To Those with Mental Illnesses Struggling this Holiday,
I love Christmas. It has always been my favourite time of year. I love giving and receiving gifts and love, looking at all the beautiful decorations that surrounded me, eating awesome meals, singing Christmas carols and spending time with loved ones.
But, there have been a few certain years where things weren’t as wonderful as they always were; where my depression and anxiety took over my joy of the holiday.
There was one year where I had gone to the hospital for having suicidal thoughts not even a week before Christmas. I was released the next day, but I still wasn’t well. I was very depressed and numb. I couldn’t enjoy Christmas. I had to skip my dad’s family Christmas dinner. Because I normally love Christmas, there are no words to explain how I felt.
So, I know what it’s like to struggle during the holidays; to not be able to feel the joy that comes with the season.
I know what it’s like to feel ashamed of how you feel, because it doesn’t meet up to expectations or because others have it worse; to have to miss out on family traditions and get-togethers because you don’t have strength or energy to do anything.
I know you don’t have the energy to fake a smile and pretend everything is fine. If you show your true self, everyone will tell you to “Cheer up!” or “Feel the Christmas spirit!” They will attempt to tell you yet another failed joke or nudge you until you smile.
I know what it’s like to be able to have everything you could ever need and want to surround you at Christmas, but still struggle to smile.
I wish I had the power to get rid of your depression and anxiety. I wish I could say this Christmas will be different and that you might actually enjoy it, but I can’t promise you that.
I can, however, give you hope that one day it can be better. Maybe not this Christmas, or even the next one, but hopefully some Christmas. After a few rough Christmases, it eventually did get better for me. I came to enjoy it again the same way I did when I was little.
I can also tell you you’re not alone. Even though it seems like everyone you come across is all happy and jolly, there are thousands of others who feel the same way you do.
The last thing I want to tell you is that it’s okay to put yourself first. If you want to skip a family tradition and stay in bed all day, do it. If someone asks why you didn’t show up to dinner, don’t let them guilt you. You don’t owe anybody anything. If you decide to spend your holiday with friends instead of family, that’s okay, too. Do whatever makes you the most comfortable, especially during this difficult time for you.
You should always take care of yourself, even on Christmas, the season that tells us that we should be all about giving more than receiving. Self-care is still the most important thing; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.