It’s nearly Christmas, one of my favorite holidays, but I’m finding I don’t have the spirit I usually have at this time of year. As a veteran of depression, I know when it’s time to give myself a break, and focus on a healthier me.
I spent many years tucking my grief deep down inside myself. Dismissing it as “only” grief, I didn’t have time to “indulge” in it. Suffering from mild agoraphobia since my early twenties, I also told myself I could handle it. I’d gotten through this before, and I’d get through it again.
Then came the crippling anxiety attacks, the inability to leave the house at all, the depression, and the tears. After I spent months fighting against the door–the door led to the outside, and the outside scared the hell out of me–I dragged myself to a therapist.
But I didn’t want to spend six months figuring out what was wrong with me. I knew what was wrong with me.
In the last seventeen years I’ve lost my father and two brothers, to cancer and meningitis. I’ve miscarried three times. Had cancer. My mom had a stroke. I don’t deal well with things, I just hold them inside. I know what’s wrong with me. I want you to fix it.
The words fell out. Or something similar. My therapist gets credit for not remaining speechless. She drew the rest out of me. When my father died, I’d planned to spend the week with him, but I was too late. His wife didn’t have any services, so there was no closure, just an hour or two where we sat with his body and waited for the funeral home to come take him away.
When my brother Jay died, I felt adrift. Closest in age, we shared our birthday cake every year, along with a kaleidoscope of memories no one else did. At his wake, I didn’t even allow myself to cry. The one point where I thought I would fall apart my brother Bill appeared, his hand on my shoulder, keeping me from falling in a puddle. I was grateful. I was raised with three brothers, and we were strong, we didn’t fall in puddles.
When my brother Charlie died, after the wake, everyone came down with the worst flu–except me. I had no time to grieve as I drove from my house to my mom’s, petrified I’d lose her and Bill so soon after losing Charlie. I took care of them, and of my spouse and three kids, who were sick, too.
My therapist gave me strategies for working on my anxiety, my agoraphobia, and my depression. But the most valuable thing she did was show me the good side to grief. I didn’t want to grieve because it hurts too much. And I didn’t want to cry, or rage; I was too tired. But what I didn’t realize is that I was exhausted from all of that grief stuck inside my body. She showed me that I could let it out, and I wasn’t less of a person because of that.
Grief isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Crying doesn’t mean you’re weak. And falling down is allowed. Those are simple enough statements that hold true for most of the year. But what do you do in December, when there are family gatherings, holiday traditions, and shopping to be done?
- GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK All of those things will still be there when you come back to them. Take a moment to yourself, even if it’s ten minutes alone in the shower. Try some deep breathing, guided meditation, or even just let the water soothe your troubles.
- JUST SAY NO Allow yourself to say no. Sometimes there are just too many things going on, and when you’re already depressed, it’s overwhelming to add one more into the mix. Give your regrets, but say no without them.
- SIP YOUR TEA It may not be your drink of choice, but chamomile tea is a natural relaxant, and it can bring some much needed calm into your chaotic holiday season.
- ENLIST A FRIEND Talk therapy is one of the best medicines around. Call a friend or close loved one to talk about how you’re feeling, and if possible, enlist their help in getting your to-do list done.
- BE KIND TO YOURSELF If you need to cry, cry. A good bout of grief can take all the negative out of your system and give you the energy you need to make it through the season.
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash
Join the Mental Wellness FACEBOOK GROUP here.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want to join our calls on a regular basis, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $ 50 annual membership gives you an all-access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class, and community.
A $ 25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group, and our online communities.
A $ 12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.