So we’ve all read the top ten lists of how to survive the holidays. Even the PPSC came up with a list of how to find your holiday brave. It’s all over the Internet. Everyone has their own suggestions for what to do, what not to do, and how to do it.
Sometimes these common admonitions do help.
But sometimes they simply add more words and pressure to the list of things women already feel they cannot do.
To women who are severely depressed right now and finding it hard to get through the day, the holidays can truly feel oppressive. To those of you who are consumed by paralyzing guilt and the sense that who you are simply does not matter, this is for you:
You DO matter. It just doesn’t feel that way right now. When you get relief from your symptoms (Therapy? Meds? Time?) you will no longer think and feel this way.
Remember that what you are thinking and how you are feeling right now are SYMPTOMS, they are not who you are.
For some, the holidays can be a brilliant blessing surrounded by loved ones and an abundance of joyful exchanges. For others, it can feel like a contrived expedition into family secrets and phony relationships. For most of us, it is somewhere nice and cozy in between.
When you are sick with depressive symptoms, it’s hard to see anything for what it is. Hopelessness feels pervasive. Gratitude feels elusive. Joy feels unobtainable.
Sometimes, the best you can hope for is simply to get through the day.
Here’s your list:
- Wash your face. Brush your teeth. Brush your hair. Put some blush on your cheeks.
- Take a walk. Bring music to distract your brain. Breathe deeply. Stand up straight. Move your body to the rhythm of the music.
- Your mantra for the day is: I’m doing the best I can. I’m doing the best I can. It’s okay.
- Ask for help. Let your partner know how you are doing. Let your partner know what you need.
- If you do not feel up to the festivities and are unable to push yourself through the motions, then give yourself permission to assess whether you need to participate or not. Discuss this with your partner. If it’s an overwhelming gathering of 100 family members at a restaurant an hour away, perhaps you can find an excuse to leave early or not attend at all. If, on the other hand, it is a small get together with close family members or friends, it might feel better than you think to push yourself to be there and soak up positive energy around you. It might be helpful to let one or two people with whom you are close, know how you are feeling so you don’t isolate yourself further.
- Reduce ALL expectations. Give yourself an excuse to do less and let that be okay. You will make up for it next year when you feel stronger.
- How you feel right now is temporary. If you are getting treatment, you need to give it time and remind yourself that although the timing of this might suck right now, you are under no obligation to contribute to the holiday events beyond that which you feel capable of doing.
- Do not feel guilty about what you are able or not able to do right now.
- Take care of yourself by resting, eating well, avoiding things and people that make you feel bad.
- Indulge in self-compassion.