Here's What Dating Is Like When You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder & Depression

by Jen Kirsch

Winter in a snowy city can be beautiful. But when you're someone like me, a full-time freelance writer who can work from home and a person with seasonal affective disorder and depression, it's hard to work up the energy during the cold months to leave the house or feel like your best self. In some ways, dating with seasonal affective disorder and depression has actually benefited my love life (I'll get to that soon, I promise). But not every moment is easy.

At the start of this winter, I was living at my boyfriend's place. He was an artist type like me, and we stayed inside. All. The. Time. Rolling around in bed with other half all the time sounds romantic in theory, but in practice, it's not good for you. I wasn't moving, I wasn't eating as best as I could, and my clothes were getting tighter. I wasn't as active or independent as I once was. As December ticked by, I was afraid of what would happen to my relationship once January rolled around.

One day, over the holidays, my boyfriend got me out of the house and to the mall. We were cruising through a lingerie store, hand in hand, when I commented on a piece of sexy shapewear. I thought about how great I'd feel wearing that under my clothes if we ever went out on date night.

"Look, babe, it's on sale!" I exclaimed. "I should totally get that."

"Better yet, you can just lose the weight," he said.

And I did. I lost 165 pounds. Him.

That comment wasn't the only reason we broke up, but it helped me realize that he isn't the kind of partner I need in my life. Here's the thing — I'm on meds for depression, and when I'm going through the symptoms of SAD, I'm already feeling like sh*t. I feel off my game. I get trapped in my head. More than any other time of the year, the winter is when I most need a healthy relationship with a partner who supports me mentally and emotionally. I don't need to be with someone who makes me feel worse.

Since that relationship ended, I've been more proactive about coping with SAD in a healthy way. I started taking Vitamin D pills daily (some research shows that the supplements may help manage the disorder). The minute I wake up, I open up the blinds of my big bay window and work next to direct sunlight. I keep music on while I write so I feel less lonely. I make an effort to change out of my PJ pants, even if it's just for a quick run to Starbucks for a matcha latte.

I know that dating while living with SAD is certainly possible. In the past, I've had three long-term relationships that each started during the holiday season. I wasn't really leaving the house much, so going on dates was pretty much the only thing I committed to. I couldn't bail on the only thing on my calendar. I wound up putting more effort into my physical appearance, and since I couldn't wait to get back home after the date, I'd have this air of nonchalance that wound up attracting people into my life.

In the future, I would want to be with a partner who understands what I'm going through, who listens well, and who doesn't take my hesitation to go out with him personally. I'd want to be with someone who doesn't put me down for feeling down, but instead holds me just a little bit closer.

I just RSVP'd to a big event at the end of the month. It's healthy for me to have exciting plans to look forward to. But for now, I'm happy to go out by myself — no plus-one needed.

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