Merry Melancholy and the Holiday Blues- Part I
Maybe I am the Grinch. Maybe Scrooge had it right when he said “Bah-Humbug.” What is it about the most wonderful time of the year that makes it so depressing? My home is decorated beautifully. The smells of (fake) pine and hot apple cider (scented candles) permeate the house…on the outside everything looks merry and bright. But on the inside, I am battling a depression that is very unmerry. According to the National Institute of Health, the rates of depression and suicide skyrocket to 45% during the Christmas season. What a merry thought! So, why is it that the happy holidays make us so unhappy?
Let’s start with perfection. It seems there is an even greater demand to be perfect at Christmas. With every commercial depicting Norman Rockwell-type picturesque Christmas scenes, many of us feel the need to create the “perfect” holiday. I don’t even have to a holiday event and it still stresses and bums me out. As a child, I remember these amazing, festive, fun Christmas Eve parties with my whole family, not to mention a visit from Santa. From what I remember it was…perfect. As an adult I realize the perfect Christmases that I experienced were probably far from it. Because I was viewing Christmas through a child’s eyes, I didn’t see that my mom was probably sweating through her Santa hat while in the kitchen trying to put together our Italian feast, my brothers and I were likely having temper tantrums over toys we didn’t want to share, the tree decorating always caused a fight and half the time the darn thing ended up being tied to the window to keep it from falling. In effect, the notion of a perfect Christmas is something for children, as it’s a little less perfect as adults. Yet at this time of year we hold ourselves to an unrealistic standard of perfection and when we don’t meet that, it leads to depression.
There is also the expectation, nay the demand, to be happy and merry. After all, we say Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, right? When you are less than jolly during the merriest time of year, it can lead to feelings of guilt and further perpetuate depression. It’s the hap-happiest time of the year, so why am I not happy? Having to smile when your heart hurts is very difficult. I often feel like my unhappiness, if not well-hidden, is going to ruin everyone else’s time. I liken it to being in a dark cave where I can see the twinkling of Christmas lights at the end of the proverbial tunnel, but I can’t seem to walk toward it. It feels like the closer we get to the holidays, the further into the hole I go.
In addition to the emotional pain of depression, over the past several Christmases I have also been coping with physical pain. Do you know what a six-hour holiday party feels like when you are sitting on a tailbone with nerve damage? It’s holiday hell. I spend most of my parties shifting positions and taking pain medication, only to have to fight to stay awake after they make me want to crawl into bed. Add to that a fibro flare which has been brought about as a result of the added stress and depression, and aching joints and bones because of the cold, well, let’s just say I don’t know how ol’ Mrs. Claus can handle the North Pole.
The fact that it’s another year over also means I spend a lot of time looking back over the past year. What have I accomplished? What could I have done differently? What can I look forward to next year, what are my resolutions? Anyone who has been following my blog knows that ruminating on the year I have had is NOT going to make me feel a whole lot better. I have had the most difficult year of my life. Thinking about it and what next year may or may not bring doesn’t exactly put me in the Christmas spirit.
And how can I forget the commercialization of Christmas. I enjoy shopping, right up until the middle of November when it seems like the stores pump evil in through the heating vents. Everyone is hurried and harried trying to check off their lists. Children are having meltdowns in every aisle (probably sensing their parents stress) and it seems that every year the prices of gifts gets higher and higher. It’s no wonder it’s hard to be jolly when this time of year brings about additional financial stresses. I love giving gifts, but this year, sadly, I am unable to afford more than my Secret Santa and a few small toys for my nieces and nephews. That, in and of itself, makes me feel guilty. The spirit of Christmas is not giving and getting gifts, but when you can’t afford them and you know you aren’t really getting much, it is another cold reminder that Christmas is not like it was when you were a kid. No, Christmas as an adult carried responsibilities and a bigger price tag and if you can’t afford that, well, then the price is guilt!
I know I sound like the biggest Grinch in the world, but heck, even the Grinch’s heart grew. I do really enjoy Christmas, or better said I really want to enjoy the holidays. I haven’t given up hope on the Christmas spirit yet. Stay tuned to my next post for tips on how to combat holiday blues.
In the meantime, tell me, how are you feeling this holiday season?
Rydzy MSW, T. (2013). Merry Melancholy and the Holiday Blues- Part I. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 26, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/chronic-pain/2013/12/merry-melancholy-and-the-holiday-blues-part-i/