Here is the perfect cocktail for depression: Stress; financial insecurity; family gatherings; that Feliz Navidad song playing endlessly in your head – and alcohol.
Welcome to the holidays. if you have depression you know you are just a few digs-from-the-in-laws away from losing it. Smothered by the goodwill and cheer we are supposed to feel, we sink. We drink. I used to take the edge off with spiked eggnog and champagne. I thought it would help me get that holiday spirit. It seemed to work for a few minutes. Then I plunged ever deeper and drank even more thinking it might make me feel better again.
I emerged from the New Year’s holiday emotionally and physically hung-over. I beat up myself for the imminent bills and the 5 pounds I had gained. By February I was a wreck. Valentine’s Day brought me to tears.
Then I learned that I had been fertilizing my depression with alcohol. I did not know that alcohol is a depressant. Yes, alcohol does blunt the effects of stress hormones, but only for a while.
Then, it lowers serotonin and norepinephrine levels. Serotonin and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters that act as messengers, transmitting nerve impulse in the brain. Imbalances can lead to depression.
Sure there are antidepressants that can restore the balance of these neurotransmitters. But if you are taking an antidepressant and you continue drinking, your antidepressant cannot do its job. You become more depressed, you have wasted a bunch of money and you will begin that endless cycle of trying to self-medicate your depression with alcohol.
Before you head out to the next holiday party, read the label on your an antidepressant bottle. If it says “Do not drink alcohol,” then don’t. Remember, your in-laws will soon leave. You can lose that 5 pounds. However, if you slip into depression and can’t work, those bills will not get paid.
Besides, there are a lot of benefits to not drinking over the holidays. You’ll feel better. You’ll sleep better. You’ll have the patience to assemble complex toys. And, you”ll have a trove of memorable embarrassing moments about an annoying relative to share at future family gatherings.
Excerpt from my book, Hoping for a Happy Ending: A journalist’s story of depression, bipolar and alcoholism.
Holiday cocktails available from Shutterstock