Commentary and Philosophy Non-Fiction posted December 11, 2013

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Season of Joy?

by Deejharrington

The holidays mean a lot of different things to everyone. We are blasted by television commercials and programs showing what its supposed to be. Happy families opening presents on Christmas morning and smiling relatives sitting down for a plentiful meal are what we should be. Reality can rarely live up to our expectations. The economic challenges most of us are facing can lead to disappointment and frustration. For those of us who battle depression daily, it means an added layer of anxiety.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression about twenty years ago. I have sought therapy from some terrific and horrid professionals. It took many tries of medications before I found one that helps. It helps, not prevents the lows that can send me hiding for days and into a dark pit of hopelessness. My purpose here is not to bring anyone down, but to share what I've learned. I hope that my journey might bring clearer understanding to what some of you or someone close are going through. These ideas are, of course, from my own life and do not necessarily pertain to everyone.

1. Know your triggers: A journal is helpful to trace what happened just before an episode of depression. The holidays are full of land mines for us. You need to recognize which ones help and the ones that can put you over the edge. Just going to the malls this time of year puts me in danger. All the people, music, decorations are just too much. It all reminds me that I don't have the money to spend on gifts and then of all the family members that are no longer with me.
It is all too easy to compensate by over spending. I make a list of what I want to buy and how much I can comfortably spend. I go to specific stores or outdoor shopping centers. I go for a limited period of time. The key is to keep the pressure off yourself.

2. Be nice to yourself: Don't beat yourself up because you don't feel joy and jingle bells. Do what will be good for you. If putting up a Christmas tree makes you happy, then do it. If it only brings sad memories, then let it go. Last year, I couldn't abide any decorations in my house. Now, my tree is up and my collections of Santas are every where.

3. Try not to dwell on the past: Things change, good or bad, in families and situations. Every one loses people they love. It is hard for many of us to accept this. We continually think about what we have lost and not what we have. It takes work, but we need to concentrate on "now" not "used to." Sometimes, traditions need to be put to rest. Look for new ways of celebrating in your own way.

4. Commitments: For some, making a date to be somewhere or with someone can be motivation to get out among people. Forcing yourself can be a welcome diversion. For myself, it creates less stress not to commit myself until its closer to the event. If I say I'll be there ahead of time, I experience anxiety. I will usually make a choice on the day depending on how I feel. It goes back to knowing yourself and making decisions based not on others' expectations.

5. A few comments: Stay with your therapists and/or medications. Now is not the time to try it on your own. Reach out if you need additional help. Sympathetic friends are terrific but don't use them in substitution for professional help. You need someone who doesn't judge or will feel obligated to solve your problems.
Keep order and a schedule. I have found when my home is messy, it reflects in my mood. Taking a shower each day, getting out of pjs even if I'm not leaving the house, or doing the dishes brings an order to my life.
Take joy in the simple, little things. Music, a craft project, or even a crazy kitten who keeps chewing on my fingers as I type this. Above all, be well.


Hugs and thanks to Smurphgirl for giving me the nudge to write this.
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