This year we have seen our fair share of depression and how not talking about it can lead to many questions down the road from people thinking “I wondered what happened and what was going on?” Depression is a serious matter, often brushed under the rug or diagnosed as a phase. Although I advocate whole-heartedly about the value of prayer and faith, for those not easily “fixed” by such rituals, it’s kind of hard to get through depression… especially during the holidays.
For me, the holidays are supposed to represent the family being connected, the birth of Jesus Christ, and settling down to celebrate our gratefulness for the joy, peace, and happiness we received all year. Apparently, I watch too much television. Yes, we all love presents, who doesn’t? However, Christmas isn’t supposed to require that we all buy gifts for every single person in our lives just because there is a special sale going on at XYZ big box store.
My memories of past holidays hasn’t been the best of times. People get drunk. They fight, they yell, and they say things that in the next 11 months, they’ll be saying they didn’t mean it. During the holidays, kids expect big presents, despite their behavior and the finances screaming otherwise. My memories are swollen with thoughts of how awful I feel sitting there getting basic, half-ass gifts from supposedly well-meaning people just because they thought about me at the register, next to the impulse buys. Meanwhile, I’m sitting there in my position of not buying any gifts out of obligation, but only from appreciation.
In September, when I see December coming around the corner, I can already feel myself getting physically sick. I’ve lost family members around this time of year, been abused, been hospitalized, overdosed, and so many other things that Christmas used to be something totally different for me for years. I would ache, my head hurts and I can’t stop crying. The holiday blues are real. I wouldn’t wish that on my enemy, it’s such a painful and inconvenient experience that often drives you to believe that no one could ever understand it or you.
I would eat like food was rubbing my back and telling me it loved me. I would drink so much that I would wake up still buzzing from the night before. The holidays were about desperately getting comfortable and feeling secure in myself. I often run into old family and friends, many who don’t mind telling you what they think about your new hair, weight, or outfit choices. To think, most of the time you probably haven’t seen or heard from them in over a year. It’s stressful, so it’s easy to relieve the stress with unhealthy things, because it’s there than to seek healthier options. I’m just glad that I’m working to improve this now in my life.
I used to dread this time of year. I know that I’m not alone. I am fully aware of the many people who also feel as crappy and dark as I do, but of course it’s not politically correct to admit that you’re depressed during the birthday of King Jesus. I feel bad enough about it, thank you. Nevertheless, I always tell myself that this year will be different. I am determined to be happier, more grateful, and to enjoy the festivities as much as my stomach and mind will allow. It’s not that difficult to do, I’m so determined to enjoy the holidays from here on out.
The Lessons I Learned for the Holiday Blues:
How to Survive an Un-Happy Holiday
Don’t Fan the Flame – if you know alcohol can turn you all the way up, to the point that you can’t control yourself. Believe me… it’s not worth it. Alcohol isn’t a cure for depression. It will only make it worse.
Don’t Stuff The Monster Inside – I will eat like it’s nobody’s business. Often times, all that good food and good drinks can make me feel so good after a stressful day, that I don’t even think about how unhealthy it is for me or my body. But this year, I’m going to be smarter about what I take in to my body. I also understand that the benefits of exercise and movement will help me in the long run. So yes, I will eat that slice of pie or that plate of macaroni and cheese (weakness) but I will also get my butt up at 7am to run that trail or to do those squats as well. My Christmas gift to myself is to take care of myself.
Keep The Past Back There – I know how hard it is to get over the past hurts, fights, and old grudges, especially when everything about the holiday reminds you of it. Nevertheless, keep it back in the past. I’m sure you’ve changed and grown over the years or months, maybe someone else has as well. Live in the moment and remember each moment is an opportunity to start over with family and friends.
Don’t Isolate Yourself – One of my biggest issues is that when I’m moody, sad, or depressed, I prefer to be by myself. I don’t want company when I’m immersed in my own personal misery. It’s not my style to drag people down with me. However, it’s never good to ostracize yourself from others. Live, be around people, and socialize.
Only Buy What & When You Want To – I don’t buy gifts just because it’s expected of me. I’m a gift giver from the heart. Even if I buy you something, I will hold on to it until the moment is right. Presentation is everything, emotion went into this, so I don’t just hand people a bag or wrapped box and expect you to appreciate the thought and time that went into it. That money is hard earned, right? At least for the majority of you, no shade. So make sure that the gifts you give mean something. Get gifts for the people you want to see smile. Give them something to smile about. Don’t just buy things because someone will be in the vicinity while you are gifting someone else. Gift from the heart and you’ll never feel like you lost something after the holidays are said and done.
Celebrate What You Love – Around this time, it’s easy for me to get nauseated by the lights, the commercials, and even the annoying holiday songs that play in almost every place of business. This Christmas I made it my business to enjoy the things I love about Christmas. Incidentally, I enjoy tacky sweaters, gingerbread cake, Christmas programs at church, and the holiday crafts. So instead of me going off about all the other stuff that irritate me about the holidays, I just take part in the festivities that don’t make me want to knock myself out with a bottle of rum.
Give Back – A huge thing for me was volunteering. I love giving back to people and just being there for them. So despite me feeling sad and in the dumps about Christmas, what better way to get my mind off of things than to volunteer. Spending my time giving back, allows me a chance to be there for other people while appreciating the blessings I do have. So many go without, some have experienced far worse than I could probably imagine and some don’t have anyone to talk to. I am so grateful and blessed, regardless of any holiday depression I’m experiencing and by spending the holidays being there for others, it grants me that positive perspective to keep me focused and happy.
Make New Memories – Maybe last Christmas was depressing. Perhaps you lost a loved one, last year you didn’t get anything you wanted, or you often feel alone during the holidays. No matter what you struggle with, this year is your opportunity to make new memories. Bring new activities into the mix, instead of buying gifts… let’s make each other stuff. You can even put your new unique twist into your family’s traditions, so that the memories you make can include something you love and want to look back on.
No matter what, remember that you are not alone. There are millions of people that get depressed around the holidays. Some people bury their emotions in drinks and food, others busy themselves with work and holiday shopping. However, no matter how many bags and gifts you snag or how many holiday treats you can stuff down your throat, depression is something that needs to be dealt with seriously. Don’t ignore your mind, body, and soul.
Here are some helpful resources for you, in case you decide that you need someone to talk to you. You can always chat with me on twitter, because I’ll definitely be on the lookout for some friends to chat with during the holidays.
First check out the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1 (800) 273-8255. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and available in English and Spanish. You can also check out their website at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Also check out Hotline to God®, an inspirational Christian audio company, who hopes to raise awareness about seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.) and the “holiday blues” with its latest campaign. The company is taking an active stance in addressing Seasonal Affective Disorder and other holiday-related emotional health issues through its email marketing campaign. During this time, Hotline to God® customers and fans will receive tips and suggestions for identifying and overcoming (or seeking help for) holiday depression. Check out their website at http://hotlinetogodstore.com