I guest posted on Crystal Twaddell’s Made to Brave blog this week about depression during the holidays. Unfortunately, it is a sad reality that more people are depressed/suicidal/anxious during this time of the year than any other time. As I’ve said before, depression and anxiety go hand in hand. Anxiety is high energy fear of the future, while depression is low energy fear of the past.
It seems that it’s more socially acceptable to be anxious. After all, if you have a busy schedule to be anxious about, doesn’t that make you important or popular? But if you’re depressed, it means (supposedly) that you’re ungrateful for everything in your life, and no one wants to invite you to parties because you drag the mood down. I’m not downplaying the severity of anxiety, but I do believe we as a society talk about anxiety more than we talk about depression. It’s time to continue the conversation by discussing what happens when your anxiety disappears: it is often replaced with depression.
Anxiety is a large part of us. For some of us, it’s who we are. If you struggle with anxiety, can you even think of a time in your life when you weren’t anxious? Although we want to be set free from it, when we finally get better, we sometimes get worse. The hole that anxiety leaves in our lives is big and loud and aggravating. If we’re not anxious, then who are we?
That’s when depression kicks in. When we don’t have something to worry about, we get depressed. When our schedule isn’t filled to the brim, we get depressed. When we don’t have our usual five o’clock panic attack, we get depressed. Not because we miss our anxiety, but because we don’t know how to move forward. I know, because I’ve experienced this big time over the last couple of years.
During the holidays, we expect that Santa Claus and the smell of pine and gingerbread cookies and all the sugar will make of our problems go away. But they don’t. As a matter of fact, the holidays often make things worse for us. Some of us have to see family members we don’t like. Why do we have to sit across the dinner table from the people we haven’t spoken to in twenty years because of a fight that happened over a shovel? Some of us put our hope in gifts only to be sorely disappointed when we unwrap all the presents just to find our hearts as empty as ever. Did you really think that a new computer would make you feel more fulfilled?
With that logic, it’s no wonder that so many people kill themselves or die of natural causes during this time of year. Depression hangs in the air like the frost that comes out of our mouths when we’re whispering in the cold.
But depression is not the final word.
I encourage you this Christmas season to start by being honest. If you’re depressed, please get help. Reach out to a friend. Go to church. Even comment on this post. Be honest about how you feel and why you feel that way. Our emotions are not the truth, but they are an indication that something in your life needs to be fixed. It is essential for you to get the help and answers that you need in order to move on with your life and to enjoy the many blessings of the Christmas season.
This year, I feel like more than ever we’re trying to get back to the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus coming to Earth to bring us peace with God, with others, and with ourselves. If you focus on the other stuff, I cannot guarantee that you will feel peace at the end of the day. However, I am a living testimony that Jesus is the giver of life, not just eternal life when we die, but abundant life while we are still breathing. There have been times where I’ve wondered what the point of life is, and I’ve felt God’s peace saying that He has a purpose for me here. The same is true for you. You may feel depressed, hopeless, even meaningless, but God has a different story for you. The hope of Christmas is that you’re not alone, and that your life is worth living.