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SAD case study

Name: Joel
Sex: Female
Age: Undisclosed

SAD gradually took over my life from about the age of 12, and it has turned me into a 29-year-old complete suicidal loser. The only bonus from it is that although the thought of being an actor terrifies me; I produce Oscar winning performances every day trying to fit in with society's expectations of me. This February I finally realised that there was something wrong with me that positive thinking would never overcome. Every year my optimism would return in August only to crash in September. Previously my GP diagnosed me with depression; antidepressants and counseling did either nothing or made matters worse - to be honest I deluded myself that I could overcome it without help.

Last autumn was my last attempt at a normal life and everything fell apart like clockwork. I was set to end it all, but a friend taking a year out in Australia gave me a glimmer of hope to fight on. Rather than going back for another futile trip to my GP I searched the internet using what I thought might be symptoms of a condition other than depression. SAD came up as the top hit, but I had heard of it before and only thought that it was depression in mid winter; nevertheless, I was curious to read the NHS direct encyclopedia page anyway. Everything that I have experienced from my early teens was listed as a symptom. Seeing how long the symptoms can persist made me review my life; and in that instance the seasonal pattern of my suffering became obvious - I cannot believe that I missed it, my GP missed it, my family and friends missed it, and even my teachers too. The main problem is that I have been fighting so hard to fit in, that I have been concealing my suffering as much as possible.

My GP has been less than helpful, and reluctant to agree with my self-diagnosis; the story is the same with the psychiatrist that he referred me to. They tried me on venlafaxine, but along with the other side affects, I became even more suicidal. I have invested in some light boxes, but I do not seem to get the same level of relief that I read that some SAD suffers get by using them. This year I would normally be improving now, but things are worse than ever. I am confused about my past, by being taken over, by the body and mind snatching SAD, and I wonder who I really am. I am scarred for the future, because I don't seem to be getting the help that I so desperately need - where are these mythical NHS specialist SAD clinics that I keep reading about. I keep telling people that I cannot face another year like the previous years, but it seems to be falling on deaf ears.

The only time that I have been completely symptom free since developing SAD was during a field trip to Corsica in the year 2000. Looking at data from the met office this is obvious because although the summer was poor, the spring was amazing for sun light, and then I went to Corsica for a fortnight in June. My confidence and energy levels have never been so great. Upon returning to England I was all right for a week - I managed to ace an Asda selection day to get a job in that time. Since then I have tried to get a degree, but even after I switched to the Open University, I couldn't concentrate enough to get the coursework done.

Currently I am still an employee of Waitrose, but because of my amazing acting skills, I don't think that the managers understand my position. I've been signed off work since the end of February. Normally I would have never gone back, but knowing that the problem isn't just me, I have tried to hang in there. They are making things difficult, and with the way that I feel now, I don't think that I will ever work their again. When I tried returning to my line manager told me that I should be grateful for what I have got, especially my health - referring to the fact that the deputy manager had been diagnosed with a dodgey heart valve. I laughed inside; I don't even know who I am: all I know is that I'm ugly, I'm lonely, I don't feel loved, I've never been in a relationship, every waking moment is like being tortured, and I am consumed by thinking about my suffering all of the time. The irony is that I wanted to become a doctor to help other people, and now I feel like I cannot even help myself. Thinking about all of those people with more severe problems, just makes me feel even worse for stewing in my world of self-pity. Oh yes, I forgot to include that I hate myself.

I honestly don't know why I am still clinging to life. I suppose it is because it is such a miraculous gift, but I cannot take much more. This year should have been one of the best knowing what is wrong with me, but instead it has been one of the worst, and now I probably have clinical depression and extreme stress on top of my SAD just to make matters more interesting. And this is all I can do constructively - whinge. Once upon a time I was a straight 'A' grade student, and now I'm an 'A' grade loser.

I sincerely hope that you can all learn to live with SAD. I for one am losing the battle without the help that I have pleaded for. I should be around until September at least, but after that I couldn't say. Moving abroad is probably the only true solution for me, but I do not have the money nor the right mind set to organise anything. In fact, the thought of going alone terrifies me, because I feel lonely enough as it is.