SWIM PRESCRIPTION by Emily Feinstein

  “I have always believed travel is therapeutic. When depressed, I long to sit on a beach and let the sun bleach out my thoughts or to lose myself in the warren of Paris’s streets. On vacation it’s easy to get outside of your head and be in the moment. Just looking forward to vacation lifts my spirits. Especially in the dark months of winter.
 
When I was finally diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), my lifelong pattern of winter blues made sense. And suddenly there were solutions. Bright lamps! Anti-depressants! Vitamins! I tried them all, dutifully sitting uncomfortably close to a lamp each morning with the residue of some wonder pill at the back of my throat. But nothing worked. I felt like my skin no longer fit. Unless I traveled somewhere warm. The sun on my skin was heaven. I’d come back into myself, the buoyant, happy, and hopeful self I recognized, and the relief would last for weeks after I got home. 
 
So each winter I flee.  I view my winter travels as a health care expense. If I can’t take a full vacation—ten days in Brazil or Costa Rica—I take a few weekend trips to Florida. I walk on the beach every day; submerge myself in the warm ocean and then stretch out to dry in the sun. Winter blues turn aqua.
 
When I tell people I have SAD, they always ask about the bright lamps. “I’ve tried them,” I say, “but nothing beats a little sunlight.”
 
Emily Feinstein

Emily Feinstein is a healthcare policy and regulation specialist, with over a decade in clinical research.

February 2013