Spare a thought this Christmas…
Christmas to me has only ever meant joy, family and too much food! I recently had the privilege of connecting with someone through this page who is living in secret with a debilitating level of depression and anxiety. She explained to me that Christmas has always been a major trigger for her. I’d never really stopped to consider the amount of people who must be in the same boat. I asked her if she would anonymously share her story to open the eyes of others and even offer comfort to those who may be in the same boat.
Thanks to this brave soul for sharing.
TIS THE SEASON TO BE… LONELY?
This time of year I am often asked, “What is on your Christmas wish list?” Ummm…I want depression, anxiety and loneliness with all the trimmings – 10 fold! Said no one EVER!
Depression has not been something I’ve chosen, nor invited and I can assure you it has never been on top of my Christmas list, but guaranteed it has made the cut every year – this year is no different.
Believe me if I could take a mini holiday from it, if only until the festive season is over, then right now my mind would be basking in the Maldives’ sun, on a hammock, sipping cocktails! I wish!
What I can say is that when your illness is literally in your head, taking a holiday from it is not an option – not even for ‘the most wonderful time of the year’.
Reality is Christmas merely fuels my depression and anxiety. It stings more… physically, mentally, financially and spiritually it cripples me more. In fact every living part of my depression is amplified this time of the year.
Every year I tell myself to let go of my ideas and pressures of what Christmas “should” be like – you know those high expectations that Christmas will be magical, perfect and happy? Says who? Says every fricken aspect of commercialisation! You know, the TV ads that bombard you with images of perfect families, opening the perfect gifts, gathering around the table for the perfect family lunch with all the trimmings? Or the shop fronts adorned with decorations, playing Christmas carols in an attempt to infect the shopper with the joy of Christmas? (It’s online shopping all the way for me!!). Then there are the social gatherings, where there’s the expectation to eat, drink and magically we become merrier! For someone like me, these alone are enough to rev up the gremlin that lives in my head!
Without a doubt though, the one single thing that is guaranteed to ramp up my depression and anxiety this time of year is the loneliness, isolation and emptiness, more so than the other 364 days of the year. In a nutshell, Christmas for me is a trigger. It cements my loneliness. I have lost count of the years Christmas has been and gone with no family to share it with and where the day would pass without a single phone call or message.
Admittedly, pre having a child, I spent countless years in bed alone on Christmas day, not wallowing in my own self pity – simply in the hope of ‘sleeping’ the day off, praying the day passes quickly and I survive relatively unscathed.
You see, I don’t have the family connection that others are fortunate enough to embrace. And whilst for the most part I am a person who much prefers her own space and company, I must concede, during the festive season, there is a part inside me who craves the connection, to feel love and wants to belong.
Sure I have some amazing friends in my life, who, in general are incredibly supportive. However they know little about my inner world, they are not privy to the mental battles I deal with on a daily basis, let alone the loneliness and challenges Christmas brings me.
Let’s just say I ‘fake it to make it’ (by the way I think I pull it off pretty well!). The net result being that they assume I am happier than I really am and that my Christmas is just as joyous and full as theirs. You may think that by doing this I merely draw in my own loneliness, but I assure you this is not the case. Besides, feeling empty and alone at Christmas for me is not solely about the physical loneliness of not sharing the day with others. And it has never been about the absence of gifts for me, because I am the least materialistic person you will meet! The emptiness and loneliness inside is what probably aches most… the absence of love, connectedness and belonging.
So whilst now I can share Christmas day with my girl, (I am no longer physically alone), I can’t help but still feel a massive emptiness… void… sadness, not just for myself, but now also for my girl who has never experienced the true essence of big family gatherings on Christmas day, nor felt a greater love and connection the day can bring.
I am sorry if some of what I write comes across as me being a humbug (and believe me I am not trying to be a Grinch) – I don’t resent people for their Christmas happiness and experiences. This is not who I am, nor represent. There is nothing more I want for others than for them to experience joy at Christmas time. But I also want people to know that being merry and joyous at Christmas is not always a given for everybody. I want those, who like me, don’t feel the joy and connection at Christmas to know they’re not alone.
I won’t sugar coat this – the self-reflection in writing this has been confronting… at times triggering… even painful. I’ve had to dig deep. There were moments where I felt shaken up – just like one of those damn snow globes! But when the snow settled back to the bottom and cleared again, so too did my mind and thoughts. The clarity that followed created the space in my mind for more meaningful self-reflection. I’ll call it the “aha” moment! Writing this has paved the way for me to re-write the script in my head – to focus outward rather than inward… to start counting my blessings. To focus my energy on what’s important – what I have in the present moment rather than the void and what’s missing. To be more mindful of what I do have to be thankful for – my awesome friends…the connections I have made this year… my girl. She will feel the warmth of my love this season, she will have gifts to unwrap and I will even surrender to her ‘Elf on the Shelf’ reappearing this year (even though that elf depletes my energy!!!). Why? Because her joy becomes my joy. Because I believe the Christmas memories I give her now will reflect her future Christmas emotions.
I will take this opportunity to engage in kindness, show love and generosity towards others because essentially for me, this is where my happiness lies. And in those moments when things become rocky and overwhelming, where I can’t seem to quieten down the mayhem and festive chatter in my mind, I will bring myself back to the now – breathe it out – calm the spirit.
So this Christmas perfectionism is out for me!! I’m dropping the unrealistic expectations! Yeah ok for me again there will be no picture perfect big family gathering lunch with all the trimmings, but I will find my magic and happiness if I look and focus on the present moment, on what I have around me here and now. Tis the season to be… grateful.