I try not to blog about my depression as it’s, well ‘depressing’, so to talk about it around Christmas time, a time when everyone is full of joy as ‘tis the season is crazy right? Well, unfortunately I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. I’m not the Grinch yet I’m not a happy elf – my anxiety and depression (depending on which one is holding the baton for my mood that day) tend to push and pull me between the two.
Christmas is pushed upon us as being a wonderful time; a time to be with family, to party, to give gifts and to be overwhelmingly happy much like everyone around you seems to be. However, when you feel that you have nothing to give and cannot leave your bed, let alone your house then that pressure eats away at you. You know you should be with your family but you can’t face them as you feel like a disappointment as a daughter/sister/girlfriend so sit and worry about both that and what they will be thinking of you for not seeing them. What if it’s your elderly parents last Christmas? What is your partner dies driving home and his last memory is of me miserable?
Bizarrely, all the festivities around me have a double impact. Sometimes, everyone being happy rubs off on me and I have moments of mad delirium but other times I worry that my depression is all the more obvious in comparison. I avoid social drinks as I feel I will bring everyone down, dress wrongly, look fat or have nothing to talk about; even the thought of being in a hot room full of people that will try and speak to me is terrifying. There is also my problem with alcohol. Being anxious makes me drink lots but the cocktail of medication I take means one drink is the equivalent of three, however despite knowing this I refuse to show that I’m different to anyone else so I can continue drinking. Unfortunately this means that I’m stumbling around and blacking out within hours and then spending the next few days in a cycle of shame and regret: ‘what do people think of me? How can I do that to myself? How can I embarrass my partner?’
Anyone with anxiety will know that there is an expectation you put on yourself at Christmas to buy the right things, finish big projects at work on time and to budget and to create a magical Christmas for all. Social media doesn’t help with this one upmanship and comparisons. I’ve edged away from Facebook this month as the bragging photos of champagne and smoked salmon on Christmas morning highlight how wonderful (in my head) other peoples lives are; the thank you posts about lavish gifts show I’ve been cheap or got myself into debt with what I have bought and the photos of large smiling families sitting down to a glossy turkey illustrate how I don’t have children and have cooking abilities that consist of heating up pre prepared items from M&S.
It’s hard to know how to survive when you are terrified of your own brain. For the first time in four years I’ve found myself unable to cope as a situation at work pushed me over the edge and I’ve had to take some time out. I got to a point where I was tense all the time that caused constant pain, I couldn’t walk into work without shaking, feeling sick and snapping at everyone. I felt myself withdrawing from society as when I was mixing everything made me snap – my fight or flight had definitely gone towards the latter.
Fortunately my support network was stronger than I thought and I haven’t been judged for being weak or incapable. Rather than relax into my depression I’ve been trying to set tiny goals such as walking into town, baking cookies or decorating the tree. I’ve identified and avoided known triggers; introducing them back easily and most importantly I’ve been honest with my doctor, boss and partner.
It’s not an easy road. For the last four years I’ve been managing this disease and then I get bowled over. I liken managing depression to constantly dodging balls that are thrown at you – most of the time you’re successful but sometimes one slaps you hard in the face and every so often one knocks you right down.
At the moment I don’t look forward to each day, instead I’m thankful I’ve survived yet another. Don’t get me wrong, I am looking forward to Christmas but scared of it too, especially for any times I’ll be alone with my own brain. Constantly fighting your own brain is scary and so tiring – I try to keep it amused with films, books and sleep but every so often it will whisper ‘remember what a failure you are and how everyone would be better off without you’.
I am determined to enjoy this Christmas and concentrate on what I have rather than what I lack. Next year I get married and I have some great friends and family in my life that accept me for who I am. I don’t want diamonds or a car for Christmas – all I want is to be moderately happy and to wake up one morning with a smile rather than a frown.