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The Grief and Guilt a Person With Depression Feels During the Holidays

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The holidays are approaching. Don’t let my picture fool you. I really am thinking: “Another holiday season of depression. Can I put my head in the sand like an ostrich? Le sigh.”

Two of the most disheartening aspects about my mental illnesses are grief and guilt. I’m unsure if they go hand in hand, but they are definitely related to each other. If I am not experiencing grief, I am enduring guilt. Right now, I am attempting to manage both. It’s hard to concentrate when this is dangling within your heart and soul. Grief and guilt seem to be a bit more intense during the holiday season.

As I’ve come to accept my challenges, I’ve lost relationships along the way. This has contributed to grief. When someone abandons you because you’re having a moment (flashback, very overwhelmed, high anxiety, major depression), exactly how do you maintain your resilience? Am I that terrible? Annoying? Draining? What happened to empathy, unconditional regard and love? Anytime I experience grief, I move through the cycle – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, obsession – but I never make it to the final stage of acceptance, which causes guilt.

I feel guilty about what I am going through on a daily basis. I feel guilty because I am blessed in so many ways but feel awful. This has led to the adoption of self-hate. I hate myself because I apologize, try to repair relationships, fight for myself, others and those I’ve lost along the way, forgive and forget, and consequently, I do not get credit. It’s like 85 percent of me is good but people only focus on my 15 percent of not-so-good. And some who proclaim to accept me start to compare and contrast me to others with mental illness. Everyone’s mental illness journey is not the same. There may have been childhood experiences, traumas, and lifestyle choices which contributed to their formal diagnosis of a mental disorder.

As I deal with grief and guilt, I am dreading the holidays. I have to put on my poker face, hide my feelings, and smile like nothing is wrong. I guess that’s part of mental illness. You just have to grin and bear it or fake it ’til you make it. But as I smile, I have a message to those who love or care about someone with a mental illness: It is not fun. It is not a pity party. It is not on purpose. It is not what you may think or believe. We do not want to be miserable, unhappy, ungrateful, tearful, fearful, skeptical, paranoid, impulsive, manic, hopeless, nor withdrawn. So before you decide to abandon someone, think about how that may exacerbate their circumstances, especially during a time when having friends and family are most important.

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Originally published: December 6, 2016
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