Nope. I’m not talking about the Elton John song. I’m talking about the very real, sometimes very serious Holiday Depression, Over 40% of those “joyous” revelers join you in the well of depression. And isn’t depression just like being stuck in a well? It’s miserable. You’re tired and drenched with disgust or frustration. You’ve struggled to see the “real” world outside of the slippery, cold walls that surround you. Every time you try to climb out, you find a patch of slime and slide right back down. Maybe you can see the top edge the darkness, and you want so desperately to reach it. Maybe you’re so deep and wedged in that all you see is darkness, groping at your soul. Either way, you can hear people walking around you, laughing and being present, but all you have is a puddle of tears at your feet, and a sadness that wraps its fingers around your brain.
On good days, you’re able to paste on a smile and walk among the living, pretending to be one of them. On bad days you may struggle to get out of bed. Successful or not, you swim in thoughts so full of negativity you can almost feel the electrons smashing into each other around your head–in your head. Most days you get up and slog through your day, doing what is least expected of you. Longing only for the day to end, and the peacefulness of sleep…if you are blessed with such down time.
Such is Depression. Some are lucky enough to only feel it during the holidays. The expectation doesn’t meet the reality of it all. You can’t stand up to what others expect of you. The stress mounts. “No bonus this year.” “Brenda needs braces.” “The car needs new brakes.” “Rachel is off to college in the fall.” “But Mom, we have a good Christmas and these kids don’t. Please can’t we take an angel off the tree?” The crowds at the store are demanding and pushy. People are impatient this year. It’s the anger in the air. Be careful what you say. You don’t want to offend someone. What else is going to happen?
The Holidays are hard enough without additional issues added to your life. Grief during the holidays is almost crippling. Everyone is partying and having a good time, while you are mourning your loss. No one thinks about you, sitting at home, missing your loved one. The room already seems darker.
Some of you feel the joy of the season, until December 26th, or maybe even the evening of the 25th. All the presents have been opened. The looks on their faces may have been as excited as you envisioned, but probably not. You didn’t get a spectacular gift, like an all expense paid trip to Costa Rica. Maybe you got a really great gift, though…but it’s opened. The anticipation is over. The guests have gone home, or maybe you were the guest, and you’re home with a car full of more stuff to put in your already stuffed house. You’re so full of Christmas dinner, and dessert, that you feel a little uncomfortable, and just want to get into your pj’s. Unloading the car is just a little too much right now, so you collapse on the couch with a little grunting noise, and there you sit. It’s all over now, but the TV is only showing Christmas shows. You’re done with that. You feel like a Santa decoration in June, fuzzy and disjointed.
The winter holiday season lasts approximately six weeks. It’s not even one tenth of the year, yet it can feel like it lasts more like six months if you suffer from Holiday Depression. So, how do we handle it? Here are a few ideas you can try:
- Don’t isolate yourself. Be sure to seek out good friends who understand how you’re feeling. Even if you just watch a movie together or have coffee, it’s better than holing up inside with no one but your wandering mind. Try to participate in seasonal activities.
- Get outside. Even if it’s just for a short period, and even if it’s twenty below, get out into the natural sunlight and fresh air. This can do wonders for your mind and body.
- Try to keep your exercise routine. Exercise is an amazing mood lifter. I remember going to the gym and being greeted by the receptionist and mumbling “This is supposed to make me feel better, right?”, and by the time I left, I had a smile on my face, waving good-bye to that same girl.
- Monitor the amount of extra things you take on, and don’t overdo it. Remember that you still need decompression time at home, doing what relaxes you.
- Try to keep to a regular, healthy diet. Too much junk food, or rich foods your body isn’t used to can really mess you up, adding one more thing going wrong that you have to deal with.
- Use your cell phone’s alarms to keep you on time with appointments and activities. The fewer things you have to remember, the less stress you’ll feel.
- Make sure you do that one thing that you’ve always done this time if the year. Keeping up your traditions keeps you connected to who you are.
- Try something new. Now is the time when all things seem to go on sale. Take this opportunity to treat yourself to a gift of something you’ve never done, or made, or tried.
- Remember that there are hotlines that are manned 24/7 should you fall into a despair you can’t shake. They’re there for a reason. You aren’t bothering them or being silly if you need to talk. Besides, they may be just sitting around waiting for you to call. The Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. Tape it to your phone, the bathroom mirror, or your bedside table.
- Be sure to take your medication as prescribed.
I know that seasonal depression is hard, but you can make it through to the New Year, and beyond. Don’t let this Inner Demon get the best of you.
Remember – You matter to me.
It’s Time to Confront the Truth.