Depression is a sad reality to many during the holidays. Dealing with disability in ourselves or a loved one can intensify it. Some are grieving the loss of a loved one. Money struggles, strained family relationships, and social pressures can make the holidays difficult for anyone.
Depression has been an unwelcome presence in my life for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, I tried to numb it with food. When I was a teenager and on into early adulthood, I tried to numb myself into oblivion with drugs and alcohol. The trouble with that was I had to sober up some time and when I did, I was still depressed. Worse, I got myself to the place where even that wasn’t working anymore.
I began attending twelve-step meetings around the fall of 1985. The holiday season was beginning, of course, and despite my best intentions, I could not stay sober for anything. I thought I could handle the parties without drinking but failed miserably. I finally made a commitment to sobriety in January of 1988 and I’ve stayed sober ever since, one day at a time.
The first few years I went to many, many meetings around the holidays to get through it. I had to stay away from people, places, and things that were potential triggers. This included my family, unfortunately as they were completely unsupportive. Eventually, I got to a place where I was more comfortable in my skin and it wasn’t such an issue anymore.
I give full credit to 12 step principles and the Christian faith I came to a few years later for alleviating the worst of my depression. I do still have to deal with it but today I have the tools to manage it.
My regular readers know that in the fall of 2010 I was diagnosed with cervical dystonia. I was in excruciating pain for months and months until my exercises and Botox started to help. It is a horribly depressing condition. I was on the couch with kids who needed Mom. I couldn’t get the Christmas tree up; I could only watch from the couch. To my alarm as I researched dystonia, it seemed that many people who got it went through a period of drinking to deal with it.
It’s three years later and after a long, tough fight I am more functional and I was actually able to do much of the tree decorating this year. Still, I have limitations and I’m still prone to depression. I’m on a three-month cycle of Xeomin injections and due for shots next week…right in the heart of the Christmas season.
How I Manage the Holidays Now
Here is how you can manage holidays with depression and disability:
Keep the Faith
I didn’t grow up observing Advent but I’ve come to love it as an adult. Advent readings beckon me to slip away and draw near to Jesus..who frequently had to slip away from crowds himself to pray to the Father. I also use the Divine Hours to make that time in the day turn from earthly cares.
Resist the urge to overindulge
Between a few overindulgences, I try to keep my usual nutrition and exercise routines going. Too much sugar and unwanted weight gain will only make me feel worse.
Making time for fellowship
As a special needs mom who is disabled herself, I have found that friendships have really changed since my diagnosis. The reality for families like ours is that we are just too much trouble to be around for a lot of people. Still, we can find time to meet a friend for coffee, go to church and go to a few community celebrations.
There is nothing like moving to lift the spirit. Combining worship and movement can really transform a sagging spirit.
I can’t do everything I used to do and I’ve learned I can’t be that super perfect mom for Christmas. And that’s okay. My kids aren’t going to remember how many activities I dragged them around to. They will remember the time I spent with them. Things like watching Christmas shows, baking cookies, reading or taking a walk.
Keep it simple
I don’t do a ton of decorating. A tree, stockings, the nativity, and maybe a few lights and touches around the house are just enough for me.
As the crowds, business, and crazy drivers intensify in December, I am grateful to be able to just sit at the computer in my yoga pants, cup of tea in hand and browse to my hearts content instead of dealing with my chronic pain condition in the store.
If you’re struggling with depression this holiday season, know that you are not alone and there are people who care. If the feelings are intense, and other strategies aren’t working, don’t feel guilty about seeing a doctor.
Bible Verses for Depression
Psalms 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Isaiah 49:16 I will not forget you…Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands…
May the peace and comfort of our Lord be with you this holiday season!