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To Those Who Find Themselves Hurting This Holiday Season

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“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents, and sending Christmas cards, and decorating trees and all that. But I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.”

— Charlie Brown

To those who find themselves hurting amongst a sea of smiles this holiday season: you are not alone.

To those who are reminded of loved ones missing, families broken, happier pasts than presents: you are not alone.

To those who hate memories because they only seem to make you sad, never happy: you are not alone.

To those who look at everyone in the holiday spirit, smiling with cheer, and can’t feel that way: you are not alone. To those who feel even worse because you can’t feel that way: you are not alone.

To those who desperately want to enjoy time with family and friends but at the same time want nothing more than to be alone, the thought of groups and celebrations and interactions terrifying you: you are not alone.

To those who want to leave, who feel like they’re hurting the ones around them this holiday season, like people’s lives would be easier without them: you, you are not alone.

To you: know that your pain is real but that you are not alone in your aches. That others share these pains and that others want to help you in yours. Know it’s OK to be sad, even on Christmas. The fact that your depression doesn’t care about what day shows on the calendar is not a moral failure. That your anxiety doesn’t stop for perfect family moments or your eating disorder doesn’t care about Christmas dinner or your nerves don’t stop for gathering around the tree — these things are not reflections of your failure. You are alive and breathing, and that is worth celebrating in itself. It is OK not to smile as much as the families in the commercials, to have less cheer than the movies, to be in more pain than the storybooks.

If you are surrounded by people these next few weeks but are still hurting: please talk. Talk to the people around you and invite them into your pain, to walk with you. Let them help you carry the things you’re carrying. Let them love you.

If you’re alone these next few weeks: know that you aren’t, not really. Even if you aren’t physically surrounded by as many people as you want, you aren’t alone. You are valued and loved, even when you don’t feel it. Hang on to that truth: you are always valued, you are always loved. If you’re not hurting and not alone the next few weeks: don’t assume everyone is sharing your joy. Don’t assume it’s the hap-happiest time of the year. Invite people in you normally wouldn’t. Ask more genuine questions, have more honest conversations. Value the people around you enough to ask about the ways they’re hurting. Listen well, love well.

And regardless of your situation: lean in. To relationships, to other people. Link arms and hearts with those around you and recognize that we’re all in this together. We’re all living, breathing, sometimes gasping for air. Some of us are doing well today, some of us aren’t. Remember: life is both heavy and light, and we need both. Remembering the heavy days during the light ones gives us compassion; remembering the light days during the heavy ones gives us hope.

Let’s remind each other of both.
Let’s grow more compassionate together.
Let’s hope together.
Let’s live together.

Have a hopeful Christmas.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Thinkstock photo by rober tiez

Originally published: December 21, 2016
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