Thursday, December 18, 2014

Depression and Holidays

This post is for anyone who might be struggling with emotional turmoil and depression. For a lot of us, tough times always feel tougher around major holidays.

We think of holidays as being a time of joy and togetherness, filled with good times and high spirits. People who don't understand the "Blues" outside of the usual and "ordinary" type, might assume that a holiday will lift make everyone feel better.

When you are dealing with any kind of depression - no matter the reason or source - it's easy to see only the downside to all that holiday cheer. While other people are gathering together, you might feel alone and forgotten - even while gathered with others. You see families and couples and friends and think of your own broken relationships. If you live in a snowy climate, you feel isolated. If you live in a sunny climate, you feel shut off from the seasonal spirit of things.

It's not only people who are dealing with mental illness or other emotional issues who can feel this way. Depression can come from lots of sources: having your life thrown out of whack by some surprise circumstance, illness or personal loss. Depression is a form of mental illness.

Let's stop and look at what that term means instead of just making snap judgments. This from NAMI is the best definition I've heard. The sentence is under the question of "What is mental illness":
A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life. (source)
If we lived in a society that subsisted mostly on sugar (and we just might), lots of us would suffer tooth decay and obesity (and we just might). We do happen to live in a society that is stressful most of the time, is it any wonder that so many of us are suffering from mental stress?

Times are just tough for a lot of folks and for lots of reasons. Money doesn't buy happiness, but poverty is no picnic either. Society is so fractured around us, with everyone feeling the pressure of belonging to (or being excluded from) some kind of group - racially, gender-wise; Boomers and Millennials and the Y's and Z's; the rich and poor and middle class; the "Singles" and the "Coupled Up"; Liberal, Conservative, Christian, Jewish, Athiest, and every other moral or religious or political persuasion.

No matter who you are, or which "group" or "percent" you belong to, you might be feeling the Blues a little bit harder than at any other time of year. I have my own version of the Blues that hum at me constantly like I'm being serenaded by Mississippi John or Memphis Minnie, so I get it. Totally.

What I want to say to anyone else who is dealing with their own Blues is that I hope you try to get through it one moment, one breath, at a time. I hope you don't let the cloud of your sad feelings overwhelm any light you have in you or around you.

Here are some resources for anyone feeling troubled - and these are just some, not all. If you don't find what you need here, call your local clinic or hospital and ask if there is counseling available. There are also resources for those of you who know someone who might need help.

And, finally, because I am a Christian, I turn to the Bible for reassurance. One of my favorite verses from the Bible is Psalm 27:1. I remind myself of it when I just need to get through one more moment: "The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?" (You have to know how awful my memory is to realize how much that verse must mean for me to have it memorized.) Here are 8 more verses that might be an encouragement to you. (And, if you are a person of faith, please pray for others.)