this happens the same time every year. This time of year is notorious for Seasonal Affective Disorder due to the radical shift in the available light. The clocks fall back, the sun is less available and this causes real changes in our biochemistry, particularly with melatonin and vitamin D, both of which are drastically affected by sunlight. I would consult a knowlagable healthcare professional about such things as supplements and light therapy (the use of artificial light in the treatment of SAD.)

This possibility is further highlighted by the fact you are home-schooled and your primary exercise is dance—an indoor activity. While estimates vary, 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight daily will usually be of tremendous help. The problem is being outside for 20 minutes doesn’t happen regularly in the colder months, and when it does we are covered head to toe, so the sunlight may not reach us. In the summer months we often get what we need without thinking about it.

Finally, I would note that being home-schooled often reduces the number of social interactions a person has. This typically has a correlation with feeling a bit more isolated. I would encourage you to get involved with other social groups if this is your situation. More friends and connections tends to help us when we feel this way.

If these suggestions don’t bring about some relief within the next 60 days I would encourage you to find a therapist to explore other possibilities. The find help tab at the top of the page will direct you to someone in your area.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Nov 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). I don’t know what is happening. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/11/11/i-dont-know-what-is-happening/

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