mental health · mental illness · Uncategorized

Mental Health & the Holidays

I hate this time of year. Call me a scrooge if you wish but I have my reasons. Not everyone had great Christmas times with family growing up. Essentially, this time of year does not conjure up lovely thoughts of quality time with family, laughing and loving for me.

There’s so much pressure over this holiday period to be in the festive spirit and be happy. But the reality is – that pressure is too much for some people and is totally unnecessary. Why should it be that a time of year has to determine our mood? December rolls around and we are moaned at if our mood doesn’t pick up immediately. I wish the festivities made me happy but they don’t.

Mental illness does not stop when Christmas music starts playing. In fact, it sometimes makes things worse because I feel incredibly guilty for not being happy when everyone else is. The contrast between my emotions and others gets highlighted much more. I feel more unwell because because it seems like happiness is everywhere and I am hyper aware of the depression that is consuming me.

My relationships with people are something that I struggle with so having to spend time with family is always hard. A time of year does not mean that my difficulties with people just vanish. I feel as though I am expected to be around people and forget about whatever struggles we have had over the years and I just cannot do that.

My memories of Christmas are mostly miserable. As a teenager, most Christmas days were spent alone in my bedroom avoiding food and hearing my parents shout at each other. Of course I can make new happier memories but I should not feel obliged to because it’s cold outside.

If you know anyone who struggles with their mental health then please remember that this doesn’t change over the holidays. It might even be harder for them. Never say something like ‘come on, it’s nearly Christmas, you should be happy at this time of year!’ It is never okay to tell somebody how they ‘should’ be feeling. The Samaritans are currently running their ‘Real Christmas’ campaign aimed at recognising that the holiday period can be tough for some people and that is okay. It’s okay not to be okay! If you are experiencing emotional distress then the Samaritans are always there to listen without judgement.

If you’ve been considering painting a smile on to fit into what is expected of you – think twice. You don’t need to pretend to be full of joy, it will only make things harder to manage. Let yourself feel whatever emotions are there and do not feel guilty for your reality.

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