When It's Not “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”
Why the Holidays Can Be Hard As Someone With Mental Illnesses
Words by: Eisha Muñoz
First of all, this time of year can be difficult to begin with. The days are short and dark. Snow, cold weather, lack of sunshine. I feel so utterly tired. I don't have the motivation to do much of anything. Most days you can find me lying under a blanket, wishing I could hibernate, much like bears do in the winter. Seasonal affective disorder is real, folks.
Then there's everything else… it's supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.”
It's almost as if joy and cheer are being forced down your throat everywhere you go. When you're already severely depressed, and literally can not feel any joy, it's particularly upsetting during the holiday season. And you feel guilty and like there's something wrong with you, and maybe you're already hating yourself and this makes you feel like an even worse person. And then you're expected to acknowledge everything you're thankful for. But what do you have to be thankful for when your pain is so unbearable that you don't even want be alive?
Then there's the merriment of seeing relatives! Between family drama (everyone's got it to some degree), to being asked how your life is going and what you've been up to, it’s all incredibly overwhelming. I mean, what are you supposed to say when asked what you've been doing upon graduating high school, when you've dropped out of college after barely two weeks because your mental illnesses are so disabling, and now you lie in bed just numbly staring at the wall all day every day?
That was me this time last year. I felt like an utter failure and like I had no purpose in living.
In several years past, I skipped the holidays altogether, opting to stay home, and telling my dad to make up some excuse to his family whom we celebrate the holidays with, as to why I wasn't coming. When I was a sophomore in high school, I was going through an awful period of depression that happened to fall right around the holiday season. On Christmas Day, I spent the whole day hysterically crying while my mom held me, until no more tears were able to come out.
During Thanksgiving last year, my withdrawal from college was still very fresh. My family knew vaguely of the situation, but I wasn't about to be bombarded with questions about what my plans were of what I was going to do next, and thus have my fears and insecurities exacerbated. I decided to forgo seeing my relatives. So instead of going to my aunt's house and eating turkey, my mom and I went out to Denny's for dinner. And you know what? We actually had a great time. I felt quite a bit of guilt, but ultimately I had to do what was best for my well being.
A few days before Christmas last year, my mom asked me to wrap one of my brother's presents. It was a very large box, and I got so frustrated when I couldn't do it. It was like something in me just snapped, and I had quite literally, a severe mental breakdown. I had an episode of what I would later learn was derealization. No one was home when this happened. It was one of the scariest things I have ever experienced.
On Christmas Day, I was so enraged that I completely destroyed my phone beyond use. I was not quite suicidal, but I didn't want to keep on living. I just truly did not want to be here anymore.
I was so close to checking into a hospital. It was all around a very scary dark time in my life.
With all that said, I don't have the fondest memories of many Christmases past.While many people look forward to the holiday season all year long, I often dread it. And I know I'm not the only one.
So I would like to say to everyone else like me: you are valid.
There should be no guilt in putting your health and well being first. Please take care of yourselves and listen to your needs. To all who read this, I wish you the very best, and I hope the new year brings you brighter days ahead.