Experimenting With A SAD Lamp

Before I knew about my vitamin D deficiency, I was obviously aware of how tired I was, even moreso than usual. Since I’d also been struggling with my mental health, I thought I’d try out a SAD Lamp to see if it could help with my depression and my low energy levels. Since we were going into winter, a notoriously difficult time of year for people who struggle with their mood, I thought that if there was ever a time to try it out, it would be now.

I must make it clear that you should never use a SAD Lamp without approval from your doctor, as the effects can have a negative interaction with certain medications or a detrimental effect on your eyes depending on your prescription and history. So please, please don’t simply try it out without the advice of your doctor.


I kept notes throughout the eight weeks I experimented with the lamp, in order to keep track of what I tried and how I felt throughout the period. I followed all the instructions, tried different intensities and different lengths of time; I researched what others had found helpful and how long it had taken for them to feel the effects.

Nothing I tried made any difference. I’m as sure as I can be that I gave each different experiment enough time for me to feel some kind of effect but it didn’t seem to help at all. I was just as tired and just as low. During this time, I started taking the vitamin D supplements and when those started to take effect, I gave up my experiments since I didn’t know what else to try. The supplements seem to be helping so I’m content with that, even if it was frustrating that the SAD Lamp hadn’t helped.


I don’t want to discourage people from trying SAD Lamps. I have friends who’ve found them helpful and I’ve read many positive accounts so there’s definitely proof that they can improve things for people. But apparently it’s not for me, at this particular moment at least.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Back in October 2020, I had a long overdue blood test. I think it was actually supposed to be the test that told us whether I’d absorbed and responded properly to the iron infusion I’d had in June 2019 but with starting the Masters and then the pandemic, it had only just become possible.

Going out and going to the Doctors’ Surgery did cause me a lot of anxiety – I’m still struggling with going out and with feeling very vulnerable when I’m out – but the appointment felt very safe and very efficient. I was probably in and out in less than ten minutes. About a week later, we got the results back and my iron was within the normal range. So all good there. However, my Vitamin D levels were seriously low, so low that they wanted to take immediate action. I was prescribed Colecalciferol, a prescription Vitamin D supplement, and instructed to take one a day for ten weeks.

It wasn’t surprising to hear that my vitamin D was low. It’s not uncommon for autistic individuals to have low vitamin D levels and with the pandemic and lockdown, I was staying inside a lot more and therefore not getting as much sunlight as usual, let alone the sunlight I needed. So I wasn’t shocked. I was pretty wary about taking supplements though: my last attempt with supplements had rendered the anti-depressants I was taking at the time completely ineffective, leaving me in a deep, dark hole of depression. Even though I stopped taking the supplements immediately, the anti-depressants never worked again. So I was concerned that something similar might happen again and I’d lose the only consistent (and I use that word loosely) anti-depressant I had in my toolbox. But my doctor explained just how important it was to get my vitamin D up and despite my anxiety, I committed to taking them.


For the first three weeks, I didn’t feel any different. My sleep was as sporadic as ever and I was constantly tired, something that is very much linked with my anti-depressant medication but is also a symptom of a vitamin D deficiency. Week four passed and I still didn’t feel any change but my Mum felt that there had been a slight shift, in my day to day behaviour and my engagement in whatever I was doing. She couldn’t quantify or qualify it any more than that but she did have a feeling that something was slightly different. I was reluctant to believe her, not feeling it myself.

Weeks five and six were tough: I was constantly exhausted and incredibly depressed, although it wasn’t always noticeable, covered up by anxiety-induced busyness. I was sleeping a lot but I was still tired but by the end of that sixth week, I was starting to wonder if I felt different. It’s just so freaking difficult to tell when the change you’re watching out for is so gradual. I wasn’t sure, just cautiously optimistic.

I’d been instructed to go back to the doctors’ surgery for another blood test between four and six weeks to see how I was responding to the supplement. It was closer to six weeks given some difficulty getting an appointment but when it finally happened, it was quick and efficient, just like the first appointment.

During what was the seventh week of this period, I was still tired and sleepy but again, I was starting to think that it wasn’t quite as bad as it had been. It wasn’t drastically better but I did feel a slight – intangible, I guess – difference. But week eight gave me a real sign that things were changing. I was still fatigued easily, still had days where I was really sleepy but I suddenly noticed that I wasn’t needing to drink as much Red Bull as I had been. Ever since I started this round of anti-depressants, I’ve been relying on Red Bull to keep me awake during the day and when the vitamin D first showed up as  problem, I was probably drinking three a day – more when I was commuting to university (and yes, I’m aware that this isn’t healthy and have a plan with my psychiatrist to address it, although that has been derailed somewhat by the pandemic). But during week eight, I realised that I was getting through the day on one, sometimes less. Still not super healthy, yes, but a really good step in the right direction. And if I wasn’t feeling like I needed them as much to stay awake, then I had to assume that my energy levels were improving, to some degree at least.

When the blood test results came back, they showed that my vitamin D levels were back within the normal range but still pretty low so my doctor wrote me a new prescription for the rest of the winter with potential for extending it throughout the duration of the pandemic. I’m grateful for that; it’s one worry off my mind at least.


My energy levels still aren’t great. But getting my vitamin D levels under control was never going to be ‘the fix.’ Fatigue is a constant in my life, between my anti-depressants, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and other health (physical and mental) problems. But that doesn’t mean I can’t improve my situation. Getting my vitamin D levels back up has helped, hopefully hydrotherapy will help, perhaps the next anti-depressant won’t have such bad side effects (whenever I have time to try a new one – mid-Masters isn’t exactly the perfect time, especially having just reached the modules I’ve been most excited for). Sometimes I need to rage and cry about the pretty constant tiredness, but most of the time I can look forward and focus on the next thing that could help.

Quotes That Helped Me (Hope Edition)

There’s something about new year that always makes me feel hopeful.

I think that many of us move through life as if it’s a story but in reality, there aren’t many clear endings and beginnings and so we often have to create them for ourselves. They help us make sense of things; there’s something helpful and healing about being able to put a difficult chapter behind you and start fresh. 2020 was a lot so I think it’s been good for a lot of us to create some mental distance from all that happened even though 2021 has already had some previously unimaginable moments.

As the events in Washinton D.C. have shown, we have no way of knowing, of course, whether things will be better, of knowing what is to come, but I still have to have hope for the next twelve months, for the future. I think that’s probably one of the most powerful tools we have in general, but also specifically in this period of time: the ability to have hope, even when what we’re facing feels so big and so insurmountable. If nothing else, there is always hope, something that these quotes remind me of.


“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.” – Anne Lamott

“Hope is a choice of courage.” – Terri Guillemets

“The future is always beginning now.”  – Mark Strand

“You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.” – Pat Schroeder

“People are made of flesh and blood and a miracle fibre called courage.” – Mignon McLaughlin

“But all I could think of was how when nothing made sense and hadn’t for ages, you just have to grab onto anything you feel sure of.” – Sarah Dessen

“Hope never abandons you, you abandon it.” – George Weinberg

“Tomorrow is fresh, with no mistakes in it.”  – L.M. Montgomery

“Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden.” – Cormac McCarthy

“While the heart beats, hope lingers.” – Alison Croggon

“We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Hope rises like a phoenix from the ashes of shattered dreams.” – S.A. Sachs

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein

“The present is the laboratory of the future.” – James Lendall Basford

“When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” – Tom Bodett

“Where there is no hope, it is incumbent on us to invent it.” – Albert Camus

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” – Barack Obama

“We need hope, or else we cannot endure.” – Sarah J. Maas

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen

“The birds of hope are everywhere – listen to them sing.” – Terri Guillemets

“And in today already walks tomorrow.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela

“Hope was tricky like water. Somehow it always found a way in.” – Leigh Bardugo

“Hope is a force of nature. Don’t let anyone tell you different.” – Jim Butcher

“There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.” – John Green

“Sometimes good things fall apart, so better things can fall together.” – Marylin Monroe

“Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.” – Robert H. Schuller

“Hope is the silver lining of dreams.” – Terri Guillemets

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” – Christopher Reeve


I hope that reading these has given you some hope, just like they’ve given me. As I said, none of us can say for sure whether this year will be better than the last but we have to have hope. And we have reason to hope: Trump is leaving and Biden will be inaugurated; the COVID-19 vaccine is being administered around the world; people have come together, both in the wider sense and in the smaller, more local sense, something that will hopefully continue; the new year is an opportunity for a fresh start… And those are the most obvious things. 2020 was a year unlike any other most of us have experienced and I have to hope that 2021 will be better. I don’t think I – we – have any other choice.