It may seem odd to include a post on feeling blue or depression in a series focused on joy, but the two are inextricably linked for me; especially during the holidays.
I started writing this series simply knowing that my typical “blue” season after Christmas will surely come. It comes every year, sort of the bookend to the joy and delight I take in the holiday season as a whole.
What I didn’t expect was to be hit with a wave of despair, hopelessness, panic, and extreme anxiety going into the holiday season. I expected the normal uplift. What I got was life punching me in the face.
So this post will go a little differently than I originally thought it would.
I honestly didn’t know how to celebrate this holiday season. I didn’t have enough hope to be able to celebrate. Isn’t celebration so much bound up with hope? It’s acknowledging and honoring what has past or what is now, but always, it seems, in anticipation of what that means for the future. And frankly, my immediate future looks bleak and hopeless indeed. Celebrating just didn’t feel possible or worth the effort.
This is not just the blues, this is depression and panic. And I am getting therapy to help me work through it. I am also working to change some of the oppressive circumstances that have destroyed my quality of life and frayed every last one of my (very sensitive) nerves.
But where does that leave Christmas? Especially when I don’t really celebrate in the same way I used to. Yes, the story of Jesus is lovely. But I don’t believe in the literal accuracy of the Bible, so that complicates my relationship to that story. It complicates the celebration a bit.
That leaves me wondering: is it worth pretending? For the sake of my mental health and peace? Could I not just suspend disbelief about the story for a bit, but can I… pretend to hope? Can I “trick” my brain into feeling or believing hope, even just for a day as a point of relief and a way to celebrate what I do believe is real joy in the holiday?
This holiday season, I celebrated not by making cookies (though I did some of that), not by opening presents (though we did that), not by attending a Christmas service (though I did that), but by taking care of myself. I slept. I rested my brain. I took long baths and ate good, healthy, sometimes-indulgent food. I savored glasses of wine (mulled and sparkling). I gave myself a break from making Christmas special for anyone and just made it survivable for me.
I am so, so glad I did. I’m so, so glad I did the bulk of my Christmas shopping in September and October so I could focus on me and my mental and physical health for the two months where it was absolutely necessary. I am not entering the new year with much hope, but I feel a little bit stronger and ready to give to others again, in more than just gifts.