SAD

I love change, until I hate it.

I have a strange love of change in my work place. I get bored quickly doing the same type of work repeatedly. The more things change, the more my job remains interesting. This is generally good for me because my job typically has a lot of variety, it all leads to some sort of change, small (like new reports to help improve process) or large (such as new system implementations).

When going into a project, I have always been the first to admit that change can be difficult, but that I am weird and LOVE change. I think my enthusiasm usually sets others at ease, although sometimes it can also mislead others about the complexity of the undertaking.

A year ago, the company I work for was bought by another company. I spent most of the year working on the systems integration project with a team from both companies, including about a third of 2012 traveling to the new headquarters on the east coast. In November, the companies officially merged and the system changes went into effect. It meant an ERP (SAP) change for half of the organization and a CRM (SalesForce.com) change the other half of the organization, among a bunch of other changes.

Throughout the process I did the same type of work that I’ve done for the past five plus years: a mix of Business Systems Analyst (geek-to-business-translation) work and Project Management.  Unfortunately, my BSA work was all focused on the legacy systems, not the systems that we were consolidating to.

Once the go-live data issues settled down and my focus changed to the new system rather than the old, I became horribly overwhelmed.

At the risk of sounding like a corporate dweeb… I have prided myself for years on being a change agent of some sort and as part of that, hand holding others through change, and always having the answers.

Last week, I realized that I was struggling with the change. It was taking me days to get through something that would have taken just a few hours in our old system, purely because I didn’t know the database structure and didn’t know the system well enough to find the data sources without help. I didn’t want to ask for help, because I never need help. (“Never” was definitely an oversimplification.)

It was a huge blow to my ego to realize that I was struggling with the change. And then in the back of my head I heard the advice that I give everyone else: “How are they going to know that you need help if you don’t say something? You won’t learn if you don’t ask.”

I eventually got my head out of my ass and asked for help. Things are still taking me longer than they used to, but that’s part of learning a new system (another piece of advice that I often give others and ignore when it applies to myself).

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m good at change when I realize that change is happening to me, but when it sneaks up on me or I am not in control in some way I can be really bad at it.

Or perhaps I’ll just blame the SAD, I’m sure that had some influence. (By the way, in case you were curious, the light therapy thing I got is working fantastically.)

I have a SAD

Everyone feels depressed once in a while. Maybe I do more than most people, but usually it is easy for me to explain. Not this time. This time I’ve been struggling to keep the tears away, to stay focused at work, and to do some things that I would normally love to do. But I didn’t know why, and that was only making it worse.

Sunday morning while I was driving to my mom’s house in Everett, the sky turned so dark from the clouds that it looked like dusk. For a moment I thought I’d lost all track of time and what I was doing, and then I remembered that I live in the North West.

That is the beginning of the train of thought that reminded me that I’ve had problems with SAD before.

SAD, explained with a graph.
(From amazon.com. Clicking will take you to a product page. Because I’d rather give them free advertising than plagiarize.)

For those who may not know what SAD is: SAD is an acronym for seasonal affective disorder. It is a form of depression that is typically tied to the lack of sunshine in winter months (although it can be the opposite as well). In addition to what you would typically do to fight depression, SAD can be treated by getting more natural or artificial sunlight and taking vitamin D.

It is a relatively common problem in the northwest because of the short days (sunrise around 8:00 AM and sunset around 4:00 PM in the winter) and the often overcast weather. For most people it is just annoying, but for some of us it can be debilitating.

My SAD is far worse this year than what I remember from years past. I suspect that there are two main reasons that it is worse this year: First, October, November, and early December were exceptionally stressful for me (particularly at work).

Second, I spent a lot of time in the sun this past summer between fantastic weather in Washington (home) and Maryland (where I was traveling for work), spending quite a bit of time outside when I wasn’t working, and having a desk with natural light all summer. In late October, I moved to an office on the interior of the building at work and have very little natural light. I get to work before sunrise and usually leave after dark. The only natural light I have been getting is the 10-15 minutes that I go out to get lunch most days.

While I was visiting family on Sunday, I spent some time with my brother’s Happy Light. It is probably just my imagination, but it seems to have made a difference already. I ordered myself a different brand of light therapy box, and I am hopeful that it will help.

That is just the start. Hubby and I are talking about it more, and I need to make sure that I am doing things that actually feel productive (like crocheting and spending time with friends, instead of spending all weekend playing video games).

This post is a bit more personal than what I’d normally post here. I decided to share for a bunch of reasons. At the core is that I’ve realized in the past year (probably in large part to reading Jenny Lawson’s blog and book) how important it is to let your friends and family know when you’re having depression issues.

If you’re struggling, you’re not alone. Ask for help.