Coping with Depression During Holidays
It seems like an on-going theme here on My Depression Connection that many of us who suffer from depression and/or anxiety experience a certain dread of the upcoming holidays. Could one of the reasons for our holiday angst be due to the pressure for having a perfect celebration complete with perfectly wrapped presents under the perfect tree with our perfectly happy smiling family? I am thinking the critical word here is "perfect." One of the reasons some of us may internally rebel against the holidays is the expectation that this has to be some extra special memory making time one will preserve forever in a scrapbook. And if we don't fulfill this unsaid obligation then we are considered a loser or a Grinch who needs to be banished as lacking proper holiday spirit. For some of us the pressure is especially heavy as we are the ones to ensure holiday happiness for our whole family.
And let's face it. Christmas is work. All the wrapping, baking, cooking, and making merry is exhausting. And expensive. What if you don't have the money for buying people gifts? One can get the holiday blues just from thinking about the credit card bill to come. Crowded malls, dysfunctional family get togethers, and crying children who are scared of Santa may be a more accurate portrait of Christmas than the images on our Hallmark holiday cards.
It makes you want to throw up your hands and cry out like Charlie Brown, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"
I always get choked up when I hear Linus give his answer to Charlie Brown. But no matter your faith, there is a side to the holidays which is deeply personal and holds more meaning than all the frilly bows, glitter, and tinsel. I like to call it my "Christmas feeling" and it isn't something which can be manufactured or induced. I think my main objection to the holidays is that we are trying to force a good time, a smile, or happiness when such things can only occur naturally. Magic happens when we least expect it. Have you ever seen the movie, Groundhog Day with Bill Murray? Basically he lives the same day over and over and in time and he eventually "perfects" the day. But what he finds is that he cannot recreate or manufacture spontaneity such as falling down in the snow with his girlfriend and laughing together. It just doesn't work when good times are forced and planned.
My message to you this holiday is to allow for moments of happiness but do not force them or even expect them. Simply look for opportunities to appreciate moments of peace and joy.
I am now going to share one of my favorite Christmas memories which has nothing at all to do with crowds or gifts or eggnog. It was simply a moment in time when I experienced pure peace. I hope that by sharing my story you can find that place within yourself to feel comfort and calm through these hectic holiday times.
I call this my "snowglobe" story.
Do you have any memories of feeling at peace?
My mind is usually reeling with some sort of angst so the peaceful times are few and far between. For this reason, I have a memory in my mind that I hold close to my heart. It is like a little snow globe in my mind. That is the magical thing about memories is that you can visit them any time you wish. My memory is not anything so special in the eyes of the world. I mean nothing exciting happens. Nothing happens and that is the beauty of it I suppose. All the while though, I did feel as though someone out there was feeling what I was feeling too.
I was thirteen or so. I had a paper route. It was Christmas Eve and it fell on a Saturday. The Saturday paper was to be delivered in the early evening. I bundled up the newspapers and headed out with my metal cart and as I walked it began to snow. Suddenly everything was bathed in a white glow. I remember it was so quiet. There were no cars, no people, nothing. Just all this white new snow coming down and turning everything into a virtual winter wonderland. The only sounds were coming from my cart as it made a skinny trail up the hill behind me. I stopped half way up the hill and it was absolutely silent except for the snow. I could hear the snow fall to the ground like flower petals, each flake finally being absorbed by the white landscape. I breathed in deeply and I could feel the scratchy wet wool of my scarf. I remember standing there, still, as a sense of peace came over me. I could see the lights from the houses and it made me feel good that people were all inside, somewhere beyond the twinkling Christmas lights. It seemed I was the only soul outside that evening and the new snow was for me alone. It was like being inside a snowglobe that someone had just shaken. This was my private miracle.
How many times do you get to be so at peace that you can allow yourself to listen to snow? Doesn't happen too often, at least not for me, so I have held onto that memory for years now. Maybe you were there in a different time and place.
Do you have a "snowglobe" moment to share? A time when you felt at peace or felt joy just for being alive? Tell us about it. I want to express my gratitude for being able to write here and for the sense of community that you all have worked so hard to create. I wish all of you much peace and happiness this holiday season and beyond. Thank you for joining us here in the spirit of compassion and support as we help each other to not only survive our depression but to increase our capacity to let light and love into our lives. The one gift I wish I could give everyone here is hope.