Christmas is meant to be a happy time of year for everyone. However, this is not always possible when you live with a mental illness. Depression cannot differentiate between birthdays, Christmas, or any other day in fact. Depression doesn’t give you a day off just because everyone else is feeling happy and festive. Mental illness doesn’t stop for Christmas. It is important to make the people who will be surrounding you aware of how you are feeling (or how you could be feeling) in the run up to Christmas.
Having spent many Christmases in a psychiatric hospital I have learnt how to adapt to what society believes is the correct way to enjoy the holidays. I have learnt that if you don’t want to have a full Christmas dinner because of weight issues, then it is acceptable to have one of your regular meals on Christmas Day.
If you feel overwhelmed when family and friends give you presents during the festive period, then it is acceptable to open them when you feel ready and when you are able to cope a little better with opening them. This can be done a few hours later, after a few weeks or even a few months later… there is no rush.
If you feel like you are being persuaded to do something that you are uncomfortable with, it is acceptable to voice your opinion to family and friends. It’s acceptable to tell them that you are struggling during the festive period and that it would trigger your mental illness if you were do what they wanted.
If you feel you cannot do your shopping in a supermarket or pick up items from the shop, it is acceptable to buy the things you need online. That way you don’t have to face the busy shops.
We don’t have to suffer
Mental illness doesn’t stop for Christmas, so allow yourself some time to take a step back and think during the festive period. One thing you don’t want to do is to get over stimulated during this time, because it could trigger a decline in your mental health. I have learnt that with good communication and with loved ones around us, we don’t have to suffer at Christmas. It is only one day of the year and you do not need to put on a happy face just to please those around you.