Depression & The Holidays


If you live with depression there may be no anxiety inducing period like the holidays. In a nutshell, people want you to make the spirit bright and you may not feel like it, and then you feel even worse that you are letting other people down and destroying their holiday season. If you have a friend or loved one that lives with depression (like yours truly), some helpful tips:

If we are doing restorative things, encourage it.

If the person in your life living with depression is deciding to go for a walk, read a book or take a little bit of time for themselves, that does not mean they dislike you. Nor does it mean they don’t want you to be all social and carrying on with others. It’s just that they are taking care of their own needs. Love them enough to let them do what they need to do to be in a place of wellness. It is not selfish.

Don’t ask for the magic, imaginary switch to be turned on.

If the person in your life living with depression gets told to do things like “be happy for just one day”, or “be in a good mood for (insert name of person or relative)” or asked things like “can’t you just enjoy a meal and conversation at the table?” or “would it kill you to smile for once?” – it can be devastating. Often we feel like we are letting those around us down. But if we had the magic switch to make the world okay and feel less depressed, don’t you think we’d use it everyday? With major depression our mood is not a matter of our choice.

We don’t want to disappoint you.

This comes up in a lot of situations over the holidays, but let me focus mostly on presents. We already feel like we let you down a lot. Add onto that the stress of trying to find the perfect gift(s) for the one(s) we love. Help us out a little – give the person in your life living with depression a short list of things that would truly bring you delight rather than making us guess.

We may be tempted to alter our mood other ways.

If the person in your life living with depression feels the pressure to alter their mood, they may look to stimulation in ways that can be harmful. There is no shortage of alcohol at many holiday parties. That can help us feel inhibited, but lead to other struggles. Or maybe we engage in other harmful behaviour to feel alive.

Ask us if we want to come along, and be okay if we don’t.

I know you have the holiday party to go to. I know you really want us to come. And in our heart we want to come because we know how much it means to you. We will honestly try our best to be in the best possible headspace to attend. But if we are not, don’t be angry or disappointed if we do not attend. Know that we still want you to go.

Our routine gets out of whack.

For many of us, establishing a routine is what allows us to focus on our wellness and be in a good enough place to do things like parent, take responsibility around the house, be a good spouse, smile for the in-laws, etc. With so much going on around the holidays, our routine can get messed up. Before you know it, we are not sleeping well, or we are not exercising, or simple things that helped us feel better are out of sorts. This can be a difficult adjustment.

We love you.

We don’t always know how to say it best, nor are we always in a good place to express it, but we honestly love you. Our mood may not be one of super elation, but the actual emotion of love and what we feel for you – especially around the holidays – is real. We are grateful you are in our life. We sometimes wonder how we would get through life without you. We are thankful for your patience. We love that you love us for who we are rather than trying to force us to be or act in ways that are not aligned to who we are or how we feel.

About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.

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