In the early dawn of Christmas, I found myself curled up under the shower head. The warmth of the stream brought little relief to the chronic pain, but it was away from reality. It was a haven away from the intensity of the holiday season that suffocated me entirely. There was a time before then, that the music, the life, the business and the fullness of the season brought forth cheeriness.
It was difficult to pinpoint what made the holiday season so hard. I didn’t understand why during the "most wonderful time of the year," I only wanted to isolate myself and sleep. And it certainly didn’t make sense to others. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of grace that exists in the stress of holidays, on top of the stigma that already surrounds depression and mental illness.
As soon as November 1 strikes, it seems as if everyone drags their trees down from the attics and adorns them with ornaments. The lights are strung out, but not quite as much as everyone in the haste of the season. Leftover family skeletons are pushed into the closet just in time for Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing. There is an intensity and stress that already encompasses the season. Not only do our bodies suffer in their circadian rhythms due to time change and the prolonged darkness, but culture pushes such a hurried, dehumanizing mindset.
Perhaps this serves as a reminder to be gentle with yourself and others this season.
Despite the extremity and impatience of the season, slow down.
Check on your friends you know who struggle with the season and offer them a warm cup of coffee, homemade soup or kind company. Validate them and let them know they have a safe place to rest. One of the major things about seasonal depression is the habit to isolate, so keep this in mind. If your friend or loved one is withdrawing, let them know you hold space for them and how they feel.
To all my dear people who struggle with it firsthand, prepare and plan accordingly. It’s easy to let it consume you whole, but it does not have to dictate who you are. Reach out to your support and set up precautionary actions. While everyone has different coping mechanisms, I strongly believe that waking up earlier and keeping a consistent schedule aids greatly.
Make the light count, figuratively and literally.
Our bodies thrive with exposure to light. With dusk creeping in at as early as 4 p.m., it’s important to make sure you are getting the most out of the sun while you can.
Take care of yourself. Allow the sun to soak in your skin, keep hydrated and eat even when it seems impossible. This uninvited guest will act as a parasite, trying to cut off what makes you human. Tell it who you are, that you are light, life and whole.
Affirm yourself. It is damn hard enough as it is, and taking up the fight against seasonal depression is brave. It is easy to turn inward, but the bravery it takes to wake up each day, nevertheless is badass. Create mantras and carry them with you anywhere you go. You do have the power to speak truth into your life.
The holiday season may try and rush us, but we can take our time. Life is far too fragile for us to throw it around. Watch the snowfall with your first hot chocolate of the year. Light a fire and curl up with blankets and that one book that makes you feel more like yourself. Tidy up your room, burn some incense, and make it homey. Do whatever makes you feel more like you.
Most of all, remember to have grace for yourself, for others, for the season and all the feelings that come with it. You are valid, brave, and showing up everyday is a courageous decision.
Written and Photographed by: Sveta Petty