THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR?
Christmas is supposed to be a happy, sparkly, shiny time of year – the MOST WONDERFUL time of the year, in fact. From super-peppy music to sugar laden treats, everything is in excess. I am the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation type; fueling my glitter addiction every step of the way. However, I wasn’t always this way.
Don’t get me wrong, I always loved Christmas but, it was a love-hate kind of relationship, it was a time of year that I silently struggled with.
I’d get invited to a party but, instead of getting excited about the prospect of spending time with family/friends, I would focus on how being so big would make finding something pretty to wear VERY difficult. Even if I DID find something I was relatively comfortable in, my nervousness would be on bust at the prospect of having to mingle with new people -- the new people would look at me and see my excess weight, instead of my friendly personality. It would REALLY go in to overdrive if at said holiday gathering, I was sitting ALONE (since my outgoing ex-husband would usually be the life of the party) on the couch and I’d see a group of ladies look my way and laugh. So, instead of attending a holiday party, I’d opt out.
Then, there was the whole wanting-everyone-to-like-me piece. Part in parcel with this is selection of the perfect gift and spending copious amount of money on this gift. The people in my life at the time were adamant about the gift portion of Christmas. It didn’t matter if you were experiencing hard financial times, these people expected you to participate in gift giving. No ifs, ands or buts. So, I would endeavor to procure the PERFECT gift…on a budget…catering to specific needs…with hopes of that person not hating me if I picked out something unsatisfactory. So, for me, buying a gift was similar to buying a gift certificate for their respect. If I bought what they liked, they’d respect me, then they’d like me, then, my innards would be happy...or so my mind would lead me to believe.
Thanks low self-esteem.
Finally, there was over indulgence that came hand-in-hand with Christmas -- the copiousness of food and alcohol. There were addiction issues in my close circle so; having these things in the house was a recipe for disaster. AND the overwhelming feeling of impending doom when thinking about the potential disaster. AND the anxiety around trying to gain the willpower to refrain from eating an entire box of pot of gold chocolates in one sitting. AND the extreme guilt from completely abolishing the willpower and eating TWO boxes of pot of gold in one sitting. Then, the feeling of complete worthlessness that followed. Wanting to crawl in to a hole and sink away from the world.
High Anxiety. Low Self-Esteem. Depression.
These were things I suffered with for years, but, you’d never say it. I put on a smile and did my best at fooling everyone around me in to think I was a happy human. For me, the issues with my mental health were situational.
I was super-morbidly obese; I was in a challenging marriage where I was trying to provide support to my husband as he was battling his own demons; I was continuously sick because of an un-diagnosed chronic illness; I settled for stressful jobs that were mentally taxing and broke my demeanor but, stayed there to provide a stable income for my household. I had basically strayed so far from the person I was striving to be in life that I lost sight of my goals and dreams, thus causing me to sink deeper in to a depression. I was at the point where I was seeking help from mental-health professionals and pharmaceuticals.
Lucky for me, the above is no longer my reality and I’ve found my true self again, so, my mental health is pretty vigorous these days. For this, I am EXTREMELY grateful.
However, there are so many people out there who aren’t quite as lucky.
For these people, the holidays are filled with negative feelings, instead of positive ones. They are struggling to just get through the day without their mind taking complete control. They may put on a happy face but, inside they feel like they’re dying. These people aren’t strangers. These people are your friends, family, neighbors. You see them every day, yet, you don’t see them at all. It’s time we open our eyes to mental illness and recognize that it really is an epidemic. Mental-health issues are just as pertinent as physical-health issues and the stigma associated needs to be dropped.
For right now, all we can do is support and reach out to those suffering from mental health issues -- let them know you are there for them. They may not accept your offer but, your demonstration of kindness may be a tiny glimmer of hope and could potentially be a life saver. You may not fully understand their struggles but, everyone learned in kindergarten how to be a friend. So; be a friend.
Something to keep in mind, there are also 24 hour community supports available, as well.
Kid's Help Phone 24 Hour (help line for troubled/abused kids/teens) (Toll Free)
Naomi Centre 24 Hour (Shelter/support/safety for young women)
Choices for Youth 24 Hour (Shelter/support/safety for young men)
Sexual Assault Crisis Line 24 Hour
Mental Health Crisis Line 24 hour Toll Free
So, as we head in to this holiday season, be mindful of the feelings of others who may not be experiencing the joy you are. Lets all make an effort to share a little comfort and joy with everyone, especially those who need it the most.