Turn the Lights On, Will You?

Hey everybody, this is Chattery the Chipmunk here with an Arctic News Blast from Canada.  No, really!  Some of you may know that I’ve been down in the Black Hole for a long, long, long, long…..time.  I keep going to my psychiatrist and he manages to make me laugh somehow, so he knows I’m not hospital material yet.  But since I’m maxed out on the meds, there really hasn’t been anything to do except for hang on tight and think about my son and my dog and some other people who might be seriously bummed if I checked out.

Last week, though, Shrink-O-Matic had a brilliant idea!  Light therapy!  He gave me a “prescription” for a 10,000 Lux blue spectrum light made in Canada, where they really know from Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It mimics the light of a beautiful blue sky!

Now, I am so sensitive to light that my mood changes for the worse if a cloud even covers the sun for a few seconds.  I think one of the reasons I love to be in Israel (one of the many, many reasons) is that if I’m feeling down all I have to do is step outside into the Mediterranean Middle East blue sunny skies and I’m much better.

The instructions that came with the lamp say to use it for 20-30 minutes once a day in the morning.  So I’ve been doing that, and it has been helping some.  Then my therapist on Thursday had the bright idea that I should try using it twice a day.

So today I used it first thing in the morning, and again around 2 pm.  So far I have gone for a long walk with The Dog, swept and vacuumed the entire house (if you can call this a house–it’s actually an unimproved barn-like structure, but it keeps the rain out and has heat), and redid my fan page on ReverbNation, and tried to learn something about investing in stocks, and…I am not at all tired, and it’s 10 pm, and I don’t think I’ll do that again.

It feels something like being on steroids, which is why I hated being on steroids when I had to take them because of inflammation.  I think it could definitely lead to mania if continued.

So, tomorrow will be a one-dose day.  Nevertheless, it is such a relief to NOT be depressed–you know what I mean–that I’ll take a hypomanic episode every now and then if that’s the way it has to work.  I just have to write it on the inside of my eyelids: don’t buy stocks when hypomanic!!! 

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54 Comments

  1. ive always been told i should get one of those lights, but no doc ever actually offered a prescription for one, so, i never got one as i couldnt pay for it myself. any way i always wondered if they really helped or not, but i think now that i have relocated to arizona–the desert part–with blue cloudless skies more than 320 days a year, i have now no need for it, as the bright sunny days here have been doing it for me.

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  2. I have been using one for a few years now and it makes a huge difference in my SAD. I use it for about an hour every morning during the winter months. Glad it is helping you too.

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    • Glad to know that it helps you! I’m thrilled to find a non-drug alternative that really seems to work. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You’re always welcome here!

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      • Yes, love non-drug alternatives. Thanks for the welcome. Looking forward to sharing this bipolar journey with someone else who understands.

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        • Wil, I’m part of a wonderful “family-of-choice” of Mental Health bloggers. Feel free to go visit anybody here in the comments, and do click on the badge you will see on the right sidebar that says “I am a Canvas Author.” It will lead you to the wonderful group blog “A Canvas of the Minds,” where you will find treasures both in the posts and their authors, and a welcoming community of people who are struggling to integrate our lives with our, um, “interesting” brains. Looking forward to seeing more of you!

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  3. And THAT, dear friends, is why you are warned never to try light box therapy without being under a doctor’s supervision if you have bipolar disorder. And why I have been advised away from them explicitly, because I am on a hair trigger for mania at all times, under every condition, even when I am incredibly depressed.

    Fortunately you are a knowledgeable lady and a very aware one, sweet Laura. I am very glad you have found something to help you through right now. xo

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    • LOL this definitely comes under the heading, “Don’t try this at home, folks!”….if you happen to be an ultradian cycling manic-depressive, that is…wait till I tell my Shrink…!

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  4. Yeah the S.A.D. lamps can definitely make me feel manic too, though the energy is great and it’s nice to have without having to take more meds. LOL…I like your comment about not buying stock when you’re high ;0) I have the same problem with shopping when I’m up, but somehow I think it could be WAY worse when taken from clothing over into the stock market… Great post.

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    • Thanks! Yes, much better to binge on clothing than on stocks 😛 I have a thing for socks and gloves, especially if I can get good ones on sale…so that means when I’m “up” and motivated, I get all excited and add to my already massive collection of socks. For some reason most of my gloves disappeared in my last move 😦 so I’m replenishing them…..

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      • Yeah, mine’s handbags. I don’t know why, just can’t have me enough purses to get along!! Hah, it’s so silly, but so hard to resist in the moment and so hard to admit defeat after the fact too, and make the return. I hate it. I love the purses, but the obsession is so tiring…

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        • Oh that is so funny (except when you’re broke and buy them anyway 😦 )! But I know the feeling so well…I know people who have THOUSANDS of shoes and just keep on buying them….I have this one friend whose closet is filled up to the top with shoes she never wears, but she loves them…I’m also a sucker for luggage. I know, luggage, right? It’s sick, but I have more suitcases and carry-ons than anybody I know. I can’t resist them, as much as I try….go figure.

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          • LOL…I know the feeling ;0) I love overnight bags for some reason…I don’t even GO anywhere overnight LOL…I live with my parents and have no money and massive student loan debt and not a whole ton of friends so, taken all together, I don’t do much traveling anyways. But I love overnight bags, especially those Arcadia Italian leather ones. You ever seen those? They’re like shiny kind of…like patent leather, anyways…so stupid. It’s so hard to manage the thoughts though, it’s like I’ll see one at a store and just not be able to stop thinking about it CONSTANTLY until I go back and get it. Even if I don’t have the money really to keep it. Sigh…I loathe some parts about being bipolar…

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  5. I’m so happy for you, Laura! Wow, I might want to discuss one of those thingies with my doc.

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    • Oh, and all that was AFTER my second Shabbat meal, and lehning the Parasha (which I do for myself, and my dog, and the squirrels, and the spiders (not many of those around anymore, BH). Maybe you can answer this one (anyone else interested in this stuff is welcome to chime in): so if Laban was such a thoroughly bad actor as most of the commentators say, then why is his name LVN, Lavan, White? You would think it would be Shachor (Black). Not talking about ethnicity here, g-d forbid, just classical Semitic symbolism, i.e., white means good, black means bad. The guy we are talking about is Laban or Lavan, Jacob’s father-in-law, who duped Jacob and got duped back, in spades. Anyway, R’Adar, what’s your take?

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  6. Glad you’ve found something that works…so many questions but not the words to start. Have a wonderful day 🙂 Susan x

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  7. That is so cool!! I bought one for my daugher in law last Christmas. Now I’m getting one for me!! Costco has a sale until Nov 17th by the way if that helps.

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  8. My doctor keeps asking me if I’m more sad in the fall/winter. The answer is no but when we’ve had 3 days of rain and darkness, everyone gets a little sad up here in Canada 😛 It’s hard to get your day going when your body is telling you it’s dark and to go to sleep.

    But anyways….this light sounds amazing! It’s making me think that I should sleep with noise cancelling headphones. I’m glad you found something that holds some promise for you! Keep us posted!

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    • Thank you! Sleep with noise canceling headphones? Does every little noise keep you awake? Interesting. I used to always sleep with ear plugs. Otherwise the tiniest noise would wake me up. I mean, a mouse sneezing would have been like a tree falling. Then I realized that this was part of my PTSD, from people coming into my room at night with bad intentions, years ago. So I’ve been treating that with everything from yoga to psychotherapy to medications, and now I only use earplugs on airplanes. I could never live in Canada in the winter. I lived in Seattle for two years. Weather report: “Cloudy with sun-breaks!” Sun-breaks! That means the sun peeks out for a second or two–don’t blink, you’ll miss it! Nope, couldn’t do it. Glad you’re OK with it, for sure!

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      • I am a light sleeper and I live in a condo so the noise reaches the bedroom easily. Also, the master bathroom toilet runs….we need to fix it….it’s a horrible sound…

        Ha ha ya we had some sunny breaks today but then it was just grey, cold wind and rain. I hate snow though, I don’t like being cold!

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        • Oh man I cannot take that grey weather. I got so depressed living in Washington State I had to go get rTMS to keep from killing myself. Glad you can manage it OK. Boy, you do have a lot of noise to deal with!

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          • I do love the sun. I prefer the sun. If we could have more sun during the day I would be more productive for sure. Oh, my partner also snores 😛

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            • You poor thing. With that kind of noise load, I would have to use ear plugs, noise canceling headphones, and move.

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              • I may try ear plugs! I’m just always worried they’ll get stuck.

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                • Ummm….yeah. That DID happen to me one time, and luckily I had the presence of mind to take a simple tweezer and pluck it out. Then I took a moment to learn the proper technique for using them (I’m the type that puts things together without reading the instructions, unless I’ve got pieces left over LOL). You have to roll the end, about three-quarters of the length of the earplug, and then quickly before it springs back into shape, pull the top of your ear upward with your other hand draped over your head (which aligns your ear canal straight because otherwise it’s curved, on purpose to keep foreign bodies out!) quickly stick the squished end in, leaving the un-squished end out. The squished end will then expand, and you don’t have to worry about it getting in too far. If it turns out not to be in far enough, you can just push it farther in. Maybe I should put this on the “How To…” blog!!! And like I said, if it does get stuck you can pluck it out with tweezers, no worries.

                  Reply
                  • Ha ha! I would have just put them in also 😛

                    i’ll have to look around my house and see if we have some. I remember my partner did for when he went to concerts. I’ll make sure to either read your instructions here or the ones they come with!

                    Reply
  9. Hmmm. Interesting outcomes. I do suffer from SAD, but nothing requiring a RX. After this whole care act gets worked out (if), I will see if there are fixes for me. I just tend to be less manic in the winter, which makes me depressed that I’m not more productive. So maybe I can benefit from an expensive light bulb 😀

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    • Hah! After yesterday, I see what you mean! I had been looking at this dirt on the floor for months and months and never had the motivation to do anything about it. Once I got manic’d up enough, I went after it with a vengeance. Now I see that I just need to get somewhere comfortably in the middle so I don’t get myself all strung out.

      BTW I don’t know if any insurance plans cover light boxes. Mine doesn’t. But this is so important, I put it on my credit card. The one I got was about $200. There are less expensive ones, but you have to make sure they’re 10,000 Lux or else you’re throwing your money away.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the light box 411. Might be able to urban engineer one? hmm. Let you know if I’m successful =-)

        Reply
        • No reason in the world why you couldn’t build one yourself with basic electrical components, a semi-opaque plastic panel, some kind of frame and/or hanging arrangement, and two of either of the two following bulbs:

          OSRAM/SYLVANIA FT24DL-835
          PHILIPS PL-L24W/835/4P

          Or you might find a prefab fluorescent setup for grow lights or something, that you could just replace the existing tubes with these.
          Good luck!

          Reply
  10. Sounds like most folk could benefit from one of these during the long winter months. Really glad to hear it’s helping to naturally lift your mood… just stay away from those stocks!!!

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  11. Loved it! Ican feel your energy. I’m glad you found something that works.

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  12. Wow! I never knew light therapy affected bipolar mood. I thought SAD was totally separate entity. I like winter and fall, the sun makes me fatigued (I think it is my UCTD/sun sensitivity)LOL on the stocks. I read the comments and LOL on the spot on the floor. I have had a similar experience using non-Rx combination of: GABA and Lithium orotate (NOT carbonate, that is the RX version and this is the natural stuff). Now to tell my Dr tomorrow that I ditched the Lamotrigine because I got horribly depressed (on the max dose no less) and went into herbal-land. I may end up in the psych ward just like my son. We are a pair–but–I have been in a frenzy of housework that has languished for months because I just didn’t have the motivation to get ‘er done. My family would like me to please not be so motivated, or at least not drag them into it. But most of it isn’t my stuff!

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  13. Laura, I am so happy for you that the light is helping, and so quickly! Woo-hoo!! You deserved something going your way 😉 Maybe I need one, especially for winter. I hate winter…badly. I really don’t like cold weather and I only like snow on a vacation or the television. So, I don’t really know if it’s the lack of sunlight or just that I hate winter that makes me more depressed that time of year. And here I am already severely clinically depressed, the increase in my antidepressant not doing anything and not sure if the change my doc will make when I see him again in a week and a half will work either…all going into my worst season of the year. Yuck! I’m always grateful to read your posts, though, because I love the way you share about your life and it gives me a break from my own life for a while. Now you can see why I really want to have you write a book! 🙂 Peace to your heart ❤

    Reply
    • I don’t think you have anything to lose by trying a light! It’s really made a huge difference in the few days I’ve been using it, and I was maxed out on meds so really didn’t have anywhere to go in that direction. Let me know if you decide to give it a try!

      Reply
      • I did talk w/ my doc about getting a light box. He’s all for it, but doesn’t know anything about prescribing info. I’ve asked my medical supply folks to look into it and find out what is needed. It’s already been a week so far, so this may take a bit of time, but the process has started. 🙂 I took note of the points you told someone else about lux, blue spectrum etc. Currently tapering off the Effexor….after another week I’ll start tapering up on Zoloft, which has worked well for me before. Fingers crossed and prayers said. Hope you are getting along well, my friend. Peace to your heart

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        • I think the place to start is with your insurance company. They’re the ones that make the decision whether to honor a prescription or not. Glad to hear you’re switching to a med that’s worked well for you in the past! Aren’t meds wonderful (irony font)? Cant’ live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. Sending healing energy your way.

          I put my box on my credit card and am paying it off in chunks. It’s so much better than being crashingly depressed all the time.

          Today I’ve been feeling on the low side despite everything, but it may be because I spent three delightful evenings sitting up talking with my son till 2 am, and I’m just paying the piper for that wonderful time. I’ll pay that bill gladly!

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          • Thanks for the advice. How fun to have your son with you for late into the night talks! I assume he doesn’t live very close and was in for a visit? I’m missing my daughter, who now lives in Seattle, so very much! She moved out west in June and we haven’t seen her since…though the phone lines get a lot of business from us! She will be coming in March or April for a week or 10 day visit!!! We’ll be planning her wedding (even though she and her man got married at the JOP in late summer…they did it at the time so my daughter could have the health insurance from the Navy and so her hubby would get paid more each month). I’m so grateful they still want to have a wedding because she’s my only daughter and I really want to help her plan and actually be there for the ceremony 😉 Anyway…glad you had some special time with your son. Peace to your heart

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            • Oh, that’s wonderful that you will have a real wedding to plan! My ex and I did that too. We got married at the JOP and then took our time planning the actual wedding. I felt like my parents got too pushy about the details (the big ones!), and it turned out not to be the wedding we wanted, but it was OK. We both wore antique clothes–nice pictures! I hope and pray that your daughter’s marriage turns out well and lasts in happiness forever!

              Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”–David Farragut, at the Battle of Mobile Bay

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              • Thanks so much, Laura! My hopes and prayers are the same. We love her husband and are proud to have him as a part of our family. Ooooh, wearing antique clothes for a wedding…how cool! Sara

                Reply
  14. I wish I could actually tell a difference when I use my light. But I can’t really tell. It definitely doesn’t get me all amped up like you!

    Reply
    • Awww, sorry. I love my light. If yours isn’t giving you anything, two things to check are: What is the lumen rating? It has to be 10,000 lux or higher. How far is your face from the light? It should be no more than 20 inches. 12 is ideal, but I can’t figure out how to get mine any closer than it is (about 18″) and besides the light hurts my eyes. You’re not allowed to use sunglasses with it because it defeats the purpose. And a third (I said two, but then this one came up) is, how old are the bulbs? The older the bulbs, the less the lux. The fourth thing is, are your bulbs in the blue spectrum or “full spectrum”? Blue spectrum works much better.

      And now you have my dissertation on SAD lights! I’m sitting under mine now, because this morning’s session was aborted early.

      Reply

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