Tangled. Mangled. Dazed. Confused. Lost. Mean. Aggravated. Anxious. Used.
Of course those aren’t words that should be used to describe anyone during the holidays, right? Wrong. Thanksgiving can come and go and find many of us unthankful or at best asking ourselves what it is that we should be thankful for. Christmas lights and various nativity scenes can decorate the streets and storefronts of buildings yet it could never be enough to warm the hearts of some or even bring a smile to their face when they remember memories of holiday childhood cheer. What can rob us of joy? What can encroach on our happiness and steal the merriment and excitement of the holidays? LIFE. While some are in the midst of making Christmas shopping lists, others are preparing the list of what they will need for a loved one’s funeral. While some are enjoying the warmth of their home others find themselves homeless, living in less than desirable circumstances or wishing that they did not feel like an alien in their own home. Yet there are others who seem to have everything that makes them happy, but others can’t seem to find anything that brings joy to their heart. There dichotomy even during the holidays…so how do we make it through the season without losing our minds, hope or joy?
I know how it feels to dread the holidays. Those agonizing memories are right there in the back of my throat. In the times that were a struggle for me to find any goodness in celebrating the holiday season, I tried adamantly to focus on what was good. It is inherently human to focus on the “bad” of the holiday, whether it comes from painful childhood memories or more recent losses such as divorce or the death of a loved one. I would put huge amounts of energy into focusing on creating new traditions as a way of accepting my new “normal” and attempting to forge a bridge between the hurt that seemed to overshadow me and the hope that I somehow still had lying deep in the recesses of my heart. I did not want to make other people suffer because of my suffering so I would do what I felt I had to do to lift my spirits, even if it was untraditional. Volunteering and consistently keeping a grateful journal were two huge helps to help get me holiday healthy and ward of the blues. I would do what I enjoyed without reservation or explanation. If it was staying in bed all day and watching Hallmark CHRISTmas movies, then that is what I would do. If it was playing outside in the snow and making snowmen, then that is what I would do. If it was crying, then laughing then crying again, then that is what I would do. If being alone on Sunday but being around friends on Monday worked, then that is what I would do. My therapy through the holiday blah was tailor made just for me, and for those of you “not feeling it”, your prescription is specific to you too. Understand that putting pain off or pretending like it does not exist only hurts worse in the long run, so it’s critical to be your own biggest cheerleader and biggest advocate to get back to a healthy place.
At one point in my life I had NOT ONE but TWO therapists. I am still confounded at why the African-American community is taking so long to understand and embrace the benefits of not only therapy, but when necessary, medicine. A grief therapist and prescription aren’t crutches; for many of us they were life preservers. If you suffer from depression, suicidal thoughts or any weight that you can’t seem to wiggle from up under, PLEASE SEEK HELP. It is not a sign of weakness. It takes someone courageously responsible to ask for help when life gets to be too much.
Holiday heartache and feelings of hopelessness are real during the holiday.
DO NOT DENY IT.
DO NOT BE DEFINED BY IT.
DEAL WITH IT in whatever ways will get you back to a healthy place. YOU CAN DO IT!