Depression During the Holidays
I haven’t written much in the last couple of weeks. This season with its “holiday cheer” and dark, fog-filled weather, has had me in one of the worst depressions I’ve experienced in over a year. And although my house has been the family hub for celebrations from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day, I’ve been struggling to keep my nose above the water.
Oh, I’ve played the “I’m fine” card, but my kids know the real me – angry, sad, short-tempered and highly anxious. It’s been a hard thing to get through, even with my online support group – Group Beyond Blue on Facebook.
But now that the cooking and baking is done, the wrappings cleaned up, and the house quiet for a few days at least, I am left to pick up the pieces of myself that I’ve left strewn all over the place.
I feel like I’m starting over once yet again. Picking up the pieces of relationships I’ve broken and damaged and learning to forgive myself again and again for something that is out of my control: my unstable mood.
Here are the steps I’m going to take to come out of this state of winter depression, even though winter is still in full force here in my hometown.
- Forgive myself. I need to acknowledge that I’m so very conflicted about my feelings and behavior for the last two or so months. I’ve behaved in ways that I’m ashamed of, but beating myself up never helps and only makes things worse in the long run. Acknowledging again and again that I have a mood dysregulation disorder in bipolar disorder, though hard to do, isn’t an excuse, but the reason for my erratic behavior at home.
- Reintegrate into my community. Whether it be heading back to church, taking my daughters out for lunch, meeting a friend for coffee, I need to add balance to my life and day but not isolating and dwelling on what’s past and what I can’t change or control.
- Get organized. Time to open mail from the last month, make some to do lists (which are not for everyone) and get back on budget. When depressed, I tend to eat and buy everything in sight. I must get myself back under control by organizing my activities and prioritizing tasks.
- Get fresh air and sunlight. I tend to be a hermit when feeling overwhelmed and depressed, as many of us do. I need to force myself to put the leash on the dog and get out for even a 20-minute walk. One of my goals for the New Year is to learn to run and I want to start by just walking the dog three times a week. If I can write a dissertation, surely I can walk the dog?
- Pray, meditate, and trust. My faith has always been a huge part of me getting through depressive episodes and this time of year reminds me that, no matter what happens, I can get through it.
Getting back on track with my supplements too, will help me raise my energy level, and forgoing on the added cookies and candy that still abounds around my house, will prevent blood sugar drops and surges. The most important thing on the list, though, is to forgive myself. I’m doing the best I can. A lot of people are relying on me: my parents who are now 80, my three daughters who still live at home, my sister who is alone and on disability, and the clamoring of needs from the many students on my advisee list this year.
Being bipolar is a humbling experience, one that keeps me connected in my faith tradition. I hope that you can find some peace now that the clamor of the holiday season is winding down. Make a plan for New Year’s Eve. Don’t get caught alone with nothing but the negative voices in your head to keep you company.
I wish you many blessings in the coming year.