It’s OK to not feel cheery

First of all, I want to say Merry Christmas to everyone. I know the holidays can be a hard time of year for some, especially those living with mental illness.

Christmas last year was difficult for me. I was in the midst of a horrible depressive episode. I’d hide in a bathroom stall at work when everything inside my head became too overwhelming, and I’d sit there, my face buried in my hands, and choke down the sobs that threatened to escape. Christmas music played overhead all month long, but they only added to my loneliness. Everyone, coworkers and customers included, was so cheerful and bubbly. And there I was, just fighting to get through each moment without breaking down.

Trust me, I know how hard the holidays can be. Christmas Day rolls around, and you don’t even want to move, let alone get out of bed. You feel guilty when you open presents from family, because you have to pretend to be excited. But inside, really, you just feel like you’re dying, like you’re about to crack and shatter into a million little pieces on the floor. You wish everyone would just go home already, so you can curl up in a ball. Pretending to be a ray of fucking sunshine is a lot of work. It drains you. By the time you’re finally alone and can curl up in bed, you hope you can go to sleep and never wake up.

But I want to tell you that it’s OK to not be full of Christmas cheer. You don’t have to feel guilty or get down on yourself if you’re not feeling well. You shouldn’t feel like you’re a bad person if you didn’t have the energy to send out Christmas cards. No one is going to think badly of you.

Surviving mental illness is no small feat. The “most wonderful time of the year” can make us feel even more alone when we’re simply fighting to get through each hour, each minute, each second. We see everyone around us, or so it seems, and they all seem to be so happy; and we think, “Why can’t that be me?” And, sometimes, it makes us feel so bad and alone that we wish we were dead.

Finding the courage and will to stay alive is the best gift you can give. It is far more special than anything you can buy in a store. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s OK to say, “Hey, I’m not OK.”

As always, you can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1 (800) 273-8255

No matter what, stay safe. Being alive is the best gift you can give.

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