What the Holidays Mean for Someone With Anxiety and Depression

The holiday season is most commonly known as the best time of the year, but for many living with mental illness, getting through the intense shopping craze and extended family dinners is not that easy. From paranoia to personal ticks, the holidays can mean something different to those combating anxiety or depression.

It means a lot of weather watching. Tornado expected six states over? Eh, better not risk it. Blizzard in Greenland? Best stay home today. A single gray cloud in the sky? Sorry Grandma, just save the presents for my birthday. Gust of wind? Looks like Santa can’t make it this year.

It means a lot of staying at home and binging holiday movies while everyone else is socializing. There’s a large amount of people on the roads right now, shopping, frolicking, socializing, that’s a lot of noise and a lot of bodies. However, just because you don’t want to be out in the snow, doesn’t mean you don’t want to get in the holiday spirit! A 24-hour “A Christmas Story” marathon should do the trick.

It means really long bathroom breaks. The only place where you can escape from the loud noises and overflow of family members who love to hug. Also, this is an opportune time to stop by the fridge and chug a couple glasses of water because you’re feeling nauseous.

It means a lot of playing on your phone. Even if there’s no service in the middle of a cornfield at grandma’s house, you’ll find something to do. It’s been awhile since you played Angry Birds. Who knows? Maybe you’ll go pro.

It means a lot of panicking about the future. Every grandpa, grandma, uncle, aunt and weird family member you don’t know how you’re related to will ask what your plans are for the future. Unfortunately, it would be inappropriate to say, “A professional Angry Birder,” so you have to come up with an excuse that’ll make you seem smarter than the rest of your cousins. This lie will haunt you into the next century.

It means a lot of breathing exercises. Breathe in 1-2-3, and out 1-2-3, every time Grandpa uses a racial slur. In one nostril, out the other, each time you flinch at the clattering of forks against plates. Loud noises are the worst.

It means a lot of hand wringing, leg bouncing, foot tapping, and all together, fiddling. Fingers, feet, the hem of your sweater, your split ends, anything that can offer a distraction will suffice.

It means a lot of self-loathing. Why can’t I just go outside? Why can’t I hang out with friends? Why can’t I go shopping on Black Friday or stay out until midnight on New Year’s Eve? What if I don’t have any resolutions?

Instead, you are holed up, staring at the glow-in-the-dark stars on your ceiling because that is what’s most conducive to your mental health. At the end of the day, you’re going to be around a lot longer than a pair of trendy boots or fuzzy socks. You’re here for the long run, and next year, you get to go through it all over again. So you should probably start preparing now before the crowd hits.

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