Holidays can be a season of brightness and joy. However, for those with depression, this time of year can be overwhelming. Instead of feeling cheery, you simply have to force a smile on your face. Even for those without mental illness, Christmas may be a difficult time of year.
When did this shift from joy to hopelessness happen? For many children, this season is a magical time of year filled with treats, religious hope, presents, family, and fun in the snow. What changed as we grew up? Who or what stole away the mysterious, jubilant, fascinating nature of Christmas?
There are many elements that can take away our childlike spirit in daily life. Christmas time brings even more struggles. Here are some of the main ones that I face at this time of year:
- Feeling pressured to be happy despite being depressed
- Lack of sunlight and lengthening nights
- Less structured time outside of school
- Huge gatherings of people
- Food everywhere
- People talking about dieting or gaining weight
- Giving gifts to others who do not care as much about you as you care about them
- Pressure to look beautiful
- Balancing gift giving with lack of money
- Bad memories of past Christmases
- Feeling spiritually empty
However, there is hope for getting back some of the childlike wonder of Christmas. No, we cannot reverse time and feel exactly the same. Still, allowing ourselves to be in the moment and notice the small, beautiful things can be a step in the right direction.
My feet crunch in the snow. Stars twinkle above me. Maybe the angels sound a bit like the tea pot whistling on my stove. Or perhaps they sound more like the new couple whispering to each other in the table next to mine. Peppermint wafts from the girl’s mocha, blended with a hint of coffee.
By noticing the little moments and thinking back to my childhood, I am able to find some of the joy in Christmas that I once held so dear. Also, despite guilt that I am not spiritual enough, I find that concentrating deeply on the Nativity brings back my wonder. A new baby with parents who are overwhelmed and a bit confused while still basking in the beauty and majesty of the moment. Braying donkeys, smelly shepherds, blinding angels, busy townspeople – all of it is a bit magical while still so ordinary. Seeing that as a child makes me feel it more deeply.
Whether you love this holiday season or hate it, I hope that you are able to experience it for at least a minute like a child. How is that different than your normal point of view? Perhaps we all need to take some time to get back in touch with our youthfulness to fully celebrate this time of year.