It has been very difficult to write lately. Come to think of it, it’s been hard to do much of anything. Though I have tried my hardest to buck up, slap a smile on my face, and grit my teeth through my emotions, sheer effort and “want to” simply have not been enough this time around. If you’re a follower who actually enjoys my posts, I’m really sorry—for everything. I am sorry for being absent most of the time, and equally sorry for having relatively mopey posts whenever I have managed to peck something out. I’ll try to do better.
Though I have always wished to use this platform as a venue to help others through the storytelling of my own life experiences, I haven’t always done a great job of this. As some of you may know all too well, dealing with any form of mental or physical illness can significantly hinder your ability to say the things you’d like to say, do the things you’ve planned to do, or be even a shadow of the person you deserve to be.
So while I think about writing everyday, I don’t always feel up to writing about the way I really feel. All the same, I’m tired of trying to fake my way around or even “go missing” because of those feelings. And so, here we are. Tonight, I have decided to sit down and share my thoughts on a topic that isn’t necessarily cheery. However, it is strongly on my heart to discuss it, so I shall.
Christmastime has always been my favorite time of year. For the majority of my life, I have greatly appreciated and reveled in the seemingly compulsory joy that the season evokes. The Christmas carols. The get-togethers. The light displays. The freshly baked cakes and cookies. Despite personally observing Christmas as a Christian, I’ve actually never met a non-believer who could resist the generally uplifting aura of Christmas. There is something inherently enchanting and heartwarming about the time that is sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas; it is the closest thing to magic that I can think of.
And yet, I am still depressed.
You would think that I would be used to this entire ordeal by now— the whole “feeling dejected for no apparent reason” thing. In light of the disheartening things that have occurred during the last few weeks, it seems reasonable that I would feel the way I currently do. As abnormal as it all is, it should still be my strange breed of normal. However, I have felt…angry lately. Endlessly angry—with myself. And guilty…very guilty.
For those who are fortunate enough to not know what it is like to deal with depression on a day to day basis, the process of navigating the choppy waters of “the happiest time of the year” as someone who does is downright excruciating—for me at least. Not everyone particularly cares much about Christmas, and I know many people don’t celebrate or believe in it. But what about those who do? How do they cope?
Despite depression being relatively old news to me, I’ve actually been pretty lucky over the years. Though the unpleasantries of the gloom and doom typically lurk somewhere in my peripheral throughout the year, I’ve always managed to perk up a bit more around the holidays. Even once Christmas officially ends and the 50% off stickers have been plastered onto the leftover holiday decor, I usually ride the wave of enthusiasm into the next year with a refreshed outlook and the perhaps overinflated hope that a happier tomorrow resides within a page flip of a crisp, new calendar.
This Christmas feels uncharacteristically chilly, yet it’s forecasted to be a high of 61 degrees.
My mantra of the week has been, “Thank God I haven’t been invited to any holiday parties.” The irony of it all is that I love holiday parties. In fact, I love most social gatherings (providing I actually know some of the attendees). However, having to prune back (aka nearly deroot) my entire social circle has resulted in a drastically shorter gift giving list, as well as a surplus of free time during the holiday season.
As much as I appreciate being able to snuggle up in my reindeer onesie while marathoning Bojack Horseman and sipping on Starbucks’ oh-so-peculiar, but oddly tasty Juniper Latte, I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel a twinge of regret when I see my pretty red lace dress hanging in the closet—unworn. Though I knew I wouldn’t have anywhere to wear it when I bought it last year, the mere idea of being invited to the perfect occasion for it made me happy… for awhile.
But then I remembered all the events I’ve had to turn down in the past. Party invitations I dodged because I felt too down to mingle with strangers. Dinner invitations I pardoned myself from due to feeling anxious about looking “too fat” in whatever outfit I’d find to wear, as though I was magically fatter whenever I was formally invited somewhere opposed to when I simply showed up—Pfft! Then there were all the times friends wanted to visit me from out of town, but I ghosted them due to feeling too gloomy…or too anxiety stricken…or both. It’s no wonder I’m never asked to go anywhere anymore!
But then I must ask myself… isn’t this really for the best anyway?
I cannot tell you how many times I have forced myself to attend holiday events when I knew I wasn’t up to it. As much as I wanted to dress up and have a good time, I’d always have to put a mask on like it was Halloween. I would want to go home before even leaving the house. People would ask how I was, and after swallowing down the pain of knowing I couldn’t screw up everyone’s holiday vibe and be honest, I would smile and graciously lie to their face. The back of my eyes would burn furiously from the withheld tears, but if one ever escaped, I’d promptly blame my allergies.
If you have depression then you know how much it hurts to feel hopeless and never know why. You also know that it hurts even more to have to hide it, but so many of us do—especially during Christmas. You don’t want to bring down anyone’s mood during such a happy time. You don’t want to be a cause of concern or a burden. And though the intent behind your silent charade is pure and well-meaning, it doesn’t make it any easier. No one wants to feel like a broken misfit who is on the outside looking in, but I know I’m not the only one who does.
Christmas is a time in which believers such as myself should be full of joy and grateful for the birth of Jesus. And while I am grateful, I’m admittedly struggling to find my joy, which makes me even more unhappy. I want to experience the season without feeling as though I’m the Grinch incarnate. Despite Christmas not being about presents or food or Christmas carols or flashing lights hanging from roof gutters, I so desperately want to smile and laugh as I enjoy them with the people I’m sharing them with…and actually mean it. I suppose I simply don’t know how. Perhaps you don’t either.
If the holiday season is hard for you, just know you aren’t alone. So many people have a hard time being filled with cheer around the holidays—all for different reasons. Some of you may have financial difficulties or trouble finding work. You may find yourself completely alone for the holidays, with no friends or family to spend it with. Perhaps you are dealing with your own ill health or that of a loved one. Or maybe you are like me and have recently (or previously) lost loved ones during this time of year.
Whatever the reason, it’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to feel lonely. Though you may not feel as cheerful as other people may appear to be, you’ll never know how many of those smiling faces are faking it just as I have been.
From property loss, loss of life, natural disasters, political tension, and senseless violence, this year has been extremely rough for so many people. I pray that everyone is able to find respite from these hardships in the upcoming days. I hope we can all spend quality time with the people we care about, or forge new friendships with which we can create happy memories.
But more than anything, I pray you are all kind to everyone you meet. Though we should all practice compassion year round, the holidays can be an especially trying time for loved ones and strangers alike. At a time when everyone is expected to be in good cheer, not everyone is, so let’s all do our part by simply being mindful of this fact. Even something as small as a smile could make someone’s holiday a little easier. It might even help you too.
© C.M. 2018 All Rights Reserved
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*Featured Photo Credit: Pexels/Bich Tran*