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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Seasonal Depression is for Squares | Series Intro on My Battle Against SAD

When we found out we were moving to Germany for our first duty station, we heard nothing but good things about being stationed here...

"Oh! You're going to LOVE the travel opportunities!"
"I miss Germany sooooo much!"
"The beer, the food, the festivals - it's all so awesome!"
"Just wait till you experience the Christmas markets!"
"You are going to love German bakeries!"
"You HAVE to live on the economy - German villages are so great!"

But never once did someone mention seasonal depression. NOT ONCE.  

Now you might be rolling your eyes at me a little, but it's no joke. Serious Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very common problem in the KMC. (Kaiserslautern Military Community)

Americans move here from all over the world and many, like me, come unprepared.

Those who have lived in this area of Europe for any length of time will understand completely - German weather is SUPER dreary.

I had heard vague things about how it rains "a lot" or how the winter is "really bad" but no one really talked about what it means psychologically when you don't see the sun or blue sky for 14 days straight.

It does something to you man!

So welcome to the intro post in my series on seasonal depression! 

I promise, it won't be depressing ;-)

I really want to raise awareness about SAD and I want to share my story and offer tips that I've found to help me in the past three winters in Germany.

Growing up in upstate NY, I thought I was pretty hardy when it came to "winter blues." I got a little down when it was so cold my nose hairs froze or when the snow started melting into that nasty brown slush.

But I never really got depressed about it.

When I first got to Germany a kind friend warned me about winter. She said "just so you know, it gets dark at 4:30 in the afternoon... and the sun doesn't shine much from November to May."

I didn't believe her.

But she was right! Six hours of daylight would be hard enough, but then you add to that the fact that there is very little actual sunshine happening in those six hours... whew. It's a freaking recipe for disaster!

To give you an example of what I mean by cloudy, this picture is it.

I didn't edit the photo in any way. It was taken on Wednesday, January 7th 2015. This is what I will always think of when I think "Germany in the winter"... it's not that it's particularly cold or snowy, it's just grey.

To give you a specific hourly example, one of the winters I spent here was the "darkest" winter on record. Germans recorded only 100 hours of daylight sun for the entire winter. In contrast, New York State recorded over 300 hours of winter sun that year.

And if you're moving to Germany from an even sunnier State than NY, you are in for a tough time.

When I say it's crappy weather here, I'm not messing around. 

Living OCONUS is not easy, for a host of obvious reasons and for a bunch of not-obvious reasons that I've blogged a lot about. I have heard a rumor that military divorce rates are highest for those stationed overseas, and I have seen from personal experience and that of my close friends, that everyone's marriage experiences strain during an OCONUS tour. Sometimes I have wondered how much of this has to do with the difficulties of seasonal depression. I have even heard of women who had to go back to the States because the weather had them so depressed that they were a danger to themselves and their families.

But there's hope!

There are so many things you can do to fight SAD!

So please take my words to heart if you are new to the area.

Please read this series and share it with people you know who are moving here.

Pin it as a reminder to get the help you need when winter blues strike.

Get involved in this community and support others who are in need of it during the long dark winter months!

Remember in the bleakness of early February that Germany is an amazing place to live and yes, you will survive this winter. And the beauty of Spring in Germany will almost make you forget about the soul-crushing dreariness of Winter! Almost ;-)

Keep tuning in this week to catch all the posts in this series! 

30 Tips to Battle Seasonal Depression:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Pinterest Board

Though this series is written from a military spouse's perspective/experiences and specific to the Kaiserslautern Military Community, my tips for battling seasonal depression can help anyone out during the winter. No matter where you live, winter can be hard on all of us! You're not alone!


  1. very interesting. I'm looking forward to the coming articles....

    1. I hope they help you, too. I know how you *love* wintertime... cold and snow are just your *favorite* right? ;-) At least this winter you have an invasion of granddaughters to look forward to!

  2. I know how you feel about the lack of sunshine there! After 4 years in Germany and now living in sunny southern California, I can see a HUGE different in my mood! I guess I didn't realize how bad my SAD was there, but now I that I live in a place where it's sunny 360 days a year, I feel so much better. Looking forward to these tips in case we end up moving somewhere dreary again next.

    1. I'm kind of swooning over how much sunshine you get there! I'm curious to see how different my winters are once we move away from here. But for now I just have to trudge on... two more winters! I need these tips as much as anyone!

  3. I got SAD when I was in Alaska and highly recommend both a sun lamp and vitamin D tablets. I still take the tablets even in Colorado's sunny weather - I think it helps uplift my mood

    1. Yes I heartily agree. Both a therapy light and medication are on my "list" of necessities! Thanks for commenting!

  4. The other hard thing with the winter season is if you don't have enough money to visit family during the holidays...make sure to socialize!!! Being around friends during this season helps lift your spirits a lot (especially if someone is forced to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas...)

    1. Yes Ashley I couldn't agree more! The worst thing I ever did was keep myself cooped up inside my house for most of the winter. Holy homesickness Batman. It just made everything so much worse! Thanks for chiming in!

  5. I love that you are writing about this! We went from dreary Germany winters, to dark Alaska winters. Here in AK winters are different than in Germany but the struggle is the same! The sun actually shines here during daylight hours but during the winter the sun doesn't come up until 10am and sets at 3pm so it's very short. I REALLY struggled with S.A.D. last winter. I stayed indoors, baked a lot and drank a lot of coffee. Result, 30+ lbs. (That doesn't help the mood) :( This winter I am taking a different approach. For one, I got a part time job. Like you and Ashley said, I HAVE to get out. Even though I leave in the dark (9am) and come home in the dark, at least I am with people! I have to get out of my jammies, get dressed, fix myself up and be social! lol. It was so easy to get the fire going in the morning, make yummy coffee and watched the news/be online/be lazy until the sun came up...but that was half my day already! I have been eating better and getting all kinds of extra vitamins and minerals that keep a body up beat, and of course, being outdoors when we can. Soaking up every ounce of sunlight that we can! (Even when it is FREEZING). I have heard that SAD is a big deal here too, and I know A LOT of people who hate it here. I challenge everyone who has to deal with dreary, dark winters to find positive things about where you live all day long. Remember how fortunate we are and try to smile and remember that the sun will be shinning soon!! Yay!

    1. Man Andrea thanks for sharing your thoughts! It's great to hear from someone in a different dark side of the world. I can't believe you only get five hours of daylight! That's nuts. But good for you looking on the bright side and forcing yourself out of the house. I think you have some really good advice there... just getting out of your pajamas helps! Sometimes I force myself to put jeans on even when I know I'm not really leaving the house that day... it just helps me feel more alive and less sleepy!

  6. I think you are a strong woman and handling this very well. I'm imagining there is sort of a romanticism for others looking in from the outside and who have never traveled or lived outside of their own little corner of the world. While not as dreary or long, I would say SAD is probably typical in many places and I, for one, am thankful you stepped into the light and shared such a great story and ideas for the problem! As usual, your pictures are beautiful....gray scale and all!! HUGS and SUNSHINE to you!!!

    1. Thanks Robyn, it's so true. People from all over the world (except Hawaii) are writing me to tell me they can relate. Winter is winter, no matter where you live we all struggle with it to some degree. Thanks for the encouragement. I don't think enough people talk about depression in general and I'm on a big mental health journey this year. So this was kind of a culmination of all I've been learning about myself!

  7. We're stationed in Alaska. We have "2 hours of sunshine" in winter. (Cloudy Sunshine). I feel your pain! Those happy lights know my name!!!