It’s the most wonderful time of the year,
There’ll be much mistletoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near;
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
We have all heard this song a thousand times. For many, this really is the most wonderful time of year- full of fun, family, parties, presents, carols, and true holiday joy! But for some of us, the holidays can be overwhelming, even crippling. If you have depression and anxiety, like I do, this is a reality that can stop cheer in its tracks.
As a new mom, I felt such pressure to make it “the merriest Christmas of all!” But the truth was that I was a recent college graduate, and we were struggling financially. Add in postpartum psychosis, and I could not handle the overwhelming thoughts about gifts, get-togethers and baked goods that filled the days. Ultimately, I looked at my husband and said, “Something is really wrong. I need help.”
Thus began the battle to fight the illness that was robbing my joy and draining my tank.
Fast forward a few years and a couple more kids, those feelings that I had in our first Christmas as a family are what I deal with every day now. And that’s not something many moms are willing to admit. Well, I’m here to let the cat out of the bag! Or the present out of the package, if you will.
The holidays are hard enough without feeling the weight of illness, whether that’s physical or mental. However, the stigma that comes with depression and anxiety, clouds the perception of what it’s like to live with these things. There’s tremendous pressure! Pressure to perform. To be buy, create, and decorate all the things! Christmas can be one big commercial trap! Like somehow buying the best gifts mean you love someone more… Just. No. That’s not what the spirit of this season is about.
I have a tendency to shut down during the holidays. This has become a trend the last several years. My introvert is strong, and my anxiety about keeping up with the parties, the plans, and the paper trimmings kicks into overdrive. This is where depression can sink it’s gnarly teeth into me and consume me with “You’re not going to be good enough anyway. Why even try?” I KNOW! HOW RUDE! YOU DON’T KNOW ME, DEPRESSION!
My natural inclination is toward community, hospitality, and giving gifts for the fun of it. But around the holidays, when all of these things become expected, doubt and worry creep in like the Grinch under Cindy Lou’s Christmas tree. They take root in my soul and stir up feelings of inadequacy, of guilt, and of fear that I’m somehow ruining the holidays for my family by struggling with depression and anxiety. That no one wants to be around me because I am sick. I’m not contagious- just miserable. And trying to hide these things that I carry comes at a cost that I truly cannot pay.
I don’t know about you, but I think we all need to give ourselves permission to do a few things this season! You can call them “Sanity Savers”, but I’m calling them my “Holly Jolly Mollie List”:
- Make time for yourself. Catch up with a friend if you’re feeling lonely, or go take a walk, sip coffee, or read a book in the bathtub. You do you! At some point every day, fill your cup. Please give yourself permission to do this thing. You can’t pour from an empty vessel. AMIRIGHT?
- Share your struggles. With someone. Someone you trust! This is a hard thing. For me, it meant letting go of my perception of “control” over these illnesses that I’m battling. But a healthy mommy is a happy mommy. Actually, I don’t know if that’s true but I sure hope so because that’s my focus right now! Seek help. Don’t give up.
- Laugh! Don’t be afraid to laugh. It’s apparently “the best medicine.” I think that’s true.
- Connect. This doesn’t mean rushing from one party to the next. It means finding your tribe and resting in them, whoever it is. In a hectic season, this is a blessed experience.
- Believe. That’s the real spirit of this season!! Believe that there is another side of this. That there is healing, that there is wholeness. There is life apart from depression and anxiety. I believe that for you. And I believe it for me.
Take this list and check it twice! This is my gift to you this season. I hope you will receive it!
Happy Holidays, even if it doesn’t feel like the most wonderful time of the year.