The Mighty Logo

The Days Before Christmas Are Always the Toughest When It Comes to My Depression

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

For some reason, I’ve always found the days leading up to a holiday, or an anniversary, the toughest – rather than the holiday or anniversary itself.

I lost my mom 12 years ago, and my grandma and grandpa almost 20 years ago. Their losses were initial triggers of what has become a long battle of depression for me. Much later in life I found out I had a hereditary disposition to depression and anxiety.

Like many of you who have lost loved ones, I’ve found birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries can be tough. Those significant dates often bring back memories that perhaps we hadn’t thought of in a while – old memories that feel new again, perhaps raw.

I find those memories come in waves. For me those waves start well before the actual date. The waves are highest before the actual date but strangely diminish on the date sometimes. The actual date itself can be anti-climactic for me in a way. Perhaps I just get numb.

As we approach the Christmas holiday, I find myself thinking about things I enjoyed with my mom or grandma and grandpa. Certain things like driving past Christmas tree lots trigger memories. Or certain songs on the car radio. (“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid for some reason is a big trigger.) Even though I’m in the driver seat of my car, gripping the wheel, I feel like a 10-year-old again, who half wonders or expects to see presents underneath the tree from my mom. Or I drift off in my mind to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house to help decorate their tree. I can practically taste Grandma’s homemade hot cocoa.

I find myself daydreaming a lot in the days leading up to Christmas. As I watch my four kids with my in-laws, I think about how much my mom is missing. I like to think my mom is watching from Heaven, but somehow it’s not the same as her actually playing with and watching her four grandkids. I know they would love her, and I know she loves them. I try to keep telling myself that’s enough.

Over the years, I’ve been caught up in these waves. The waves have taken me down at times. I’ve desperately needed arm floaties at times.

I think the waves on the days leading up to the holidays have caught me off guard and continue to catch me off guard. Christmas can be a tough holiday, but I’ve noticed my birthday may be one of the toughest. I’ve found it’s really hard to have a birthday without your mom around.

I think a “takeaway” for me (I love buzzwords), is that I have a hard time communicating my feelings when I’m caught off guard. I think I’ve had a hard time communicating to others when I need that lifeline or those arm floaties to keep afloat during those waves on those days.

I think, when you have depression, you desperately want to reach out for help. But sometimes you don’t know how to ask for help. Especially when you’re caught off guard. I don’t know if anyone expects to get caught off guard driving past the Christmas tree lot two weeks before Christmas. You may be preparing yourself internally for the day of Christmas, but you’re not prepared for those moments in between.

I also know that, as a male, it’s at times really hard to communicate when you need help with things like birthdays and anniversaries, especially when they are your own. Because your own birthdays and anniversaries can be triggers too — you definitely miss loved ones leading up to those dates too. I, and I’m sure others, struggle to learn how to reach out to get help through those waves of emotions.

I think perhaps a first, small step, especially as men, is to be open and honest to initiate communication with your partner and therapist. Do not assume they know what is wrong. Remember that only you know what you have experienced/what you are experiencing. Reach out to them for help to get through those waves.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Everste

Originally published: December 22, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home