As much as I want to see the holiday season as a joyous time, I know that for many it is not. There are sobering statistics attesting to the fact that the holiday season is a time when depression spirals, grief strangles, and sadness reaches unbearable depths.
Before you stop reading, saying “This is too much of a downer, I don’t want to read this”, give me two more minutes to convince you that it is worth staying on this page.
Those who are struggling with depression, sadness and grief can make it through the holidays; can get themselves off the edge of the cliff and back on solid ground again. How? The same way those fighting cancer do: by the support, love, patience and understanding of those around them.
Why the comparison to cancer? Because I recently read a powerful blog post where the author talked about how when she was fighting breast cancer, there was an outpouring of support, but when it came to fighting her mental illness, she was alone again (read more: No one brings you casseroles when you are bipolar).
Why is it that we can come together during a crisis and unite to fight something tangible (physical illness), but find it so hard to support the intangible (mental illness)? Is there a part of us that still sees mental illness, grief, emotional struggles, loneliness, etc. as a weakness? “Pull up your socks and get your sh*t together.” Would we say that to the cancer patient? Of course not. But think about it for a moment. One aspect of the struggle with cancer is emotional: continuing to fight through the pain, the despair, the unknown, the fear. What makes that so different than someone who is fighting to hold on for other reasons? Why do we show kindness to one and marginalize the other?
May we each reach out with a little more kindness and a little more understanding this holiday season. For someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one. For someone who is struggling with a mental illness. For someone who is alone. For all those out there who feel enveloped in darkness. May we take the time to reach out, so we can be a flicker of light.
For further reading on how to be there for yourself and for others, please explore the links below:
- Canadian Mental Health Association has a number of articles on Understanding Mental Illness
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a blog article entitled Beat Back the Holiday Blues. The main NAMI website is also packed with articles along with more information on StigmaBusters (speaking out and challenging stereotypes about mental illness).
- The Mayo Clinic has a short article called Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping plus links to more information.
- The website GriefShare has an extensive library of articles about Surviving the Holidays after the loss of a loved one.
- My friend Wendy (a grief specialist) wrote an article called Helping Kids through the Holidays, which has a number of ideas to help kids who have experienced significant losses.
May we all find a little peace, this holiday season.