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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. 

3 comments:

  1. Once my girlfriend at the time was trying to cut herself and I just wanted to help her so I grabbed her hand to try get the knife off her and she pulled away and cut to the bone on my finger. Every time I look at that scar I can feel the pain we both went through that day but I don't regret a thing because what I did meant that she didn't end up hurting herself and I will always put myself in that position for someone I care about and the scar will always be there to remind me of what I am willing to do to help someone who is worse of

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  2. Very well put. It's too easy to assume that everyone loves Christmas but I suspect many people keep their worries and unhappiness well hidden at this time of year.

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  3. Totally agree with Linda, really well put. I'm definitely feeling quite a few of the things you mentioned right now!

    I absolutely love Christmas, well the idea of it, but I often find myself saying yes to things that I don't want to go to and then the anxiety of going or having to cancel creeps in. Also just the feeling that so many people are happy and loving life/Christmas somehow drags me down.

    My main aim this week is to have as many relaxed days as I can and just to enjoy the little things like Christmas TV and going out to see the Christmas lights. Then not to put pressure on Christmas day and to enjoy spending it with family and even going home by 5pm if I need to!

    Hope you have a relaxed Christmas too,

    Fee x

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