Sunday, March 2, 2003

I've been so cold and so snowed-in, I'm getting SAD


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I'm so cold, I've stopped eating chili. And Frosted Flakes. No more iced tea.

I'm so cold, I've ditched my Friday and Barbershop videos: Ice Cube stars in them. I'm reading the wisdom of Ma-HAT-ma Gandhi instead.

I'm so cold, I'm stalking Frosty the Snowman. Eat my blowtorch, fat boy.

I'm ready to make The Kid Down The Hall wear wing-tips and ride the bus to school.

That's cold, man.

It's cloudy. It's always cloudy. Cold and cloudy. Cloudy and cold.

I could be a weatherman.

The 5-Day Forecast? Cloudy and cold.

I've had snow in my yard since Thanksgiving. I haven't shoveled the walk.

To access my front door, you need a permit from the National Park Service.

The plastic snow shovel enlisted to clear the driveway that immediately gets re-snowed over as soon as I'm done shoveling is fragmenting.

That's because underneath the snow is a sheet of ice left over from the last geologic shift, when Cincinnati was Greenland.

Every time the shovel hits the ice, the shovel breaks a little more. The blade is now the size of a tablespoon.

Is it just me, or has this winter lasted longer than Bob Hope? Are your kids home more than the dog, too? Does your heating bill resemble dinner for 12 at the Maisonette?

Who do we blame for this?

I'd jump out of my skin, but the experts advise layering for warmth, and I'm already wearing every sweatshirt I own. I'm past stir crazy; I'm in the blender, getting pureed like a frozen margarita.

"When you get to our latitude, quite a number of people get depressed during the winter,'' says Dr. Randy Hillard.

No kidding. I'm ready to saw off the black Labrador's hind legs for kindling.

"Not getting enough bright light throws your biological clock off," Dr. Hillard says. "I used to think it was purely psychological. It's clearly biological as well.''

He is a professor and chairman of the University of Cincinnati's Psychiatry Department.

Explain me, I say.

Dr. Hillard says I could be a victim of Seasonal Affective Disorder. I'm SAD.

In lay terms, the amount of light we're exposed to determines the level of melatonin in our bodies.

Less light equals more melatonin, more melatonin equals less desire to do anything but sleep, get fat and complain.

At the moment, all my little melatonins are dancing in the cloudy-cold, staging a successful coup d'etat of my psyche. If I got any drowsier, I'd be a Barcalounger.

"No energy,'' Dr. Hillard says. "No interest in anything.''

Yeah, I know. But really, who cares?

"Loss of attention span, weight gain, thoughts of suicide,'' the good doctor says. "Your life support systems start shutting down.'' Those are SAD symptoms.

The doctors is seeing "significantly more'' SAD people.

"This winter, we've had more business to our psychiatric emergency service than at any time in our history,'' says Dr. Hillard, who has lived here since 1984.

It's not all weather related.

Other factors - the economy, the imminent war, the way the Reds handled Opening Day tickets - all have conspired to make us more conscious of ledges, sharp objects and Sylvia Plath.

Beyond getting a one-way to Martinique, the doctor suggests bright light therapy, which is no more complex than it sounds.

You go online and buy a bright light.

I saw one the size and shape of a 25-inch TV. It looked to emit a soft, white glow.

"Elevates your mood, increases your energy, concentration and alertness,'' the ad promised.

Also, lightens your vault at $149.95.

Either that, or go for a walk in the morning. That'll fix your SADness. You'll freeze in about five minutes.

E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com




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