Every year seems to be the same lately. Christmas comes so quickly and I’m not prepared. I have always had so many amazing, magical ideas for my family around the holidays. Family to visit, travel, magical elves, reading a Christmas story every night, the nativity, places to go, people to see, gifts to make, food to bake, parades to see, lights to drive to, crafts to make and of course service projects to do are just a few of the items on my to do list every December. Life, however, has another idea. School projects, church activities, work parties, school parties, dance competitions and end of semester testing, our calendar ends up full before the month even starts.
Christmas has always been my absolute favorite holiday, which makes December my favorite time of the year. The last few years however, it has become a trigger for my depression. This past year was one of the worst.
Before Thanksgiving even came around, I was overwhelmed. I knew the daunting calendar that lay ahead and it exhausted me just thinking about it. I knew that it was going to be another year when new ideas and activities would have to be put aside to make room for all the events that we had to participate in. Don’t get me wrong, most of these events are things we all enjoy being a part of. We look forward to dance competitions and recitals around the holidays. My husband and I love taking our employees out for a nice dinner and prizes for our annual Christmas party. And the church activities are always filled with the Spirit, which we need during this time of the year especially.
However, our month ends up so full in December, that it is hard to take the time to fully enjoy it all. We are so busy running here and there and being exhausted from it all, it’s hard to take it all in and really appreciate it.
This year we decided to try and calm down the chaos, so we stayed at home in Arizona and had Christmas with just the five of us. No traveling to visit family in Las Vegas, we decided to try and have a nice, quiet time at home. We did greatly enjoy each others company. It was a nice break to not have to pack everything in the car and drive the six hours to Las Vegas. We slept in our own beds, ate homemade food and could be on our own schedules. There were definite perks to staying home this year and it was a welcomed break from the usual travel chaos.
And it was just that, nice and quiet. Too quiet.
The winter break seemed to be endless. The kids wanted to be entertained every day and if they weren’t, they were bored out of their minds. Most of our neighbors were out of town with their own families, so our culdesac was eerily quiet. Having no outside family around, it was too quiet. No singing carols with the cousins or playing board games with the aunts and uncles. No dinners to drive to, or loud houses filled with littles running around. It didn’t feel quite like Christmas.
This year I spent too much time in my head. With my depression, my calendar and schedule can be a slippery slope for me. If I’m too busy, I get easily overwhelmed, angry and then don’t want to do anything. If I don’t have enough to do, I get lazy and sleep too much and get depressed that I don’t have more of a “life”. It’s a fine line when I feel balanced and can handle it all.
I realized this past December that I have a couple things that trigger my depression more than others during this time. The first, obviously is the calendar. When our schedule gets so crazy that I feel like we don’t have time to sit, I get stressed. The running around and not stopping is good for some people Some people thrive on being busy and love every second of it. I like being busy, but I get exhausted by it all so easily and then it becomes no fun. I can’t enjoy it fully because I’m too busy thinking about all the other things we have to get done that week. It’s hard to turn off the chaos in my head once it gets started.
The other trigger that I realized I had this year is something that is completely not in my control. I realized I was depressed and sad because my kids are growing up too fast. I’m desperately trying to hold onto every last second, because I’m terrified I’m going to wake up one day and it’s all going to be over. In some ways, it already is. I don’t have babies or toddlers in my house anymore. This is most likely the last year we will have “believers” in our home and that makes me so sad.
My depression is so very frustrating. I am a smart woman and have always been able to see both sides of the equation. I can see all the things I have to be grateful for. I know all the blessings and miracles that I have been given in my life. There lies the biggest problem of all…….the guilt. When you feel completely miserable and can’t just “snap out of it”, or just choose to be happy, it’s so frustrating! You end up feeling guilty because you know that you have every reason TO be happy.
During the holidays the guilt especially weighed on me. I was so angry and tired and sad and I struggle with allowing my body to feel those things. I feel so much guilt for not jumping up and down and screaming that I’m happy every day. I think the weight is heavier at the holidays for me, because that is the time of the year that (at least on the outside) it seems that everyone is happy. The holidays are the time to rejoice and be grateful and feel loved. Instead, I was once again trapped in my cell of darkness. Sad and angry and overwhelmed and frustrated all at the same time.
I was taking it out on my family and especially my husband. I retreat and sleep often. The house goes to crap pretty quickly and I can’t get things done. Some days I’m lucky if I get out of bed, let alone get showered and dinner made for my family. Then when the stress becomes too much, the migraines come and I’m literally in bed for an entire day, useless.
I think depression has a bad rap in the world for a couple reasons. One of the biggest being people that don’t understand it think that it is caused by a lack of gratitude. I can say there is absolutely no truth to that whatsoever. Most of the people I have met with depression are some of the most grateful people I know. I think that some times we experience the joy a little more fully because we understand so deeply the pain and sorrow of the other side of that coin. We have been to such dark places, that we are more grateful when we are in the light.
The hardest part of the depression for me is the guilt. I know I should be grateful every second of the day, and when I just can’t, my heart is racked with guilt. I see right in front of me all the amazing things I have to be grateful for. Family, my kids, my husband, our company that provides for us and allows me to stay at home with my kids, our home are just some of the biggest things I have in my life that I am eternally grateful for. And isn’t that a huge part of the Christmas spirit, being grateful for what you have?
I am…..truly and deeply grateful. I always have been and always will be. That is what keeps me going. That gratitude is what gets me through the really low days. It’s knowing that I have so many things in my life that give me reason. It’s knowing that my Heavenly Father is mindful of me and my struggles and yet sends tiny reminders every day of the things I have. He reassures me constantly that I am not alone and that I will get through this.