It's Okay Not To Be Okay During the Holidays, and Here's Why...

Christmas is one of the happiest seasons of the year and it was a big deal in my family. Growing up, we all got together to celebrate, eat, talk, dance and simply have fun. It was my favorite time of the year and I looked forward to it every year, up until I started suffering from depression and anxiety in my 20’s. Then, I dreaded the family gatherings. My anxiety grew, as I had to prepare myself to become someone I was not at the time. I remember the many years I “celebrated” Christmas year after year, feeling so empty inside and wanting to cry. In fact, there were many times that I had to go to the bathroom to cry, only to put on a “face” again when I came out and act all holly and jolly. Pretending to feel something you really don’t can be really exhausting. I felt drained. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to get dressed. I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted to stay in my room and be myself, where I was okay to not be okay, and not have to pretend and put on a happy face.

Let’s face it, while the holiday is a happy and festive time, in reality, it’s NOT for many people. It is tough for anyone struggling with mental illness, or anyone battling life challenges. WHY? For one, if someone is battling an illness that is partly based on a chemical imbalance, that is just the unfortunate reality. No other reason, except the fact that it’s a struggle to get through or do anything. Second, in my case, it was a mix of different things that may apply to anyone. Besides the fact that I just really didn’t want to pretend to be happy around anyone, a holiday gathering meant I would compare myself with everyone else in my family. So, I pitied myself since I felt like nothing good was happening in my life. I always thought everyone else was doing so well, and not me. It made me feel more sad and empty and I know others may feel similar.

Also, my birthday falls in the first week of December. So, during all those years of struggle, I hated my birthday too because it meant that it was another year of feeling depressed and anxious about everything. Then Christmas validated my feelings. Honestly, I felt like a failure. I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do in life nor pursuing my dreams. I didn’t have any drive nor interest in anything. I felt nothing and so it was yet another year where I felt like I had nothing to celebrate. I hated the feeling. I felt so alone and no one understood me. I even remember being irritable many times during those gatherings, and my family just thought it was my personality. Little did they know that it was actually one of the symptoms of depression and many times, I really couldn’t control it. I knew I was getting irritated but it felt like I couldn’t do anything about it. All my energy was going towards pretending to be happy, so I had nothing left for anything else- nothing!

That was my life, Christmas after Christmas, year after year. It has been about 10 years or so since I have felt that way, but for many of you, it may still be a tough time right now… and I am sorry. I really am. Please know that I understand, I get it and I wish I could do more for you. But for now, I am sending you my love and compassion for what you must be going through. Remember to always be kind to yourself, because this too shall pass….

Here are some reminders and tips that may help and make it a little easier for you to get through the holidays:

  • Honor yourself first and take care of YOU. Take a hot bath.
  • Slow down - and dance to some Christmas music!
  • Breathe. Wherever you are, take deep breaths. One moment at a time. One minute at a time.
  • Take breaks. If you’re going to any holiday gathering, make sure you get some breathing space for yourself. Go in a private room or a bathroom and take the time to breathe and acknowledge that it’s okay to not be okay.
  • Remind yourself that this is only temporary. Whether you’re staying home or gathering elsewhere with family and friends, keep repeating to yourself, “I am brave. I am strong. This too shall pass.”
  • Listen to any song that cheers you up and makes you feel good before leaving your house. And if you decide to stay at home, then listen to a song anyway. Make a little sanctuary out of your place, light a candle, put music on and just be...the perfectly imperfect you.
  • Last but not the least, do not forget to buy a GIFT for YOURSELF!

As I end this, I wish you well during the holidays, and I send you my prayers and my empathy. May you have a wonderful Christmas no matter what is going on, and wishing you the best of wishes this season.

Thinking of all those years, I am reminded by this one song, “Face of Love” by Jewel, that I listened to repeatedly (and I mean, in constant repeat!) This song brought me to tears (to this day). This song gave me hope and this song allowed me to just be me and feel all the feelings I had. So, I share this with you (lyrics and youtube video link below) in the hope that it can help you in some small way.
Remember, it’s okay to not be okay. Take time for yourself. Honor yourself and JUST BE...YOU!




Face of Love, by Jewel
Until tonight
My heart was just half full
I'd never known the fruit which fed the soul
But now I see what may put to rest my longing
For I have seen, the face of love
The grace of God, the face of love

In silence I feared my heart
Would remain words unheard
Inside a separate mess of skin
But now I know that the skin just veils the soul
For I have seen, the face of love
The grace of God, the face of love

So take my hand and knowing
With it I also give my heart
Wanting, never to be separate again
Let eternity begin
If you were flame
I'd allow myself to be consumed completely
Were you wind I'd wish you to pass through me
But now I know that the skin just veils the soul
For I have seen, the face of love
The grace of God, the face of love

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