Many people think that Christmas should be and is a time for unbridled joy, but unfortunately, for many, mental illness is a guest that arrives at the most inappropriate times. It can crop up when your life is going so smoothly, you are happy, in a great job a great relationship, you’re physically fit and well and then all of a sudden you can find yourself trapped, paralyzed by fear, anxiety, self-hatred and overwhelming sadness.
Depression will rear its ugly head at the happiest of times; it can be frequent and unexpected and make happy times often tinged with negative emotions. While mental health is talked about and recognized a lot more these days and there are plenty of options for outpatient mental health treatment and counselling, there is still a long way to go for beating this taboo subject and especially at this time of year.
Social media can increase your symptoms of depression, and at this time of year, the problem with Instagram and Facebook is often the expectation of having a picture-perfect Christmas. It’s standard to upload a picture of your perfect Christmas tree once decorated, the celebs do it, and then everyone else follows. Then comes the photos of the Christmas nights out, followed by the perfect Christmas dinner and the lavish gifts.
Many people will know the feeling of sinking into a depressive episode almost every December, and it’s hard not to feel unworthy as you scroll through your social media feed looking at a family of four donning matching Christmas onesies or two airbrushed beauties saying cheers at the German market. If your brain wants to be sad, it’s going to be sad, and no amount of caroling, tree decorating or elf-on-the-shelfing is going to trick you into feeling festive.
People who suffer from mental illness are plagued with feelings of guilt as standard, so this is even worse when cancelling on your bestie’s Christmas parties because you just can’t go. This symptom is only exacerbated by the pressure to be merry and bright for the entire month of December.
Don’t spend your time trying to distract yourself with twinkly lights and tinsel. Don’t ignore the deep pang of sadness in your chest while trying to create the perfect life when underneath you are battling with something serious. Mental illness isn’t something that many people want to talk about it at any time of year, never mind when everything is supposed to be cinnamon-scented and covered in a light dusting of snow. But if you’re feeling sad, angry or anxious, don’t try and mask it with an Instagram filter. It may be the most wonderful time of year for the majority of people out there, but if you’re feeling blue this Christmas that’s okay too. Make sure you talk about it with someone and don’t suffer in silence. Don’t pretend everything is okay, because if you’re hiding it, then chances are someone else is too, so by telling them how you feel; you could be helping someone else.