I started using light therapy when I was in the depths of deep postpartum depression. I was still struggling a bit & looking for a “boost,” when my father handed over a light therapy lamp he found at Sam’s Club for $50.
A little over a month ago, when I started fighting The Big Ugly again (aka depression), my psychiatrist suggested that I sit under it a minimum of 1.5 hours per night & 30 minutes in the morning. That’s a lot of sitting-under-a-damn-lamp-time. But it’s worth it & yes, it does work. About 30 minutes into my light therapy, a warm feeling starts spreading upwards, kind of like when you take a sip of whisky. It’s not a cure-all, just like every antidote for depression. There are times when an hour has passed & I still feel the panic & I still feel the yuck & that’s when I take my anxiety medication. But mostly I sit up in a better mood with more energy & more motivation to tackle life.
So how does this work? It mimics natural sunlight. Except it’s at 9pm inside in the winter. Your eyeballs & skin soak up all the sunlight-ish stuff & turn it into good-feeling hormones & seratonins & melatonins. Light therapy lamps are 5-20 times brighter than a regular indoor lamp, so definitely not something you want all of your lights to be!
Can’t you just get your ass outside? Well, yeah. For some people, that totally works. I tend to be one of those folks but to get yummy feelings from winter sun means an entire day outside. Which is possible on the weekends, impossible on the weekdays.
OMG SKIN CANCERS. Do not be drunk. Look at my fair skin – you think I’m going to risk cancer? Light boxes use visible light, not UV light. Look for a lamp that gives off the smallest about of UV light possible – it’s not necessary to bring back that loving feeling.
“Do I need one?” you ask. I don’t know. Do you? If your gut answer is “yes,” then you probably do. Are you feeling extra low or anxious since the time change? Do you have trouble with insomnia? It might be worth looking into. My psychiatrist brought it up with me as an addition to my anti-depressant medication.
Find what works for you. It works best for me to sit under my lamp at night when the darkness starts clouding everything I do. While some people feel revved up after they sit under the lamp, I tend to feel more rested & drowsy. I also tend to sleep a lot better the closer to bedtime I sit under the lamp. If you find yourself cleaning your kitchen with a toothbrush at 3am, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your lamp usage because that’s called being manic.
View it like an appointment & make it enjoyable. For me, it tends to work better when I log lamp time on a regular basis. It’s a lot of time for me to carve out in my day, so I take advantage of the “ain’t nothing to do” & hang with Harry. I keep mine downstairs on the table beside the couch, but it’s also lightweight enough that I’ve been known to move it to my desk or my bedside table. In the morning, I clock my 30 minutes while I drink my cup of coffee & check email while Harry watches cartoons, before we get ready for work/school. In the evening, I log it in while dinner is cooking. Harry & I watch Thomas together or read or play games on the iPad. It doesn’t harm Harrison to sit under it & doesn’t seem to rev him up – it seems to work on him like it does on me with the drowsiness. He just knows that Momma has a “boo boo” & the lamp makes her feel better.
Don’t be afraid to say “I NEED MY LAMP.” It’s not weakness. It’s not a cop-out. It’s recognizing that you’ve found something that helps & you need it. Maybe you don’t need it every day, or maybe you need it extra one day. There’s no right or wrong answer & there’s no 12-step program for lamps, I promise. Last night I walked in & told Doug that while we had plans to work in the garage, I needed my lamp. I had spent an entire day inside a cubicle where I could see the storm clouds rolling outside & everything inside me felt twisted.
I don’t know where you can buy my lamp. Like I said, Sam’s Club years ago. But my friend Casey swears by this one. (not an affiliate link) I’m considering splurging for this because for some reason, this winter is extra-hard & I’d like to see what those ions can do to a sistah.
4 days until the sunlight gets longer, my friends. Or the Mayans kick our ass. Either way, WE ARE NEAR THE END OF THIS. Fist bumps, high kicks, pink champagne toasts to all!