For those of us who suffer from depression, that mostly invisible mental illness that, at its worst, can render us incapable of getting out of bed and, at its best, can leave us feeling somewhat indifferent, I’d like to share my thoughts.
Yep. Just in time for the freaking holidays.
Until I got onto the appropriate combination of medications, Thanksgiving would roll around and my box of emotional expectations began to overflow with what I thought my life should be, and how I wanted my relatives to behave.
On the day after, I’d wake up to the town bedecked with Christmas decorations, holiday music seeping out of every speaker in the world, and the television commercials showing people at their happiest and most fulfilled… it went downhill from there.
By the time the third week in December arrived, I’d feel like the ultimate failure. I didn’t have kids, my parents were divorced and bitterly dysfunctional, my siblings also had their own lives, and I didn’t have enough money to buy presents that would be acceptable to the recipients.
On Christmas Day, I’d barely be able to get out of bed, I’d spend the entire day trying not to cry.
I’d like to say “fast-forward” to the present, but the truth is those years were long, and the struggle to gain a footing in the world was really, really hard, but I managed (with the help of a very good psychiatrist) to find the right combination of anti-depressants to finally climb out of the pit.
In fact, the difference after two weeks was so startling, I called my doctor to ask:
“This is how I’m supposed to feel, isn’t it? This is how people who aren’t depressed feel?”
He assured me I was on the right track.
That was 10 years ago, and it’s not always easy, but I’ve been able to forge a life out of the pieces I thought were lost forever.
So, here is what I want to say to those who are still in the throes of depression in the middle of the holidays:
- Holiday TV commercials do not depict real life. The college kid sneaking into the kitchen in the dead of night to put on a pot of coffee was a paid actor, and once the director yelled “CUT,” the set was taken down and none of the actors ever saw each other again.
- “I’ll be Home for Christmas” and “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” were not written to make you cry in the shower. Turn. The. Music. Off. Or, listen to some badass classic rock for a change.
- Not everybody has a perfect family. In fact, there is NO perfect family. If there was, I would have jumped into the TV and lived with the Cleavers years ago. This year, your mission is to embrace those who are loving, and avoid those who are toxic.
- Don’t expect your mood to suddenly lift because a million crazy people are going to huddle in Times Square to watch the stupid ball drop. I lived there and I know… Those people are crazy, not us.
- It is perfectly okay to be still. If you are roped into going to a party and you feel overwhelmed, it’s okay to a.) leave, or b.) find an empty bedroom and take a nap.
Finally, and this is important, no matter how depressed you may feel, the holidays will pass, treatments for depression are getting better all the time, and you are loved by more people than you can ever imagine.
But, in the event it all becomes too much, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and talk to one of the counselors.
Remember, you’re part of my tribe, and I honestly care.