Most likely you’ve heard about or seen articles regarding the high suicide rate around the holidays. The death of Titi Branch, cofounder of Miss Jessie’s Hair Products, highlighted for many the reality and reach of mental illness. I had to reflect on my own surroundings to make sure I was doing OK. Honestly, I really wish I had this article to read in November or even in October. It’s titled “Why We Get Depressed At The Holidays, And How To Deal” by the Huffington Post. I had quite a busy holidays season filling orders for my business. There was so much on my mind that if I had thought about the things the articles discusses it would have helped me quite a bit. I survived this season but it was difficult. I struggled with simply existing sometimes. However, I have 2 beautiful children and a church family that is extremely supportive. I had just enough going on just with those 2 things to distract me from my internal mess.
The article discusses some risk factors for onset of depression during the holiday season and how to avoid them. After reading the article, I compared it to my recent holiday experience……
Risk Factor #1 – Setting up unrealistic expectations
- We commit a form of self-harm when we try to mimic what Social Media, TV and magazines present as “The Holidays”. If we are already fighting to accept who we are we don’t have time create some other version of what we are not meant to live.
- This year I didn’t put up a tree for many reasons and I didn’t care. My kids received 1 or 2 presents each from me. So what if their cousins received multiple presents from their parents. I was still working on Christmas orders while my family gathered upstairs at my sisters for dinner. She called me when it was time to eat. The extended family socializing was not at the top of my list and I did NOT care if it bothered anyone. I liked the family Christmas time photos of all my Facebook friends and I’m truly happy they had a grand time. I didn’t post any photos. There was nothing to shout about. My children and I were happy. And THAT is all that mattered.
Risk Factor #2 – Trying to do too much
- My business really kicked into gear with the holiday season. It was such a blessing but it was filled with anxiety, and constant struggles with myself to hold on and not fall into a deep depression again.
- I hosted Thanksgiving and it was nice. My family does potluck so I didn’t have the stress of having to cook everything. I just needed to make sure my house was clean to my standards for visitors (yes, you know some of you do it too). It got everything just about where I needed it to be except for my bedroom. I ended up with putting my yarn bins in my room and my son’s 6 loads of pending laundry. (Did I mention I’ve been busy?) Overall, it was a nice time. No arguments, delicious food and fun with my family. For me, it was as close to perfection as I knew I was going to achieve.
- By the time Christmas came around I was chin deep in orders. There was no way I would have been able to host anything. Not that it came up though. My sister who lives upstairs hosted Christmas dinner. All I had to do was bake and crochet until my family arrived. Now THAT was perfection!
Risk Factor #3 – Comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides.
- Why do we do this to ourselves?! People only publicize what they want us to see. The not so sparkly happy-happy side is kept in the dark. Putting up the Christmas trees up right after Thanksgiving dinner, wrapping hundreds of dollars’ worth of presents for a 6-year-old, and a pristine dining table set at 4pm on December 25th in the same home is HIGHLY unlikely. Do yourself a favor and just do what you can do. Do what makes you happy.
- I am blessed I was able to avoid this risk factor. About 2 years back, I began a journey to accept who I am. I started ‘locing’ my hair not long after that epiphany. My happy, hot temper, silly, sad, melancholy, somber self is just fine. I stopped caring so much about what people thought about me, what I do or how I do it. It’s interesting that I realized I was falling into a deep depression around the same time.
Risk Factor #4 – Slacking off on self-care
- I knew this was going to happen. Did I care when it did? No. (Don’t judge me. LOL) Similar to how I’ve been feeling about what people think about me is how I thought about me. Depression can drain every bit of energy in your body and mind. I was happy to make it out of the bed each day. I’m blessed to have a job and my own business to focus on rather than my mess of a mental state. Taking a shower was NOT at the top of my “to do” list each day unless I was leaving the house or someone was coming over. Therefore, I limited my outside activities and had limited visitors. In my mind, at that time. It was just too exhausting to even thing about all that work. Yes, I said work. I’m also slightly OCD so I spend quite a bit of time scrubbing – LOL. I just wanted to crochet. I just wanted my son to behave. I just wanted to BE.
Risk Factor #5 – Experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
- I was born in the Fall, raised in New England and I cannot stand the cold and snow! The white blankets look gorgeous as they glisten on the trees when I gaze upon them through the window – from INSIDE my house. The cloudy days never seem to end in the Winter. I get excited at just a shimmer of sunlight. However, when I saw the sunshine through the windows occasionally this past November and December, I smiled but still didn’t make an effort to go outside. I just pulled up the window shades to let in some light. I hoped it would help me feel better but it didn’t. I can’t say that I have the symptoms of SAD but I definitely prefer the warmer weather. At least then I can still stay home but at least sit on my porch and work.
In the end, dealing with the holiday season can be difficult for many people. Check in on your friends and relatives, regardless if they have a mental illness or not. You can spare 60 seconds for a check-in. We can help ourselves ease the pain or even prevent it by being honest with ourselves. Skip putting on a show for anyone. Do what truly makes you, your spouse and your children happy. There are only 24 hours in a day and at least half of that is dedicated to your job and your commute. Do your best to be as productive as your body and mind will allow. Listen to your body – rest when you need it, relax when you can. Eat healthy and stay active to nourish and maintain your temple (this is where I need to take it up a notch). To make it short, Be You, Do You and Be Happy.
I wish you wellness and peace.