Christmas and Mental Illness
17 December 2016 | Post A Comment
To most people, Christmas is a time of happiness where you can enjoy socialising with friends and family and eating lots of delicious food. But for those with mental health issues, Christmas can be one of the most difficult times of the year, full of dread and anxiety.
I remember the Christmas when my depression was at it's worst. I remember the intense ache in my face from forcing myself to smile for too long. I remember the sickness of trying to eat Christmas dinner but not quite managing it and my uniform falling off me when I went back to school. I remember how my internal pain felt intensified by the happiness of everyone around me.
Even when things aren't quite as bad, Christmas still has a way of magnifying emotions, negative or positive. Big social gatherings trigger anxiety, huge spreads of food can be terrifying for sufferers of eating disorders and the extra pressure to be having a good time makes it easy to slip into the depths of low mood and depression.
When the hectic atmosphere that surrounds Christmas gets too much, mental struggles can feel frighteningly exaggerated and then comes the guilt. We desperately want to enjoy the festive period as much as everyone else but our mental barriers make us feel isolated and it's difficult to get past them. We feel guilty that we can't be completely present in the enjoyment of friends and family and we feel like we've ruined what could possibly have been a good time for ourselves too.
If you are dreading Christmas because of mental health issues there are some things you can do to make it easier. I'd recommend talking to the person you feel closest to and explaining what you will find most difficult and how certain activities could be altered to make you feel more comfortable. Plan ahead of time so you feel more in control of what's happening. Lower your expectations and try to make others aware of what they can expect of you, be that leaving early from a party or missing out on a few things. Use the Christmas period to actively challenge your mental illness. Push yourself a little without going too far and try to gently extend the boundaries that your illness allows. You can also use this time to heal and relax with the people you love most. Do your best to help them understand.
Christmas is a difficult time for lots of people for a variety of different reasons. If Christmas is full of joy and excitement for you, that's really great but be aware that this isn't the same for everyone. Make an effort this Christmas to be more open minded and sensitive to other's needs. Be kinder than is necessary, it can make the world of a difference.