Christmas is usually my favourite time of the year. I love putting the tree up and helping my boys decorate it. I love buying my loved ones presents and get so excited about having some amazing festive family time. I can hear a Christmas song a thousand times and still sing along with a huge stupid smile on my face. But this year I just feel dread. I feel like I’m stuck outside in the cold watching everybody else getting into the Christmas spirit, smiling, laughing and being jolly. I feel like Eleven in Stranger Things when she’s trapped in the Upside Down, desperately shouting at her friends but they don’t hear her. They don’t see how scared she is, they can’t see how sad she feels. Not even the joy of Christmas can break my mood.
I don’t know what triggered this episode of depression, I can’t put my finger on when it began but I just know I feel this deep dull ache in my heart all the time and no matter how make I fake a smile, I put on a show, I give my best acting performance that I’m ok,that I’m happy, I’m pretty sure the cracks show and some people can see it in my eyes.
The truth of the matter is I can barely bring myself to look in the mirror these days, I hate what I see, what I am and I don’t know what got me to this point, I’ve felt this way before. I know I’m not alone. My depression story
615 million people suffered from depression or anxiety in 2016
For every 300 people who have a mental health issue only 230 will go to their GP to seek help
Christmas time has the highest levels of depression of the year. Suicide rates increase during the festive season then drop after the new year and many doctors believe that ‘Christmas Depression’ should be taken much more seriously.
Christmas depression can occur for a number of reasons such as , loneliness and isolation, fear of living up to the high expectations that surround the Christmas period, comparing things with others and feeling inadequate , missing a loved one that has passed away or simply feeling totally overwhelmed by Christmas.
I am extremely lucky that I have a fantastic, supportive and loving family to spend Christmas with and I can’t imagine being alone over the holidays. We always have a great time but I do worry that my mood will bring other people down and ruin their happiness and joy. I know they are very understanding and supportive but I’m a worrier, I worry about everything so it’s very hard to stop myself over analysing things and making things worse for myself. I’m probably my own worst enemy but that’s how anxiety and depression controls you. It’s like being on a merry-go-round at high-speed and no matter how much you try you can’t slow it down, you can’t stop it and you can’t get off.
Christmas time is about reflecting upon what you have in life and appreciating those things. Getting some perspective on the things in life that are truly important. Family is everything to me and I am so grateful for such amazing people who I get to call my family. I know that as soon as I see my parents in their Xmas jumpers and silly hats pottering around on Christmas Eve at their annual Christmas Eve buffet.
Their Christmas tree looking beautiful as my boys help my mum carefully placing the gifts under the tree, their excited faces checking out which gifts are theirs and squeezing them, trying to figure out what the present could be. Christmas songs playing as the family come together and the house fills with laughter, love and a warmth you can’t find anywhere else, that’s when I know my mood will change and as I read ‘the night before christmas’ To my boys as I tuck them in to bed so excited they can barely keep still, that’s when my heart will feel whole again and I will feel the Christmas spirit again. I know how lucky I am and I know some people aren’t as fortunate as me.
It’s vital you talk to someone if you start to feel low. I know how hard it is to be honest about your feelings and acknowledging there’s an issue and you can’t deal with it by yourself. But you can’t go on feeling miserable. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a family member or a friend then consider calling a helpline such as the Samaritans because you don’t have to feel this way. There are organisations that want to help you. It’s often easier to open up to a stranger than it is a loved one. You don’t feel that you are burdening them, or that your sadness can impact on them in the same way it would affect a loved one. Perhaps it’s time to go to your GP and seek a referral for counselling or to consider medication to lift your mood. Christmas time 2017 maybe the time to acknowledge your fears, deal with them and move forward.
Maybe you know someone who is on their own or they are displaying some concerning signs of depression?! Why not reach out to them and simply ask how they are doing. A kind treat could cheer them up, like a box of chocolates or a small gift could mean the world to them. Perhaps you could invite them to spend Christmas Day with you or take a plate of food around for them. It’s often the smallest, most insignificant gesture that can have the hugest effect on a depressed person. Just something that shows them you care. Sharing a little Christmas spirit to warm their hearts.
If you are on your own this year there are often local soup kitchens and organisations that give shelter and a Christmas dinner. You do not have to struggle on your own with depression. Christmas does not have to be a time of loneliness and anxiety.
If you are reading this and you understand exactly how I’m feeling why not message me and I’d be happy to chat and help in any way I can.
Please reach out to someone this Christmas, please don’t suffer in silence.
If you need help please contact NHS on 111 or if you have hurt yourself call 999 immediately
Samaritans HELPLINE open 24hrs a day, 365 days of the year. Contact them for free-
116 123 (UK)
116 123 (ROI)
Pavement Magazine offers information as advice on shelters and soup kitchens throughout the UK.
I found a great article on the Counselling Directory which discussed possible reasons why Christmas can be so stressful and suggested really good ways of coping during the festive season. ‘Christmas is coming’ by Nikki Shephard FdSc MBACP