What it's like to have depression at Christmas
"The most difficult thing I found was trying to express how I felt without being called 'bah humbug'." Honor shares the difficulties of having depression at Christmas, and what you can do to cope.
As the festive season approaches, there’s an expectation to be surrounded by your friends and family, enjoying the holidays and appreciating what you have. Through other people’s eyes that’s a wonderful thing. To them, that’s what Christmas is all about. However for me, living through this time of year with depression can be an extremely difficult thing to cope with.
When everyone is singing Christmas songs to their heart’s delight, Christmas decorations flashing at you from left, right and centre and people constantly asking you if you are excited for the festive season, it can all very quickly become overwhelming for somebody struggling with depression.
In my experience, having depression at Christmas time was something I hated, as it mixed with the looming anxiety of having to pretend to feel the Christmas spirit when really, I never felt anything at all. As Christmas approaches each year, it’s like everyone forgets their problems and they feed off the ‘Christmas spirit’ that I was never able to grasp. It made me feel alienated and all I wanted was to be able to reach out of the black hole I was in and switch on my own Christmas fairy lights.
As a child, Christmas was the best time of year and I so desperately looked forward to the holidays. As I grew older however, it’s something I wanted to escape because I could never feel anything. Emptiness swirled around my mind and I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have this childlike excitement that other people seem to feel. The most difficult thing I found, was trying to express how I felt without being called ‘bah humbug’ and for people to take me seriously. My close family knew about my diagnosis of depression but having to be around wider family while trying to maintain control of my feelings was very challenging.
I may not always feel like this around Christmas but when I do, there are lots of things that have helped me when I do. Something that I do which may help you, is telling people around you how you feel so that you don’t have the pressure of trying to please everybody. Trying to make everyone happy is near enough impossible, so having people around you who know about your mental health can also lead them to being more understanding of when you need to be alone. It’s not a nice thing to have to talk about with your family, but even if one trusted family member knows, it can take a huge amount of pressure off.
Having counselling or therapy before or during Christmas can help put the things you may be overthinking about into perspective. Your counsellor or therapist can help guide you through the season with ways that are suited to you.
Though Christmas is tough, there are lots of things to help you cope with handling the season a little easier. Once you find something that suits you, Christmas will become more of a pleasant experience and you will be able to feel the Christmas spirt once again! It will take time but it’s never impossible.
More help and information on depression
If you think you might be struggling with depression, have a look at our guide for more information and advice on what you can do to get help.