Mental Health is Hardest During the Holidays for Some
I have the kind of depression and anxiety that doesn't allow me to stay in bed and sleep when I feel like the world is caving in around me. My anxiety says that if I do that then my kids suffer and my marriage suffers and I don't want people to talk about how lazy I am so I get up and do what needs to be done, going through the motions every day. Do I find joy in things? Of course. Am I sad all the time? Not at all.
I am reminded that I am blessed in a lot of ways and I have nothing to be depressed about but that's not how depression works. I have a fantastic life and I'm lucky that my husband loves me no matter what. My kids are amazing humans that I completely adore. I have a beautiful home and cars that are almost brand new. We have a successful business and wonderful clients. But sometimes, my depression makes me feel disconnected from everything around me. Almost like I'm watching my life unfold as if it were a movie. Displaced. Disjointed.
Depression doesn't care that it's Christmas. It doesn't care that my entire family is coming tomorrow. It doesn't care that this is what I've been missing the last 11 years we've been gone from here. But that's where my anxiety kicks in. That's what makes me get up and clean the house even though we cleaned two days ago. It's what makes me make extra food and what makes me care too much about what everyone else thinks. Sometimes I think I'm a ping pong ball, bouncing from not giving two shits what anyone else thinks to caring way too much what people think about me. Am I dressed good enough, is my hair just right, are my kids well behaved, is my daughter smart enough, am I driving the right car, living in the right neighborhood, sending my kids to the right schools? So many things to agonize over.
And that's how anxiety works.
So many worries, and then the depression kicks in and maybe I don't care at all anymore, I'll just stay in bed, but wait I can't because the neighbors might talk.
The highs and lows are usually manageable without medication for me (most of those pills give me terrible side effects) but the last 6 months have been such upheaval and loss that it's triggering the waves of depression and anxiety that I find so intolerable. I can usually get through it all with diet and exercise but I haven't been doing well in those regards either because I've been too busy taking care of everyone else. Mom-style.
I am trying to give myself Grace and understand that I'll get back on track shortly. But the negatives in my head are so heavy to carry.
What may look like anger and frustration to some is really my anxiety rearing its head to remind me that things aren't going as I planned. This can go for any situation. If I feel like it's out of control, I get irritated and then feel very angry, especially at myself for not being able to control it. Sometimes I feel like Dr. Banner and the Hulk.
I guess it all started with planning weekends with my dad who then never appeared to have these wonderful ideas I had come to life. Waiting around for a man who is supposed to love you but never has time for you will do ugly things to a kid's mind and psyche.
And so oftentimes I turn to food for relief from the thoughts. But then, that packs on the pounds which just leads to negative self-image and even though I tell my friends they are gorgeous no matter what size their jeans are, a part of me thinks I'm unworthy if I'm bigger than a size 8. The number means I've overindulged and my anxiety doesn't allow that. That part about everyone talking bad about me, saying I've let myself go. Self-hatred and loathing are what's up when I overindulge in anything.
The one piece of advice I would give people who love someone with depression and anxiety is not to trivialize their feelings. Don't tell them that other people have it worse than they do, don't remind them how good they have it. That's already weighing on their minds as they work through their feelings without you pointing it out. I promise you, they already feel bad about feeling bad.
For those suffering through depression and anxiety, know that you aren't alone. It's a tiny thing, but it's enormous in truth. Knowing that there are others is huge and scary and sad, too. If you or someone you love is trying to get through the holidays with their anxiety and depression, please give yourself/them grace during this time.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (available 24/7).