Help me make it through the sunshine
January 12, 2008 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Anyone here familiar with the polar opposite of SAD disorder? Or to be more specific it seems a majority of people in every culture suffer varying degrees of sadness and 'the blues' during short and/or inclement weather days. Any number of studies confirm this But what if so called 'beautiful' days depress you?

I am totally opposite in that I find bright sunshiny temperate days crushingly depressing. I am most alive in cold weather with grey skies. Rain or snow makes me almost manic. When I was younger (20!) I moved to the island of Grenada for a year. It messed me up to the tune of seeing a CBT therapist for a few years. (More to it than that, the climite was more of a trigger.) Since then I've sought out climates more like those in Kiev or St Petersburg (Russia).
I never mentioned this until I heard, about a year ago, a show on (I think) NPR about others with this 'preference'. The bit showcased a woman who eventually moved to Seattle because she was so well adjusted in that climate.
Now I can't seem to find anything that backs my claim of loathing the weather most adore.
For what it's worth I was born and raised between the hot, humid swamps of eastern NC and the Outer Banks.
Perhaps someone has heard of this, or perhaps I've just removed all doubt that I'm a nutter.
I've even had a few people buy me 'natural spectrum lamps', but they make me queasy.
I do take (expensive, MD prescribed) vitamin D drops. Also, a former sun worshiper, I've had skin cancer removed and am supposed to be checked yearly for the damage done when I was younger. Summer, with ants, mosquitoes, ticks, brutal heat, life sucking humidity, brilliant sun, poison ivy, hay fever, grass to mow...what a nightmare!
except for fresh vegetable gardens, thunderstorms and the celebrations/libations of July 4th
posted by dawson to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not nearly as extreme as you are, but I get the blahs after a week or two of bright summer days, and begin to long for the soft light and short days of winter. My name for this syndrome is M.A.D. (Midsummer Affective Disorder).
posted by Gordion Knott at 11:27 AM on January 12, 2008

I am like you. But poor me, I live in Arizona. Right now, it's bright and sunny out, but it all seems wrong. It depresses me. I close the blinds and pretend that it's gray outside - like it should be in winter. For me it's a matter of it feeling wrong. It's not supposed to be bright and sunny and warm. It's supposed to be chilly/cold, gray, with moisture in the air. I, too, feel more alive and upbeat when there's a chill in the air and a good strong breeze and the smell of rain in the air. I don't know why, though. I've always been like this. I remember as a child, running as hard as I could outside, with the wind blowing and the rain pelting down and I felt ALIVE.

I know I haven't answered your question - but there are people like you; I am one of them. I don't know if there is a "cure" or if you'd even want one. I like the approach of moving someplace that is conducive to your natural self. Why fight nature? You'd probably be tons more successful and happy in an environment you were comfortable in and not loathing.

Here's to rain and snow and cloudy days!
posted by Sassyfras at 11:48 AM on January 12, 2008

I moved to Seattle from Mass. because of the weather extremes, but I am like you in some ways. Warm, sunny weather makes me want to sleep all day. I take naps constantly in the summer. But if it's actually hot hot?, I am so fucking miserable I want to kill myself. I can't handle it.
posted by tristeza at 12:19 PM on January 12, 2008

Best answer: It's still called SAD. It seems like they're starting to split it out into fall/winter and spring/summer.

It's not an official DSM diagnosis, so boundaries and definitions are pretty fuzzy.
posted by occhiblu at 12:25 PM on January 12, 2008

Best answer: if i understand it correctly, moods are highly sensitive to the amount of natural light you get. it hits your retinas and stimulates the production of various hormones. i think depression and mania are two sides of the same coin, so while it's more common to feel down in dark weather, the opposite could totally be true as well.

i wonder if it's just a more extreme or prolonged version of being an early bird vs. a night owl. i'm a night owl and i often feel more energized and awake at night than during a bright sunny day (which seems to instantly make me want to pull a garfield and nap in a sunbeam somewhere). perhaps it's related.
posted by thinkingwoman at 12:50 PM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: M.A.D. is pretty funny, and Sassyfras you describe the weather I love so well.
I suppose it's logical that this would also be called SAD, as it's a result of the season. Thanks for the links, I thought I was more weird than I am (perhaps).
About everyone I know, regardless of where they live, seems to think I'm a jackass lunatic, because in 'nice' weather I just prefer to sit in a darkened room, listen to some 'Cool Jazz' and read. Cold weather, or even 'dreary' days, I come alive and animated.
posted by dawson at 12:54 PM on January 12, 2008

I used to be the same way, and still am in some respects. I hatehatehate bright lights and hot temperatures. I long for crisp, cool fall air with a nice overcast sky. I discovered that the reason why I hated "beautiful" days so much was because I'm very sensitive to stimuli like bright lights, loud noises, etc. Summer days gave me headaches. I longed for when I could just walk around in the chilly air by myself, finally getting some peace and quiet.
So now I have earplugs and granny glasses to get me through the day.

For what it's worth, though, everyone prefers their own thing. So don't feel bizarre if you don't want to stampede to the beach with everyone else.
posted by shesaysgo at 12:59 PM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thinkingwoman, that's an excellent point. I am a night owl too, and very bright light, esp fluorescent, literally makes me nauseas and short-tempered. Of course I generally hide it and deal (like most people do everyday) but I sure cherish the pm hours.
posted by dawson at 12:59 PM on January 12, 2008

Best answer: It's not only your retinas that are sensitive to light. iirc, there was a study testing the amount of light exposure and mood, and one of the trials involved strapping lights that shone into the backs of one's knees - worked as good as ambient light.

As for the fluorescent lights, some people are really sensitive to the frequency that the AC electricity is being pumped into fluorescents. Some countries use 60hz, other 55 (?). I know some people who are sensitive to just the electrical current itself.

I too, used to have depressive symptoms triggered by "good" weather, and enjoy the rainy overcast Springs and Autumns (and Winters) of Vancouver, BC. I'm convinced that I could live underground without having my circadian cycle/mood negatively affected (then again, if it was entirely up to me, my days about be about 27 hours long).

I'm not quite so extreme anymore; taking care of general depression (exercise) has attenuated some of the "gah, it's bright and sunny, and the stupid birds are singing and the stupid squirrels are chiitering and everyone has a lover making stupid eyes at each other, oh please let me be run over by a bus."

That and a pair of quality sunglasses (even if there's a thin layer of clouds; water vapour isn't that great at blocking UV) with actual glass (none of that polycarbonate garbage with the coatings that wear off after a few months).

The prescription vitamin D is surprising. Do you have an underlying medical condition where drinking milk or taking an over-the-counter vitamin is insufficient? I'm not a big fan of taking massive amounts of supplements (ie., my sister's bf was giving himself symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome - I told him to cut out the omega-3 fatty acid capsules he was taking 3 times a day; turns out that he was giving himself a vitamin A overdose since the stuff he was taking was essentially just re-branded cod liver oil).
posted by porpoise at 2:00 PM on January 12, 2008

Response by poster: hey porpoise, thanks...the vitamin D is taken (as a daily drop on the skin) because I had/have a deficiency. Or at least that was the reason given to me, and as I'm ambivalent re milk and shun the sun I don't much doubt it. Actually the vitamin d I take is not, technically, prescription. It is 'prescribed' by my doctors and is not available at drugstores. More of a specialty shop thing. I also take cod liver/wild salmon oil in liquid form, but for the most part I don't mess with vitamins (I do B-12 injections). I prefer to just eat well.
Interesting, about your sister's bf...
posted by dawson at 2:54 PM on January 12, 2008

i don't want to piggyback too much on this question, but it reminded me of something i've always wondered about.

up until around age 16-18 or so, i was *exactly* the same way that you describe. something about sunny, beautiful days just felt wrong to me. then, some switch flipped in my brain and i became depressed on gloomy days and happy on sunny days.

does anyone have any idea why that could be?

maybe there's a way to trigger that switch-flipping to the OPs benefit?
posted by timory at 3:48 PM on January 12, 2008

Best answer: I just want to say I also hate, hate sunshine and absolutely love it when it's overcast. The way sunlight illuminates or reflects off of everything and casts shadows and is so white and yellow sometimes makes everything seem sad and pointless. When it's dark, gray and rainy, though, I feel comfortable and enthusiastic. I'm glad you posted this question, because everyone who knows this about me thinks I'm totally nuts.
posted by tepidmonkey at 6:47 PM on January 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Hmm, another vote in favor of gentle grey weather. Never knew there were others like this, not to mention some who feel even more strongly about it. I love our fog and rain here in SF, and you couldn't pay me enough to live in the Sun Belt.

I always figured it was somehow related to being an introvert - grey weather just seems more conducive to quiet reflection, sunny weather practically demands that you go forth and be cheerful.

Anybody know if introversion correlates with this meteorological preference?
posted by Quietgal at 6:58 PM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: it's pretty cool to realize (this sounds overly dramatic) that I'm not alone. I wonder what the %'s are of people who feel this way. Not that I wish to change, except, perhaps to be more flexible? I like yr phrase 'meteorological preference' Quietgal, and of course I don't know the answer. As for myself I'm a bit of an extrovert, but I do value my 'down time' more than most people I know.
posted by dawson at 10:59 PM on January 12, 2008

Best answer: I've always been like this myself as well. My happiest day of the year is still fall daylight savings--the day when the sun starts to set at about 4.55pm. I grew up in a midwestern climate and my favourite days were always the gray, overcast fall and winter days ... after moving to SF the fog became my best friend, and where I'm living now we've had several weeks of unbroken cloudy, overcast, foggy or snowy days. I've yet to be the least bit depressed or frustrated by the climatic constancy--in fact, I'm dreading the day the sun starts popping out again. Aside from a few gently lit spring days, I have a severe aversion to pretty much any sunny environment, especially that bright, flat light that seems to correspond in some odd way to a feeling of emptiness, hopelessness and depression. Even those things that most people find attractive or enjoyable--morning sunlight streaming into a room, the pattern of foliage-shade on the ground, a clear, perfect California day--seem inextricably tied to a profound feeling of hopelessness.

I can't give much concrete information about why this is, though. I have some theories that can be applied to myself--chronic depression probably has something to do with it, in addition to a skin condition that makes sun even more poisonous for me than it is already. But I've been this way since I was too young to be really depressed, or had a dermatologist tell me that I should basically wear a burqa every time I step out-of-doors during daylight hours. I'm also more of a night owl, and feel most energised and motivated in the evenings. My mother's ancestry is also Icelandic, so perhaps there's something genetic to it as well.

(I'm actually looking forward to moving to Reykjavík sometime in the next few years, and taking advantage of their 20-hour winter nights. I wonder if it would be possible to chase the darkness across the globe as it goes, taking advantage of the protracted darkness but avoiding the protracted light.)
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 5:21 AM on January 13, 2008

Response by poster: Intrestingly, as far as I can tell, and I have done a tiny bit of (largely fruitless) studo on the subject, even the majority of those in cold/damp/dark climates prefer 'bright, bright sunshiny days':
WHO has a list of suicide by alphabetical country (per capita)
Wiki has the same list in the more user friendly 'highest to lowest' schema. While the list itself may not prove causation, it's apparent that,for instance, the Baltic states top the list (Lithuania,Belarus, Russia) while the Caribbean nations come last (Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominican).
I'm assuming the elevated Asian nations are due to the cultural attitudes to 'death before dishonor' (to stereotype). I'm at a loss re the Arab nations
So I gather that even those from a given country still, in the main, prefer sunlight and blue skies.
Anecdotally, one of my sister's-in-law is Swedish and confirms this.
Meaning, I don't think it's related to where one lives, or where one is 'from'. The sister-in-law, for example...her family loves to visit Carolina, consider it heaven,
I don't want to hog the whole conversation, but it seems this is an abnomoly with, perhaps, physiological roots.
And a few studies on depression by country here, here and here.
posted by dawson at 7:46 AM on January 13, 2008

Anybody know if introversion correlates with this meteorological preference?

Anecdotally - I doubt it. I score very high on introversion, and I actually do *like* rainy overcast days, but I prefer full sun and I'm finding myself getting more and more depressed and anxious due to the lack of light this winter. I know other introverts who prefer sunny summer days to rainy or winter days.
posted by occhiblu at 7:56 AM on January 13, 2008


now there's new word... a cross between abnormal and anomaly... I like it!
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:58 AM on January 13, 2008

Response by poster:

now there's new word... a cross between abnormal and anomaly... I like it!
posted by

I guess I have the Geo Bush syndrome of coining words to suit my purpose? ^_^
That was unintentional...and because it's a warm, sunny day here.j/k
posted by dawson at 9:15 AM on January 13, 2008

Yay, sunshine haters! I mainly dislike the heat/humidity component of nice weather - in southern Louisiana where I grew up, I was the only kid in my class without a tan, and often got headaches during recess. On the other hand, we didn't have central heat in our house, so I wasn't really happy during winter cold snaps at all. Spring and Fall were great, though, as were summer storms and hurricane watches. Oh the winds! Oh the cool cool rain!

As an adult I never adapted to liking sunshine except on days from 55-75F outside. It's partly the brightness - I'm definitely sensitive to loud noises etc - but more the temperature. Living in North Carolina after I left home led me to this conclusion. I never once used my apartment complex's pool in two years. Also, I started skiing, which showed me that I hate cold (under 40F) too. I get pretty depressed after a day on the mountain, even on sunny ones. (This seems more common, though.)

So I moved to Seattle, with its lovely grey ambience - but I'm surrounded by "normal" SAD sufferers who piss me off to no end. Sigh.
posted by herbaliser at 1:13 PM on January 14, 2008

I despise heat, summer, bright light, humidity, and all the creepy crawlies you mentioned that emerge with the first warm day, and struggle with depression and insomnia all summer long.

When I wake up to rain or an overcast day, though, I'm elated.

And I'm an introvert. Big time.

Not sure what all of this means in the grand scheme of things, but I'm pretty sure it's a good sign that I should not be living in Southern California, where I currently reside!
posted by chez shoes at 7:36 AM on January 16, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks to all for not pointing out that I wrote SAD disorder' which is totally redundant. I was crushed to read that after preview. :)
posted by dawson at 1:14 AM on January 18, 2008

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