Note: I am NOT a licensed mental health professional. If you need help finding a mental health care provider please call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit BetterHelp to talk to a certified therapist online at an affordable price. When the holidays feel hard, it can be easy to dismiss any underlying and more severe mental health challenges. So if what you are feeling is beyond simply having “a bad day” and you’re experiencing persistent depression or anxiety-related symptoms, PLEASE talk to your doctor, reach out to a trusted loved one, or use the contact information above. You are worth it.
Each year during the holiday season, I feel a wave of melancholy wash over me.
It happens sometime between November and January.
Some years it’s just a little wave and other years it feels more like a tsunami.
At times I’ve felt down in the dumps for a few days and then the sadness passes. But other years I’ve fought melancholy so intense that it became actual depression that lasted for a much longer period.
And while this shouldn’t necessarily come as a shock, given variables like holiday stress, exhaustion, and even seasonal affective disorder, this melancholy somehow catches me off guard.
Every single year.
Truthfully, it’s taken me a long time to recognize this pattern.
That sometimes the holidays feel hard.
A few years ago I mentioned to my husband that I was feeling pretty down. He responded by saying,
“Well, that makes sense. This time of year is usually hard for you.”
He said it in a very matter-of-fact way. He wasn’t being dismissive or insensitive. This was simply a fact as he saw it.
But I immediately became defensive.
“This time of year isn’t hard for me! I love this time of year! I love the holidays!”
How could THIS time of year be hard for me? Fall is my favorite season, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite holidays.
The scents! Food! Music! Movies! Lights!
The decorations and books, gift-giving and the gatherings!
Slowly but surely, I started to admit that he was right.
Sometimes the holidays feel hard.
I know plenty of people who struggle to feel joy during the holiday season. And for some of them, this time of year can actually be quite painful.
The death of a loved one around the holidays.
A first Thanksgiving or Christmas without a specific friend or family member present.
Financial stress that rears its ugly head when the monetary demands of gift-giving feels overwhelming.
The flu arriving at the worst possible time, (as if there’s ever a good time!) as holiday demands creep closer.