This time of year, when everything is supposed to be “merry and bright,” can be an incredibly painful, lonely and depressing time of year for so many people. This has been, by far, the most difficult year I have faced and the holidays are making that even more noticeable. I seem to have succumb to holiday depression…and according to recent statistics, I am not in the minority. So, why is it that holiday depression or depression in general is so hard to fight? Especially for those in chronic pain?
Let’s start with these white Christmases (or almost Christmases). Weather can be a major trigger for pain flare-ups and I am sure I am not alone in the fact that the recent sub-freezing temperatures and snowstorms are making my bones and joints ache. The increased pain can easily lead to bouts of depression. Additionally, I usually suffer from seasonal affective disorder, whereby the lack of sunlight increases the likelihood for depression. It seems like a logical equation: Bad weather – sunlight, fresh air and natural Vitamin D + more pain = depression L.
The worst part about depression during the holidays is that this is the time of year where every commercial, ad and song makes you believe that you are supposed to be happy during this time of year. The truth, however, is that the holidays only highlights the loneliness and pain of the past year for many people, myself included. This year has brought a few good things, but in general, it has been the worst, most difficult year I have ever had to endure, including a separation and pending divorce, losing a loved one and, in general, having my entire life turned upside down. The fact that the atmosphere suggests that I should be happy when I am so sad only makes me feel like more of a failure.
This depression comes on the heels of many months of doing extraordinarily well in the face of a LOT of very, very bad circumstances, which only makes it that much more difficult to cope with, being that it snuck up on me. Depression is a scary bastard. I have been dealing with it, on and off, since I was a teenager. The best way I can describe it is it is like constantly battling a demon in your mind. Even when you logically have the perspective to say “yes, I feel sad, but I recognize this is just in my mind…” there is a “voice” (I do not mean an external voice, I mean a thought pattern, this is not to be confused with hearing voices), that says “but I am going to consume your entire life and I am not done yet.” So you go back to being sad. Then you start to feel a little better and once again the voice again says, “Sorry, I’m not done feeling sad.” And so you spend days, weeks, or even months fighting with yourself and trying to pull yourself out of the depression until finally the happiness can “beat” the sadness. It is as if you cannot win until the depression has run its course.
Depression is BIOLOGICAL. You can fight it. You can help it. You can cope. But it is biological and it does take time to resolve. It is important to remember that you and I are not alone in our holiday blues. Truthfully, as an actress (currently rehearsing for a play in January!) I can tell you all those people in the commercials and made-for-TV movies are FAKING it anyway, they are ACTING! Besides, they shot those movies over the summer when there was no holiday stress and the holiday loneliness hadn’t even dawned on them yet. It will pass, despite what that depression demon tells you, even though it seems bleak now.
Check back later this week for a two-part article entitled “Merry Melancholy” about this topic!
Hang in there and I wish you all a happy, pain-free Holiday!