by Meghan Turnbull
Note: This post originally appeared on Recovery by Meghan and has been cross-posted with permission.
Depression during the holidays is something that is all too real for me, and I have a strong feeling that I’m not alone.
There is a lot that goes into the holiday season, and it can result in a whole range of emotions. Sadness, anxiety, anger, frustration… in a time that is “supposed to be” joyous and festive, how come we can feel so low?
The answer to this question differs depending on the person. It may be that the holidays come attached to the expectation that things need to be perfect. This expectation not only puts extreme pressure on us, but if ever things fall even a little bit short, we may experience disappointment. Family troubles often surface during the holidays, and at a time when our “self-care” is usually at an all-time low, tension and/or disagreements can be even more difficult to deal with. Seasonal Affective Disorder may also be at play; the dark, winter months can often have a marked effect on our moods. Grief may be felt more strongly during the holiday season, and financial concerns may be at the forefront with all of the gift buying and giving. Additionally, a lot people use the end of the year to reflect on how their lives may feel inadequate; relative to others or to their own personal standards.
I’ve been trying to think about why I get a little bit sad this time of year. The truth is, I am not entirely sure. Quite honestly, I think part of it stems from the fact that I am still, a decade later, trying to recover from my eating disorder. All the celebrating makes me feel a little bit guilty because I am not where I want to be. I am not living the life I imagined for myself yet. Not to mention the guilt that comes with all of the food and the alcohol…
And I think part of it is because I am single. Don’t get me wrong, I love my alone time. But it would be nice to be in a relationship, especially during the holidays, so that I could have a man by my side to experience the dinners and parties and social get-togethers. I feel pretty independent and capable most of the time, but having someone to share things with definitely wouldn’t hurt.
Part of it may be due to the anxiety I feel with the lack of structure that goes along with the holiday break. I am someone who lives and breathes routine, so when that disappears, I struggle. Normally, I have my weekly routine pretty down pat. I meal prep, I set my alarm, and I schedule my time wisely at work. Although every day at work is a little bit different, my tasks remain relatively consistent, which helps ease the nerves. So, when I can wake up at whatever time I want and do whatever I please for several days in a row? No, that is not “heaven”. Rather, it becomes the breeding grounds for anxiety.
Not to mention the whole body image thing. Multiple get-togethers with multiple groups of people calls for a wide variety of outfits. Again, not fun! Shopping is usually a “hit or miss” for me. There’s always something that upsets me throughout the whole clothes-buying process. Whether it’s my thighs, or my chest, or my butt, or even my face… it can be a complicated mess. And, if trying on clothes wasn’t enough, we have to remember that there are pictures taken at all of these events, too. Does this pose make my legs look big? Is my hair okay? Are my cheeks too full and round? Smile for the camera! I’m not smiling inside, though.
It’s not all bad. There are many amazing and beautiful moments to experience during the holidays. My favourites definitely include spending time with family, opening gifts together on Christmas morning while we drink coffee in pyjamas. I remember last Christmas I was on a pass from the hospital, and on Christmas Eve, I fell asleep on my sister’s couch while my brother-in-law, my sister, and I were watching a Christmas movie. It was honestly bliss. Comfortable. Peaceful.
That being said, as you bustle through the malls, shopping bags in hand, remember that the holidays aren’t easy for most people. Many of us have our own internal battles that we are fighting throughout the month of December. And if you are someone who has a hard time during the holidays, for whatever reason, please know that you are not alone. It can be difficult to “fake a smile” and push through with the parties and the drinking and the food, and sometimes knowing that there are others experiencing the same thing can help, at least a little.
Well, my readers, we will get through this. Try to find your little moments of bliss amidst the hustle and bustle. Make sure you take time for yourself, too, and don’t spread yourself too thin. Appreciate the “magic” of the holidays while remembering that it doesn’t have to be perfect, either. Life isn’t perfect (but can still be “okay” most of the time).