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Wintertime with the Wandering Monk

I felt churlish yesterday after venting at The Wandering Monk.

I was in one of those “it’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to” moods. Not great moments for wisdom or discretion.

It turned out the Monk’s issue was seasonal depression compounded by a tragedy he associates with this time of year. The tragedy was years ago, but of the kind that alters life forever. Then — you know how it goes if you’re a depressive — the funk of idleness he fell into fed on itself. Every day he was unmotivated led to more inertia. Which led to poor sleep. Which led to …

None of which excuses blowing off communication or being a no-show for the job. We had a useful talk about that. I hope our working relationship is long and as good as it’s always been. But for now we’ll play it by ear to see if he wants to help with other winter projects or be left alone until spring.

I suggested he try a SAD light, which I doubt he will. He’d never heard of those (he’s not from these parts, where they’re well-known) and scoffed at the idea.

The really sad thing is that he craved to take time off over the winter, which could have been a welcome, needed, creative break. But doing so probably gave his depression a chance to grab control.

It did him good to get out of his house and engage in cuss-worthy work. He was his cheerful, efficient self. He ripped out several courses of badly damaged flooring, replaced a small section of subfloor, and did a few related tasks.

We left it that I’ll do the re-flooring myself and only call on him again for the bedroom project if I run into difficulties. (There are several finishing steps ahead, mostly small, that might require skills or tools I lack.) The flooring is nothing fancy: just softwood I’ll sand and paint as a temporary fix. Someday the room will be carpeted — the only carpeted area of the house. But someday will be years from now. Just need to make the floor look good in the meantime.


  1. rochester_veteran
    rochester_veteran January 10, 2018 9:01 am

    A guy I used to work with had SAD and utilized a light board at work to fend off the depression. I hope it works for the Wandering Monk!

  2. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty January 10, 2018 9:49 am

    My bedroom is in the finished basement here. There are only two very small windows, and in winter they are covered tight with cardboard and thermal curtains, making it very dark down there. The first winter here I discovered that I didn’t want to go down there except to actually sleep! Since my sewing stuff and gun table are down there, I soon realized that I wasn’t utilizing my home very well at all. No room for that stuff upstairs either. Then I bought some “daylight” bulbs for the fixtures and lamps down there, and could see the difference within the first few days. They only simulate “daylight” and are not the same as the “SAD” things, but for me they made enough difference for all intents and purposes so far. It’s been nearly 12 years. Maybe the Monk would benefit from some of those less expensive bulbs?

  3. Pat
    Pat January 10, 2018 10:04 am

    It’s good that you can talk things over with him – and it’s better that he feels comfortable enough to tell you the problem. You have a (potential) real friend in the Monk, no matter where he Wanders in the future.

  4. ~Qjay
    ~Qjay January 10, 2018 1:02 pm

    I know I’m new here, but I’ve been a reader for years. SAD lights are inexpensive; consider “tipping” him with one if you need him again, or if you think he would use it as a gift from a friend it client. Assuming he wouldn’t take offense.

    Or just use one for a work light next time he comes over, see if it helps. I like to use them as work lights for small pieces especially on my work bench, because they aren’t harsh.

    You can also just get the bulbs, which are even less expensive. They are similar to the above mentioned daylight bulbs. There are good Instructables on how to DIY your own SAD lamps.

  5. RW
    RW January 10, 2018 2:10 pm

    Home Depot has standard base led bulbs, 5000Kelvin, daylight, 840 lumens-60w equivalent, 7W, 4 for less than 10.00. Did some reading when the sad thing first started, seems like the main thing was about a daylight (5-6000K) bulb in a fancy box. There are also fluorescent bulbs in daylight and replacement fluorescents that have leds that use less power and last much longer, some plug in and some you have to rewire the fixture which is not a big deal.

  6. Claire
    Claire January 10, 2018 2:59 pm

    ~Qjay — Glad to see you commenting. Thanks for being a reader for so long and welcome to the Commentariat. 🙂

    And thanks to all for the recommendations on SAD lights and full-spectrum bulbs. I knew the “official” SAD lights were pretty expensive (and that the Monk was unlikely to sit around in front of one). I didn’t know whether the full-spectrum bulbs would perform the same magic.

    I’m definitely thinking about “tipping” the Monk with something that’ll help with his seasonal depression. I’ll ask him first if he’d be willing to give it a try, and I suspect he’ll be more willing to try changing household lighting than any sort of light box.

    Good suggestion on changing the lighting at my place, too. Monk aside, there are places I think daylight bulbs would help a lot. If they give him a chance to see the difference, even better.

  7. Claire
    Claire January 10, 2018 3:22 pm

    Pat — You’re right. It’s always a great relief to be able to sit down with somebody and talk out a problem, with each hearing and listening to the other. He’s a good person.

  8. Jim Brook
    Jim Brook January 10, 2018 6:29 pm

    An SAD light can be quite helpful, but often not enough. Some of those medications that people love to hate are often extremely helpful in these situations, despite media hype.

  9. Claire
    Claire January 11, 2018 4:57 am

    Dr. Jim — The Wandering Monk takes no medicine. Of any sort, as far as I know. Not even aspirin. When he sliced his calf open with a machete last spring, he didn’t even take antibiotics (or go to a doctor for stitches). So for him, it’s a SAD light or some other form of self-therapy.

  10. Dana
    Dana January 11, 2018 7:05 am

    Not sure if plants count as medicine? You can buy Griffonia simplicifolia in a bottle, which many people use to treat mild depression. Or even food? Fava beans are full of L-DOPA. Then there’s everyone’s favorite morning fix. 😉

    Also, I’d suggest anyone who can afford it put in everyday house light bulbs that have a CRI above 90.

  11. larryarnold
    larryarnold January 11, 2018 6:44 pm

    Call me old-fashioned. I just wish Congress would give us our real light bulbs back.

  12. Cz75
    Cz75 January 15, 2018 3:08 am

    LED bulbs in the 5000-6000 K range helped me with SAD, too.

    20 years earlier, I used blue spectrum fluorescent tube lamps (5000-6500 K). I combined one of these tubes with 2 warm spectrum (~2700 k) tubes in order to create a cheapo efficient daylight spectrum.

    Fish oil or fatty sea fish also made a difference.

    But it wasn’t until I fixed my too low vitamin D3 that it became a non issue.

    As long as I keep my blood levels above the (recommended) 50 ng/ml , I don’t suffer from SAD any more.
    My various allergies calm down, too. Which spares me daily asthma medication. Nifty.

    Took my hunddreds of thousands of iu D3 to get there and takes 5000 iu daily to stay there (at 180#). Well worth it. Should be combined with 200 µg of vit K2 daily.

    If the monk regards vit supplements as medicine, he won’t take it, though.
    Cod liver oil maybe.

    If he can get the natural stuff which didn’t get stripped of D3, that is :-/

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