When Christmas Isn’t Merry

For some of us Christmas isn’t really a merry time of the year. 

This season can be difficult! It may not be a festive, celebratory time for you or for someone you know. Instead of creating joy, the lights, tinsel, and cheer can add to a sense of heaviness and separation. That can be confusing and even sometimes offending to those who don’t struggle this time of year. That too adds to the feeling of being alone and the what’s-wrong-with-me-ness of the holidays.

We all know that there is an amped up and overly busy environment in the malls, on the roads, and even in the smaller shops in town. Restaurants are busier, lines are longer, and often tempers are shorter. Less daylight also makes it tough for many. 

I’ve never really been able to trace back to a specific reason why this season has often been difficult for me. Yes, I live with depression, but this is something outside the realm of mood disorder characteristics. I’ve never had a bad Christmas experience; there’s never been a single event that turned the season off for me. But something often happens when the music cranks up, the lights appear, and the decorations begin showing up in stores. 

It can feel like I’m separated from those around me. That they are all having fun enjoying the activities and I’m basically being a buzz-kill, a downer to their celebration. I don’t want to mess around with putting a tree up, hanging lights on the house, or helping with decorations inside. It felt for years like I had to wear a mask and pretend so that I could even participate at a level that didn’t ruin it for those around me. (That does come across as a bit dramatic, I know. It is simply how it feels at times.)

I have found, for me at least, something that helps turn this around. It’s been a subtle shift and has taken a lot of awareness and kindness to myself to change my experience of the season. So what is it? 

Love & Trust 

It really can be that simple. It has been a powerful practice that has taken work and time on my part along with patience in those closest to me. The way it began was accidental and happened over a number of years. It is not completely immediate, at least it wasn’t for me but the benefit was nearly instantaneous. 

Seek out that one person in your life that you know beyond a shadow of doubt loves you. If you can think of more than one it’s even  better. They don’t have to be local to you but you do need to have telephone access to them at the very least. Email can work as a support tool in this but you really need to hear the voice of those who care. 

The hardest part? Communicating to that care team about your needs. Sometimes it takes more than one time but keep at it until you’ve been able to share how hard the season can be for you. How it’s not all beautiful lights and song, laughter and joy. Keep trying! If you just can’t get through to someone then find someone else. Let them know that you need a touch-stone during this difficult time. That you’d like to meet or have regular phone calls to talk about one or two things you can begin to feel grateful for this season. Plan at least one activity with those you trust and love. Fill a thermos with hot chocolate and go find the 5 best residential light displays where you live. Some towns and cities even list them online and folks, a few of these displays are surprisingly amazing!

It is hard to reach out and ask for help. Probably because somewhere along the way we were taught that we’re supposed to be able to do it all on our own. We’re supposed to be independent, strong, fearless, etc. Frankly friends, that’s wrong. We are inter-dependent. We do rely on one another. That’s understood more in rural communities than it is in our busy but often isolated city living. We need one another. You have strengths and talents others don’t. The same is true for those around you. 

To recap… as hard as it is and as difficult as it sounds find that one person who you know truly values you. Tell them how tough this time of year is and ask for help. Let them know that you’d like to find even a little joy, a little light, a little togetherness and belonging this Holiday Season. Remind them not to push because it will probably cause you to run away and cave-up again. This requires gentleness, kindness, and understanding. 

I believe we all have a spark of loving awareness inside and that there are times we can share that light with each other and even with ourselves. You are valuable, important, and here for a reason. Stick with it and find a way to reach that Love & Trust. Even when it’s difficult. I look forward to this time of year again in a way I haven’t for many years. I cheer my support crew; we’re not here to do it all alone!

To your best life, 

Zane Darner
The Condition of Happiness Podcast

This is important… I am not a physician, therapist, counselor, or health care provider. I offer the following in the event it may help you or someone you love. The information below and similar symptoms can be found online. Talk with your provider:

I’m not referring specifically to symptoms of clinical depression, anxiety, bi-polar or other mood disorders in the article above. Unfortunately, mental health issues are still taboo for many—It’s just not something often talked about. Here are a few symptoms to watch out for. If you or someone you love are experiencing any of these please, please visit a licensed health care provider. Let them know how you’re feeling and what’s going on. Depression can be treated but it takes you or someone you love to take action. 


Possible Symptoms of Depression:

Summarized from WebMD (https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-symptoms-causes#1)

  • Less interest in activities that you typically enjoy.
  • Sadness lasting longer than usual.
  • Less energy—you may feel extremely tired or lethargic.
  • Sluggish thinking—you might catch yourself thinking or reacting more slowly. Words may be difficult to find.
  • Sleep changes—you may wake earlier or feel a strong pull to stay in bed.
  • Appetite changes—you might be over or under eating.
  • Anger, short tempers, and anxiety might also be part of this menu of symptoms.

If you’re experiencing sadness for longer than usual, feel like you’re under a cloud or in the shadows, feel isolated from those around you or have the symptoms above go see your doctor for your sake and for those who care the most about you. This spiral can almost always be slowed, stopped, or managed in a way where you feel you have your life back. This really is important.


P.S. You are always welcome to reach out to me. Send me an email, let me know what’s going on. Let’s share the light. 

P.P.S. If the list of symptoms I shared above about depression rings even a little true please reach out to qualified health care professionals. The first time I chose to really talk about it was with an N.P. I found in a doc-in-the-box. From there my understanding, referrals, and support system grew. Take care of yourself—life truly is precious!