It’s ok not to be ok this Christmas

I get why people like Christmas. I really do.

People celebrate family, love, and togetherness. It’s supposedly the ‘happiest time of the year.’

But for many people, Christmas can be a difficult time. An emotional roller-coaster that takes off whether or not we want it to. The media inundates us with images of happiness, romance (under the mistletoe), perfect families, excess spending…and of course, there are the pervasive reminders of what was, and all that’s lost, never to be returned.

Not surprising, every December, the Samaritans takes close to 250,000 phone calls from distressed people struggling with the holiday period.

I’m not a grump at all. I feel happy seeing others happy and in such great cheer during the festivities. I get nostalgic too. But it is possible to simultaneously experience both happiness and sadness.

My feelings towards Christmas had always been bitter-sweet. As a 5 year old, I distinctly remember pronounced feelings of sadness and loneliness intermixed with moments of joy shared with those I love. Those feelings never left me but other experiences have exacerbated the difficulty of the holiday. By the time the winter air gets nippy and the lights go up at Oxford Circus, I am waging an internal war against very unwelcome feelings. I don’t suppose I entirely understand why. But there isn’t always an answer when it comes to depression, or anything else for that matter.

How to cope

My response has always been to keep going as best as I can – ride the waves – until the tumult subsides. This has mostly worked, I’m happy to say. But I know I am not alone in this and I wanted to say that while you enjoy the festivities, please remember all those out there, for whom, the season is trying. Many of our friends are not as open about the feelings the holiday might bring. Some have lost, are alone, under pressure or experience spikes in depression. If you yourself struggle yourself , you might find this post I wrote for Depression Alliance helpful.

I know this post comes late, but this year, I especially want to encourage you in one particular thing to help you cope during the holidays and beyond.

Service to others.

Albert Einstein once said “Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.”

I discovered the full extent of this quite late in my twenties. At the time I’d been engulfed by depression and found a surprising anchor in volunteering and supporting others who also struggled with depression. It really does work. To turn the focus away from one’s own pain, to the alleviating the suffering of others, in whatever little way one can, brings immeasurable fulfillment. It can be anything really, from offering a listening ear or company to a lonely person or showing someone kindness in any way that you can.

On Christmas Day, I will spend the time trying to help at a shelter for homeless people. I still hope that one day Christmas will not feel this way. Until then, perhaps helping others to have a better one will help me too.

Whatever you do, have a joyous one. If you’re not feeling it, that’s ok too. You can reach out for support from various places including the Samaritans if you need it.

Gentle hugs and love 🙂 x

Cover image by Stephen Brace

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