Hallmark doesn’t make “I’m Sorry You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder Cards” — they just create blank cards with puppies building snowmen on the front so that you can write in that sentiment on your own. For some, the holidays really are the most wonderful time of the year. For others, however, the holidays mean sipping eggnog and mustering a smile at obligatory work ugly-sweater parties, secretly counting down the minutes until they can fall back into their black hole of a bed — which holds them during their darkest depressive episodes.
Single people love to joke on Valentines day about how they’re forever alone — they hide their insecurities in self-deprecating jokes that they make to their other single friends while shopping for black dresses to wear to their anti-valentine’s day party. This pervasive culture of “anti-valentines day” separates the singles from the couples in an equal divide to be found either at the bar or the dining room of the nicest restaurant in the city. Loved ones surround even those who are alone, so that they don’t have to endure the suffocating feeling of drowning in their own sadness.
However, there is no anti-Christmas culture; those who suffer from depression, the loss of a loved one, and those who are in financial duress and cannot afford to see their families do not wind up together at the bar exchanging jokes on their aloneness.
The holidays are a time when nearly everyone is celebrating their paid vacation, or the impending warm embrace of their high school friends that they have not seen in months; and for those who do not share the same sentiment, the holidays are a seemingly never ending fight to disguise the pain, anxiety and depression that you are feeling all under a big, red bow. This guise can ultimately make one feel as though they are leading two lives — the life that they are presenting to their colleagues and peers at holiday work parties and the life that is disintegrating inside of them.
New York Times Writer, Andrew Solomon once said, “the opposite of depression is not happiness; it is vitality.” You do not need to have a perfect family, or job, or relationship. But you need to be able to feel angry when your mother asks you why you do not have a boyfriend (and inevitably reminds you that she can hear your biological clock ticking), and you need to be excited for a cousin who was recently made aware of a new job promotion. For those who suffer with depression, these feelings are exhausting, and although they yearn to roll their eyes at their Mother and stomp into the room, or pop open a bottle of champagne for their cousin, these feelings are too exhausting- and so they don’t feel anything at all.
For those of you with a loved one who is suffering from depression, you may agree that you feel like you are watching your best friend, sister, brother or whoever it may be die. You may feel as though you are witnessing the life be taken from your loved one, and although you have tried to present them with their favorite foods, movies (that you secretly loathe and have seen one hundred times), your loved one remains unresponsive to any efforts your put forth. For some, the holidays are not the most wonderful time of the year; for those of you who suffer, please know that you are not alone and that you are loved. For those of you who suffer via watching others suffer, be patient — your loved one will come back to you. I like to view depression not as illness which breaks you, but an illness that puts you under construction. If you survive failure, you have not failed. If you are defeated, yet draw strength, meaning and wisdom, you have won. It is only when we feel that we are nothing, that we can re-create ourselves into anything.