Thankful Thursday: January 2019

Welcome to the twenty-second installment of my Thankful Thursday series – starting this month, I’ve decided to do it monthly! A little easier to synthesize what I’m thankful for and lessons I’ve learned, and it also helps me because of my giant course-load at grad school right now. ‘Cause let me tell you, 13 hour days 3 days a week is cray, and so is traveling out to UBC 4 days a week (case and point: I started writing this on Thursday and it’s now Tuesday that I’m posting).

This month, I’m focusing on gratitude for the start I’ve had to this new year. It’s been a great start to my second semester of grad school (despite the crazy workload), and I’ve made some more progress on the somatic symptoms of my anxiety this month as well.

Here’s my Thankful Thursday for the month of January!

Things I am thankful for over this month:

  • The weather. It has been the least-rainy January here in my recent memory.
  • Related to the nice weather, we’ve got daffodils earlier than ever before.
  • I started my half-marathon training program, to prepare for running my third BMO Vancouver Half Marathon in May, and my second Scotiabank Half Marathon in June (half marathons 5 and 6 in total!). It’s been going really well, and I’ve had some lovely meditation time on the seawall, (mostly at 5:45 am thanks to my schedule, so not as many photos as usual!).
  • I visited my parents in Calgary and for Christmas they got me this reading shawl from Indigo that is LIFE:
  • The fog has been AMAZING.
  • Joy took me to Botanist and we shared an “experiential drink” called Deep Cove. They actually blow the glasses into pieces of found driftwood so that they fit perfectly!

And the main theme of this post, mental health wins in January.


I’ve talked about this before on Instagram, but not much on the blog yet. I have dermatillomania, a mental health disorder characterized by picking at imperfections/zits/scabs etc. on the skin. For me, this means I primarily pick at my acne on my chin and forehead, often without even noticing it, and especially when I am distracted or anxious. I do it most often when I am reading or driving.

A friend suggested gel manicures as a possible solution – having longer nails makes it more difficult to actually pick. I’ve been experimenting with gel nails for a few years now to help with how brittle my nails are (an annoying side-effect of low thyroid and iron). I’d never really noticed the link between my picking frequency and my nails before, but I’m definitely noticing it now. That’s my first mental health win for January!

And it’s super nice that the manicure I currently have has been going strong for 6 weeks now! Here’s a little chronological collage:

Top left: First day; Top right: four weeks (usually the longest it lasts); Bottom left: five weeks; Bottom right: six weeks

Seasonal Affective Disorder

My second mental health win for January is that I seem to be beating Seasonal Affective Disorder! Last Winter was a particularly bad one for SAD for me. I think it was partly because my thyroid levels were low and I didn’t know it, but this year I’ve started taking vitamin D every day, and I think it’s helping. Or at least the placebo effect is! I’m also working hard to keep exercising and to get enough sleep, so that helps too.

There you have it!

So, that’s my Thankful Thursday list for this month. I hope it inspires you to make your own, and get on that gratitude train!

Peace and love,


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Coming out on the Sunny Side

I think Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was probably the first mental health issue I ever knew about.

If you’re not super familiar (and you may not be, if you live closer to the equator than I do), here’s a quick definition from the Mayo Clinic: “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.”

I first heard about SAD from a friend who self-identified as having it around middle school.

I grew up in New Brunswick, which has terribly snowy and cold winters, although there is still a fair amount of sun. Its impact wasn’t very real for me until I moved to Vancouver, however.

Affectionately known by many as Raincouver, part of the notoriously rainy Pacific Northwest, and quite near to the rainiest place in North America (Henderson Lake, Vancouver Island), Vancouver borders the biggest temperate rainforest in the world.

I regularly say that Vancouver has two seasons: “rainy,” and “hot and less rainy.” The “rainy” season runs from about October through April, and the “hot and less rainy” season is (clearly) May through September. Usually every rainy season, we have at least a span of 20 days without sun. They’re not necessarily all wet, but most of them are. This January, we had 24 rainy days in a row, and October and November 2016 had 47 days of rain.

Long story short, it’s wet here. It’s also grey.

And because we’re in Canada, from November to March it’s also pretty dark. I know we’ve got nothing on northern Europe, the Canadian territories, or Alaska, but on the darkest day of the year, the sun rises at 08:05 and sets at 16:16. When I was in Williams Lake for the 2014-15 school year, on the darkest day of the year the sun rose at 08:15 and set at 15:58.

All of this is a pretty perfect recipe for SAD, especially for someone already prone to depression and anxiety.

For years I’ve had suspicions, but I think this year is the first time I’ve actually fully acknowledged that on top of generalized anxiety and periodic depression, I also have SAD. Looking back on it, my first serious experience with it was probably my first year in Vancouver when I was a freshman at UBC. I missed my husband (then boyfriend), I missed my family and all of my friends, and I was going through that stressful first-year university time when I realized that school was actually going to be hard for once.

Now I recognize that it usually starts in early November, and kicks around until mid to late March. Does this time period sound familiar?

My SAD symptoms

When I’m in the midst of SAD, I sleep more but don’t feel more rested. I usually fall asleep within minutes of starting to read in bed, when normally I can stay up reading for an hour or more. Accordingly, I end up sleeping about an hour more per night (usually about 9pm – 6am).

I also drink more coffee. Both because I feel more tired, and because it’s my comfort drink, and I find myself seeking mental and physical comfort more than usual. In the depths of SAD, all I want to do is curl up on the couch with five blankets and pillows, sipping on a steaming mug of coffee goodness, scrolling my Instagram feed, and poking my nose out occasionally to search for a tiny sliver of nonexistent sun.

I feel listless, tired, burnt out, unmotivated, and down.

Getting out of bed in the morning is so hard. I dread going to work. My job is awesome and I love it, and I always feel fine once I get there, but in the midst of SAD, I do not want to go.

How do you know you’re not just depressed, you ask? Well…

When the sun occasionally comes out, I have the best day of my life.

I think this is how I finally realized I was dealing with SAD. It was a Saturday, and the sun had come out after that above-mentioned stretch of 24 rainy days. I woke up earlier, my energy was up, I was ultra-productive, and I just felt so happy. At some point early in the day, my husband turned and looked at me, and said in surprise, “You’re super happy today.”

My response was, “Yup! It’s sunny! And nice! and I feel good! YAY!”

It was pretty black and white.

After having this epiphany, I knew I needed to write about it on the blog.

That was two months ago.

I find it hilariously and incredibly affirming that I’ve only been able to sit down and write this post now I’m in recovery. SAD is real, people, I don’t make this shit up!

Strategies I use to help with SAD

  • Vitamin D. I have no idea if this actually works, but I take it every day of the rainy season. I think it helps? It might just be placebo, but I’ll take it. The Globe and Mail says that Health Canada’s recommended daily intake of vitamin D for people aged 1-70 is 600 IU per day.
  • Exercise. I’ve already talked a lot about how exercise is one of my main sources of self-care, as is a regular sleep schedule. These are fantastic when I’m not under a dark cloud. During SAD-season, they barely keep me above water, but at least they do that. It doesn’t help when my runs have me swimming in icy cold rainwater.

    Running the West Van Run in 2017, in snow and rain, looking like a drowned rat.
  • Extra sleep. I’m an advocate of giving my body what it’s asking for, so when my eyes want to close two pages into my book instead of 50, I let them.

I think recognition is the most important part of all of this.

This year it was a lot easier to handle SAD because I realized what I was dealing with. I made sure to really soak up the sun every time it came out. My 5x weekly half-marathon training schedule made sure that I was usually outside on sunny days. If it was an off-day, I tried to make sure I got outside, even briefly, anyway.

Especially with opportunity to see cute raccoons on the seawall.

I also really worked hard to bottle the sunshine inside of me. On those rare sunny days, I would sit in a pool of it on the floor just like a cat. I’d meditate on how amazing it made me feel. Then, I would package that feeling up. I’d imagine locking it into a special compartment in my heart. I could pull it out when I needed it.

Finally, I just did what my body wanted. I drank more coffee. Got cozy more often. I snuggled with my magic bag a lot. I slept more, took care of myself.

Happy first day of Spring! Here’s to hoping the rainy season (or snowy season, for those of you not in Vancouver) is on its way out.

Peace, love, and heart compartments full of bottled sunshine,


P.S. – Next post on self-care for anxiety is coming soon!