Do you find yourself disassociating from your own feelings? Are you having a “not me” kind of experience, even though you know that it is you? Are you asking yourself self-defeating questions, which bring you to negative places? Are you feeling confused for not experiencing the holiday cheer? Is getting out of bed the challenge that sets the tone for your entire day? Are you wondering what is wrong with you? You are not alone.
You have heard the holiday songs playing since before Halloween; the decorations have been up for weeks. While this season is one of peace, hope and light, our culturally explicit expectations are for frivolity, glitter, excess and an almost manic kind of exuberance. Despite what the media would like us to believe, this time of year is not about an abundance of gifts, an unbelievably happy family and the feeling that all is “perfect.” It truly is a time to reconnect with our values, our priorities and those we love in spite of the accompanying challenges. As we learn to address and resolve these challenges, we gain a wealth of resilience and resourcefulness not readily available elsewhere in life.
Our cultural norms about what makes the holidays successful can put you under a tremendous amount of pressure resulting in feelings of being overwhelmed and depressed. This season is particularly difficult for those struggling with depression.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 9.5% of the people in the United States have a depressive disorder. For them the holiday season does not necessarily bring joy to their day, but rather it highlights what is missing in their lives. Oftentimes family relationships are strained, tempers are flaring, and feelings of anxiety and discontent are all too prevalent.
We know that the holiday season is the most likely time of the year for a person to feel depressed. Suicide rates are higher during December than during any other month of the year. The deep and constant ache of depression can be set off by multiple things including the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or feelings of failure and of loneliness. This holiday sadness, also, can be intensified by the excessive fatigue experienced as a result of working to make this season festive.
Although the holidays are stressful enough to trigger a depression, not all depression has to do with loss, failure or death. Those without a perceived valid reason often feel as though they should not feel depressed and are hesitant to reach out and speak to someone. They think that those who have experienced trauma have a right to their feelings of depression, while those who have not are denied that right. People who are depressed and refrain from seeking help are more likely to stay depressed.
With all of this as a backdrop do you find yourself feeling awkward with others and distant from them? Do you want to keep the attention away from yourself? Are you feeling different from your friends and relatives and hesitant lest you bring them down or alienate them?
You are not alone in these feelings. At this time people often grapple with the holiday blues and experience sadness, loneliness, anxiety and depression. For many the feelings of sadness and a longing for the past predominate. For them life seemed to have made more sense at a time in the past than it does in the present.
Depression interferes with job performance, friendship, romantic relationships, and abilities to parent and to care for oneself. You have probably heard others say you have to learn to deal with it, to set clearer boundaries, to let the past go, or to learn coping skills. Have you noticed that when you are in this mindset these well-intentioned recommendations make you feel overwhelmed? Do you wonder why apparently logical recommendations are so difficult to implement?
When you are depressed you are emotionally disconnected from the world and are withdrawn from others. In order to get to the other side of these feelings you must emotionally relearn how to integrate your feelings into your life, to address your concerns and constructively to reset your physical reactions to them.
Your particular style of dealing with life is not set in stone. Only you can begin the process which can bring you to a more joy-filled holiday season and a life filled with your own blend of peace, joy and balance. It starts with your first step of reaching out for assistance.