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What to Remember If Depression or Anxiety Makes the Holiday Season Hard

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Not everyone is able to feel the joy of the holidays.

When you struggle with depression and/or anxiety, the holidays can make trying to deal with the pain that much harder. You watch your friends and loved ones celebrating, and all you might feel is shame. You might find yourself hating your “weakness.” “There’s so much pain in the world,” you might think. “People who have it so much worse than I do. What’s wrong with me that I can’t be happy? Why am I so weak?”

That same doubt runs through your mind when the people who love you reach out and try to help. “You’re so loved,” they tell you. “You mean the world to us. We just want to help.” Unfortunately, you can’t bring yourself to believe you’re worthy of their love. 

At some point, something happened that made you question every good thing in your life. Maybe you made a mistake you considered so terrible that there was no way you could ever atone for it. Maybe it was the chemistry in your body coming out of balance. Maybe you tried so hard to be everything to everybody that you got overwhelmed to the point where even rolling out of bed took more than you had left to give.

Whatever it may have been, at the end of the day you maybe believe it must be because you were lacking in some way, and there’s no way someone could genuinely care for someone so screwed up. You find yourself constricting inwards because it’s better to struggle alone than to inflict your misery on others.

To those people, I want to say one thing: you are not lacking, and you are not weak.

When your pain becomes so all-consuming, it’s difficult to step outside of the world the depression is coloring for you and see the actual truth about yourself and others. First would be that even the most seemingly perfect people in your life aren’t really perfect. There’s not a human being who has ever walked this earth who didn’t “fail” at some point, who didn’t feel like they had let someone down. I only point this out because I know you feel like you’re the only one who ever has. That’s not the truth. That’s the depression clouding your vision. Those people you don’t feel worthy of? They see the real you, the one who was there for them and brought joy into their lives when they needed it. They don’t view you as damaged. They see you as what you are: someone who is hurting, like they’ve hurt at some point.

The key is to understand that pain is not some punishment, nor is it weakness. Pain is simply your body or your spirit telling you something’s wrong. You need help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it, and don’t be afraid to accept it. Most of all, give yourself permission to feel that pain and to own it. Nobody who really loves and understands you will ever judge you for being depressed. They’ll just do what they can to try to understand, and to help where they can.

If you’re the one who feels helpless as you watch someone you love in pain, your time can be the gift that brings them some peace this holiday. It starts with letting them know you’re there. It will take patience. They’ll more likely than not have to come to you. All you have to do is let them know you’re there, and your love and support are unconditional.

The holidays are a time for hope. To let go of what was and embrace what is and what might be. The thing to keep in mind is that hope is a flame. It needs tending so it doesn’t go out.

It can be a gift, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to keep it burning. All you need is a spark to get it started.

I hope this helps you find the spark you need. May your holidays be a time of renewed hope.

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Getty Images photo via g-stockstudio

Originally published: December 22, 2017
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