January 26, 2012

I'm S.A.D. . . . And My Oilers Suck (January 26, 2012)

With my apologies to the Edmonton
Oilers, the greatest team of all-time,
but it's how I feel.  Literally.
I'm sad.  My favourite hockey team, the Edmonton Oilers, have really sucked in the last few years.  I think the two conditions may be related.  And, it's not what you think.

Now, when I say I'm sad, I don't mean in the conventional sense but rather sad because of S.A.D.  S.A.D. can make one feel sad, but for different reasons than normal.  It's because of the season.  Not the hockey season, which can make one feel sad if you're an Oilers fan recently, but rather the "season" season.  Winter.  Shortened days.  Less sunlight.  It affects some of us in bad ways.

S.A.D. stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It affects some people in winter when the days get shorter and results in depression like symptoms.  These symptoms include decreased energy, fatigue, tendency to oversleep, difficulty concentrating, avoidance of social situations, and anxiety and despair.  Quoting the Canadian Mental Health Association's website - "It may affect (a S.A.D. sufferer's) personal and professional lives, and seriously limit their potential."  In other words, it prevents sufferers from functioning normally, and it can be debilitating.  The number of people affected by S.A.D. increases the further north you travel in the northern hemisphere (and, presumably, the further south you travel in the southern hemisphere) since it seems to flourish in places where days get substantially shorter during the winter months of the year.  In Canada, studies show that 2% - 3% of the population fall into full blown S.A.D. depression while another 15% of the population suffer a less severe, related form of the condition often called the "winter blues".  For more information about S.A.D. you can click here to check out the CMHA website.

Treatment for S.A.D. is similar to treatment for any other type of depression.  The key is often anti-depressants, talk therapy, and exercise.  (By the way, it really peeves me that exercise can help . . . do you have any idea how difficult it is to do exercise when you're suffering from symptoms that include decreased energy and fatigue?!?  Just saying.)  However, there are a few additional treatments for S.A.D. that have also proven to help.  Light therapy has shown to be quite effective in that during some of the dark hours of the day it simulates daylight.  Related to this, trips to warmer climates where there are more daylight hours have also been successful in bringing relief to symptoms . . . but, unfortunately, the symptoms often recur as soon as the person returns home.  And I learned a new one today . . . eating fish.  Studies have shown a strange anomaly in that the occurrence of S.A.D. in Iceland and Japan is substantially lower than one would anticipate.  While it could be genetics, some believe it is a result of their high fish diet that provides lots of Vitamin D and DHA (docosahexanoic acid), both of which help curb depression.

"So," you ask, "What do the Edmonton Oilers have to do with this?"  Really?  You need to ask?  I thought it would be obvious.  Okay, I'll explain.  My hypothesis is that the roster of the Edmonton Oilers over the last few years has had a disproportionately high number of players that are susceptible to S.A.D.  Think about it.  Edmonton is the northern most team in the National Hockey League, and if they had by some strange quirk a higher than average number of players who suffer from S.A.D. then their performance would be adversely affected by it.  To back this hypothesis up, I have numbers from the last 3 seasons (October 2009 through to January 2012).  In the games played between December 14th and January 31st each of these years, which I find to be the hardest with respect to my S.A.D. each year, the Oilers were 9 (W) - 44 (L) - 7 (OTL) for a total production of 20.8% of the total points possible.  In contrast, for all the other games over these 3 seasons, the Oilers have a record of 61 (W) - 74 (L) - 18 (OTL) . . . a total production of 45.7% of the total points possible.    I recognize that their record at any time of the year is nothing to write home about, but it has been mid-December to the end of January that has been absolutely killing them.  It's S.A.D.

(Yes, I know that the above is a stretch.  And, I know that there are many other reasons the Oilers may suck right now . . . lack of comparative skill, young team, needing a couple of big defencemen, etc. . . . and that given the amount they exercise and travel south they should be less likely to suffer from S.A.D. . . . but please don't burst my bubble.  For some reason it gives me comfort to think the cause of their "suckiness" is physiological.  Oh . . . and the irony also doesn't elude me that I post this blog on the 51st birthday of the greatest Oiler, and the greatest player of all time, Wayne Gretzky.  Happy Birthday Gretz!)

"But Poverty Guy," you say venturing to ask another question despite being shot down with your earlier one, "What does S.A.D. have to do with those in poverty?  S.A.D. can affect anyone of any socio-economic circumstance."  Aaah, yes . . . now there's a good question.  You've redeemed yourself.  S.A.D. absolutely can affect anyone of any background equally (well, unless you're from Iceland or Japan, then it seems you may have dodged a bullet) BUT it doesn't effect them equally.  For those in poverty, they often are not able to access those things that can help.  Anti-depressants are often not accessible due to high cost and no benefit plan.  Talk therapy can be accessed at little or no cost through many mental health agencies, but the stigma associated with mental health keeps two out of every three people seeking the help they need.  Light therapy . . . often not accessible to someone who doesn't have enough money for food . . . or electricity.  Fish . . . ditto.  Trips to the south . . . dream on.  And, I venture to guess that those suffering hard from S.A.D. and don't get treatment may not ultimately be as successful as those who do not suffer from S.A.D., and therefore a higher occurrence amongst the lower income.  I might be wrong in that last point, but in my mind it stands to reason.

So, in summary, I take great solace in knowing that, for me and those like me, the season will pass.  And, in this case, I mean both winter and the hockey season.

IMPORTANT - CMHA (Edmonton) provides these wonderful tips if you know someone suffering from S.A.D.:

Things to Do to Help Someone Suffering from SAD

1. Understand the problem. Recognize that this is a real problem even though the person affected looks normal.

2. Just be there. Don’t feel you have to do anything specific, your presence and company will be experienced as soothing and helpful.

3. Encourage the person with SAD. Remind the person this is a passing phase, that he or she has not always felt this way and will feel better again.

4. Help with simple things. Even doing shopping can feel like a huge chore to the depressed person. Offers to help out will be greatly appreciated.

Things to Avoid
1. Don’t judge and criticize. The person with SAD is already feeling bad about not functioning up to his or her normal standards, and about letting everyone down.

2. Don’t take the person’s withdrawal personally. Do not assume the person is mad at you or uninterested in being friends with you.

3. Don’t assume that it is your responsibility to make the person feel fine. It is not likely to work, and you will probably end up feeling frustrated and irritated at your failure.


Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to See WHAT YOU CAN DO.

Click Here to Sign . . . A Declaration to World Leaders.

1 comment:

  1. My first thought was that you had too much time on your hands today, BUT then not only do you make sense but about 1/2 hour ago I was saying to D that I think that I have SAD this morning, then I read your Blog ....:)