“Hello Darkness, My Old Friend”: A Lightbox Moment For Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

by | Jan 5, 2021

The Venues that are usually filled with music and song remain dark, stage lights are down, curtains aren’t going up, the light shows at The Cap aren’t being reflected on the ceiling and walls… we sit and wonder how long, when will it all end? another day of not knowing: “Where do we go from here?” Chicago (1970), Alan Parsons Project (1980) and Ruelle‘s haunting words (2016) … all address the question.

If all the Darkness in the music industry wasn’t enough to bear—brought on by COVID-19’s global pandemic—we are embarking on a time when sunlight fades way too early and skies darken way too soon. So many of us are isolated, unable to work, monies becoming scarcer, and missing the sounds of live music filling our hearts and souls! Of course, we endured when the weather was cooperative, temperatures permitting outdoor concerts and the like, only now to be lost by cold weather, and dark skies.

In the 1980’s researchers defined Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)… as a major form of depression, sluggishness, low moods, irritability and a lack of motivation. Sound familiar?

“Am I Blue” (1929) sung throughout the decades might be the theme song for what we now know as Winter Blues.

I often wondered whether I suffered from SAD, living in the Northeast, subjected to the lack of natural sunlight and cold wintery months, I found myself amid bouts of sadness, wanting to sleep in, go to sleep early, minimal drive, and overall gloominess.

As a therapist working with patients who were experiencing the same symptoms, I realized that it was crucial to address this phenomenon personally and professionally. I read everything out there for more definitive answers. One suggestion was to use a lightbox 20 minutes daily. I bought a model by Verilux; sunlight to alleviate my feelings of gloom.

I kept the lightbox in my office to allow my patients to sample the relief. I began offering workshops and seminars educating attendees to the occurrence of depression during the winter months. During one of my seminars, as always, the performer in me “staged” the evening. I put low lit lamps around the room, turning off the ceiling florescent lightbulbs. The opening act, Billy Holiday singing “Am I Blue.” Next, I turned on my keynote slides introducing myself and welcoming the audience. The slides were informative, defining SAD, symptoms and coping mechanisms. I talked about the use of light boxes; emitting full spectrum light at 10,000 Lux – The light of full daylight, and the ideal output of bright light therapy. Still wanting the production to be authentic, I turned on my two light boxes, and wait for it… Yup, you guessed it! The high usage blew out all the lights, not just in the room, but in the entire building.

Technical issues…I’d say! A room full of DARKNESS! Of course, years of thinking on my feet, that’s what dancers do, I used my comedic style and said, “Oh, you got me! I planned that…wanted to let you know how it feels to actually experience the dark days of Winter Blues”! After the initial laughter, the emergency lights went on and the local police arrived (there was a bank in the building). I know, you can’t make that $h!t up! Eventually, the building generator started, I finished the seminar, and we all agreed the best coping mechanism for Seasonal Affective Disorder was connecting with people who have a healthy sense of humor, as well as all the lists of ways discussed throughout the evening. It was quite a night and the talk of the town!

On a serious note, symptoms that occur during these long dark days can be severe and not to be minimized. As a participating therapist for Backline, I will be offering a free series to address all the symptoms and coping skills to Beat the Blues.

“It’s OK to not be OK,” begins Kehlani‘s empowering 2016 single “24/7.” Learning the truth of that statement, I’m filled with empathy for myself and others who are affected by SAD.

See you on Wednesday evenings, 6:30PM, starting January 6th 2021. Join us here via Zoom. May the new year bring us all peace, and a little lovelight.

I end this article asking you to take a moment and listen to Phish, I love their song JOY.