What to Do If You're Struggling With Depression This Holiday Season

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Festive music fills the air, swelling through the streets. Window shoppers sporting warm coats and flushed cheeks hustle from store to store in fervent pursuit of the perfect gift. The aromas of pine, peppermint and cinnamon waft through impeccably decorated homes as families and friends reconnect, sharing warm embraces. The world is alight in dazzling color.

But you may find yourself only able to see darkness.

The chill of the winter months may numb you, penetrating through your soul as you stay nestled in bed. You may find yourself desperately wishing that the warmth of the blankets will help you feel something. But you may remain frozen, virtually immune to the light surrounding you. As you may find yourself trapped in self-imposed isolation, your deepest wish could be to feel well again — to reconnect with loved ones, to experience the joy and hope of the holiday season.

But your mind may convince you that you must remain locked away in bed, away from the festivities, away from the light. You may find your appetite waning, even as your family plies you with tempting treats. You may feel as though your heart is broken, gently pining to experience the spirit of the holidays, but slowly giving up. All you may want is to escape the world, the world that may seem so barren, so frozen. It may seem you can only escape in your dreams, so you might sleep the days away, wondering if you will ever experience the dreamlike feeling of warmth in reality.

You may. But if you cannot feel the warmth, if you cannot see the light, then allow the warmth, the light and the joy to come to you. Work to slowly break the chains of your self-isolation. Work to become receptive to letting love, self-care and hope back into your life.

Let love in. As you find yourself sinking further into isolation, let your loved ones lift you out. You may see them as invasive. You may be reluctant to let them see you struggling. You may feel like the walls you’ve built to protect yourself are too high for them to dismantle. But your loved ones may help make the pieces of you that now feel irreparably broken feel whole again. Even as you grapple with the darkness within, let them see you. Let them support you. Let them love you. Slowly letting your loved ones back into your life may begin to help you find the light in the midst of the darkness.

Care for yourself. As you feel your lust for life slipping, work to regain your footing by engaging in self-care. As your depression creeps into your mind, convincing you that you are unworthy of your own attention, self-care may seem frivolous to you. It may feel uncomfortable to focus on your needs first. It may feel undeserved. But devoting time to yourself may bring back glimmers of light, the sparks of joy you’ve been craving. Try to let yourself eat again, savoring each bite you take. Try to let yourself shower again, feeling the warm water cascade over your skin. Try to let yourself leave the house again, enjoying the sensation of the wind against your skin.

Hold onto hope. As you see the darkness closing in, know that the bleakest darkness is often followed by the brightest light. It may be difficult to seek out hope in the midst of the numbness you feel, but capture the sparks of hope you discover along the way and never let them escape. Maybe the next holiday season won’t be like this. Maybe the painful numbness you feel will be replaced by glowing warmth. Maybe next year, you will find yourself closer to the feeling of wholeness you crave. Let hope fuel your desire to stay, for this holiday season and every holiday season.

The most powerful way to quell the darkness and rediscover the light this holiday season is to stay. Stay present. Stay awake. Stay alive. Even as you may feel the pressure of the world bearing down on you, making your life seem unbearable, consciously choose to stay. Stay for yourself, in the hope that someday, you may see the light again.

Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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