With COVID-19 numbers here in Alberta, Canada getting rather high restrictions have been added to socializing (some would say a tad late on that count). Anyway, that means we cannot socialize outside of our household. We cannot go to other people’s houses and we cannot have people over to ours. Unless we want to hang out outside… in the snow. This will be for about 3 weeks, for what we are aware of at this time. I do not anticipate family Christmas though since our numbers here do not yet seem to be going down- but you never know.

Isolation, the pandemic, and winter depression

My own limitations

I have not really be all that mobile due to my vertigo getting rather severe and limiting my capacity to get around. I can do a bit of mental activity in the morning and that is when I do writing/blogging. And then… pretty much that is all for the remainder of the day. It gets pretty severe in the evening to the point it is hard to get around. I shuffle with my cane from the couch to the bathroom, and back… and that is all.

That is just the way things are. And will be for some time. It will be better when I get to the vestibular clinic and get a proper diagnosis and treatment but with the pandemic I don’t even have an appointment timeline yet… so we are definitely looking at sometime next year.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Now, I have depression which is well managed by Abilify. However, last year was very stressful for me and I had a major slump in the winter months. My doctor said I had Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Not uncommon for someone with existing Major Depressive Disorder. And she put me on an additional medication. Come spring, I was fine. I didn’t even think I would need it again.

Bam! Pandemic!

And hello isolation!

And then my doctor adds to that by tapering me off my vertigo medication making me extremely low functioning.

So, what this means is, maybe I wouldn’t have needed anything to deal with SAD on my own this winter, but I have severely reduced coping strategies available to me. I cannot:

  • Go for a nice walk during the sunlight hours. Which is great for SAD. But not great if you have severe balance issues, dizziness and sudden bouts of vertigo and drop attacks. So that is not cool. I really do not even trust myself with the stairs here.
  • I actually can’t even exercise which was my plan prior to the vertigo going nuts- some careful, slow exercising which would have been hard enough with the treated vestibular symptoms but is impossible with it not treated.
  • I cannot do my creative writing which the creative process is an excellent outlet for me. Mostly because I can’t focus on all the details I need to for my plot-lines, characters and all that to write cohesively. Just isn’t possible. It is a lot more complex than a short blog post or article, which I Can do in the morning (in a few days at least… not in a day anymore.)
  • I can’t do drawing or painting as a creative outlet. Again, lack of focus, lack of the ability to stare that long, or even sit up that long. I tried with my last one and that took days and just was not… good.
  • I can’t socialize with friends and family. And even introverts need to socialize a bit. It is a major mood booster. I did have people come to me before the restrictions kicked in because I haven’t been able to get out of the house. Now we are all sort of hermitting until the COVID-19 numbers stabilize so no visiting anyone.
  • I can’t really read a book. I can sometimes for short durations. But I usually regret it. And certainly not often.

These are all coping strategies but also JOYS. All the things I do that bring me pleasure. And the lack of them, and the lack of functionality, is a real cause of a mood slump. And certainly it was making me very frustrated and mopey. However, the more winter settled in and then with more isolation now… yeah, it has definitely turned darker. Definitely has turned into a deeper depression sort of deal.

I am quite aware of it though. So aware of it I immediately refilled my Seasonal Affective Disorder medication and have begun to take it. I do not mess around with depression. Especially one where my usually coping mechanisms are compromised.

This does not mean, by the way, I am not seeking alternative coping strategies. I always look for other things to fill the day that I can do when laid out.
  1. First, I like to use that time I have in the morning to be productive. I do writing and blogging that I Can do, and that is fulfilling to me.
  2. I do self-care that I find soothing. Listen to tunes. Have a relaxing bath.
  3. I know I have to nap, that is a given. I do not feel guilty about That.
  4. I am checking out podcasts that interest me… exploring different topics. And Ted talks.
  5. I am exploring documentaries on TV that interest me

However, I also need medication.

Because there is a depth to depression that just nails me and with this extremely low functionality I feel really alone and lonely- even in this house with 3 other people. Mostly because they are all doing things I just cannot do. I feel like a… lump. A useless lump. And it makes me feel very disabled and quite lonely and isolated even around them. Like I am in my own ‘bubble’. I felt it a few days back and it made me immensely sad. That clued me in that it was time to get back on my med. I can handle a mood slump- even without my usual coping strategies, I can still meditate, do self-care, find other distractions and maintain in other effective ways. But when it dips down too low in an extreme reaction that shouldn’t cause that depth or intensity of sadness- that is not good.

I thought about ordering one of those SAD lamps. My main issue with that is migraine photophobia. Light therapy and migraine photophobia do not sound like they would go well together. And if I wore my migraine specs which I use regularly to manage light sensitivity, well, it filters out blue light. I don’t know what the lamps use to effectively treat SAD but maybe blue light is part of that? So feels like a waste. I am taking all the vitamins that I should for SAD- D being a biggie since I cannot get out and about. And for a bit I seemed to be maintaining. But slowly, every so slowly, dipping bit by bit Down in mood management. So, yeah, time to bring in the big guns!

See more related posts

Chronic illness: Pandemic stress
What to do about the winter blahs
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

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7 thoughts on “Isolation, the pandemic, and winter depression

  1. Dear Nikki: As a Florida resident from Wuhan, China, I have had a turbulent and unforgettable year in 2020. COVID ravaged my hometown in Jan, I had a a terrible pain flareup in Feb, found a great doctor in March, and made a near-complete recovery in April during the pandemic lockdown. Yes, there are good doctors and effective treatment for chronic pain even in pandemic. You can read my story for Thanksgiving in FB. Happy Holidays. Hua

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the problem is the some doctors are being redirected here, and some things delayed. So where my vestibular clinic is and the people there… I think they are using that location for extra beds and the staff for extra staff. So some things are delayed and some things are not, depending on what it is. I am aware my timeline is going to be delayed as a result because under normal circumstances I would have an appointment time by now and I do not even have that yet… likely because they don’t even know when they will be able to get people in. But it is more important to handle the influx of COVID patients at this time and this is a priority, so i completely understand this. As long as people who need treatments for cancer and so forth are not affected because I have relatives who are undergoing that. So it is a matter of the province balancing all the priorities of healthcare in a very difficult time.


  2. Hi, Nikki! Sending gentle virtual hugs your way. Isolation and winter is never a good mix for me either. If you like travel/history documentaries, I can recommend all of Michael Portillo’s Great Railway Journey series on You Tube. He travels based on 1912 guide book recommendations in Asia, Europe, Canada, India, etc. Those kept me entertained for quite a long time, back in March and April.

    Liked by 1 person

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