Tag Archives: Depression

It’s the Most Magical Time of the Year…and Depression


Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Ben White

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Ben White

The Holiday Season. Winter. Christmastime, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, New Year’s. All of it. It’s here again (or will be within weeks).

People are stringing lights across the eaves of their houses, smothering their front yard bushes and trees under ropes of brilliant bulbs of color, tiny fairy lights and large luminosities of red and green, Nativity scenes and Menorahs. Stockings are hung from the mantle or the chimney (or from stocking holders placed on shelves if you live in South Florida, because we don’t have mantles and chimneys), toy trains and holiday villages brighten up hallways and front rooms while trees sparkle and bow beneath their weight of lights, tinsel and decorations. Ugly Christmas and Holiday sweaters make their limited engagement appearances. Millions flock to Walt Disney World for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Holidays Around the World, and festive dining experiences.

It’s the most magical time of the year.

It’s my favorite time of the year. From the day after Thanksgiving (when I begin playing Christmas music) until Christmas night, those glorious, wonderful 31 days are when I’m happiest, each year. Attempting once again (and probably once again, failing) to compose and send out cards to those who are special to me, letting them know I’m thinking of them – all year long, but especially now – by the 2nd week of December. Searching for the best bargains on items from family members’ Christmas lists so I won’t go broke…again…

Christmas parties and luncheons, the annual church Christmas concert and children’s drama that always surprises and delights. The joy of finding that special gift for a member of my family, or a friend; imagining the pleasure on their faces when they open those gifts I’ve painstakingly wrapped in beautiful paper and ribbon. Decorating the tree while watching Christmas movies. And the Christmas movies! There are new ones each year to enjoy and ones from years gone by that have become favorites.

All of this I look forward to each year. Something magical about peace on earth, good will toward men.

But there’s a dark side.

These 31 days are also some of the most depressing days of the year for me and so many other people living with depression. There’s a bitter-sweetness to the celebrating and expressions of love and joy. Perhaps it’s because we struggle to feel the same wonder and carefree happiness that so maafter-the-new-year-graphicny others seem to feel; perhaps it’s because we feel a lack within ourselves – a lack of family or friends or significant other(s), someone with whom to share the joy; or perhaps it’s because there lurks beneath it all the understanding that this won’t last; after the New Year, most of us will go back to our everyday lives that magic never touches, good will and peace will be left at the curb with our dead and dying trees, and churlishness will accompany the deconstruction of all those pretty lights, trains and holiday villages. Back in the boxes, sheds and attics go our decorations and ugly holiday sweaters – at least the ones that survived kittens and puppies and toddlers – to save for next season. And so, apparently, do our belief in magic, joy and goodwill toward our neighbors. (Now THAT’S a depression thought.)

That’s part of it, sure. But for me, another part of the depression is old-fashioned self-pity. I’m single (not alone, because I have family and good friends nearby, but single…there’s a difference, you know). For someone like me, a romantic who dives into Christmas/holiday stories and movies (almost all of which end in some form of Happily Ever After, aka HEA), and watches – teary-eyed – all of the Christmas commercials about family and love, being single at Christmastime is downright depressing at times. Especially this year. Why is this year different? Well, 3 young couples with whom I am friends got married this year. I’ve been privileged to watch ALL 3 romances begin and grow over the past few years, and to see them each begin their own HEA in holy matrimony, and watch them begin their lives together…well, it’s bittersweet. Also, perimenopause is rearing its uncomfortable, heightened estrogen, emotional trainwreck, night sweat-slicked head. And, no sex. Also, no snow. 😦

Changing things up.

So while this most magical time of year is my favorite…and I suffer depression more acutely at Christmastime than any other, I’ve changed things up a bit this year, to see if perhaps I can survive the rest of this year less depressed:

  • I’ve not picked up one Christmas romance novel; instead, I’m reading the final book in an epic fantasy series (The Faithful and the Fallen series by UK author John Gwynne). I might be depressed at the end of the book, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be because the series is finished and not because I’m still single.
  • I’m gathering all of my tax documents – medical bill payments, copays, charitable donations, etc. – updating my writing and editing income and expenses spreadsheet so I’ll be ready – early – for tax time.
  • Keeping an eagle eye on my finances so I’ll be able to afford a nice birthday shin-dig for my son when he turns 16 (!!!!!!!!!!) in January.
  • Making a plan (which includes pep-talks at myself) for exercise, healthy eating and a little weight loss after the holidays (I’m soooo not into depriving myself of all the holiday goodies), so I will have enough energy to enjoy myself on my planned birthday trip to Disney World mid-February, and look good while I’m there! 🙂
  • Taking a little time each day to thank God for His blessings, and reflect upon all of the successes in my life (such as letting my son live another year – that’s a big one!).

So while this most magical time of year often means a deeper struggle with depression for me, I’m determined to enjoy the holidays with family and friends, revel in my independence and strength as a woman, and not dwell on the tiny, rather insignificant fact that I am single.

How about you? Is this your favorite time of year, and/or do you find yourself more depressed during the holiday season than any other time of year? If so, why?

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Filed under Depression, Disney, Emotion, Event, Family, Friendship, Holidays, Humor, Life, Mental Health, Musings, Real Life, Relationships, Romance, Thankful

I Still Remember…


Trigger Warning: Memories of Childhood Sexual Abuse

 

Stronger Than You Think2 cropped graphicI still remember my first sexual encounter. I was 4 years old. I remember every detail, as if I was a spectator, rather than the child. I don’t remember the physical sensations, but I do remember every word spoken, every scene enacted. Since it’s with me more than 35 years later, with more clarity than any other moment in my life, this must be the definition of trauma.

In reading fellow Booktrope author Rachel Thompson‘s memoirs about surviving her own childhood sexual abuse (CSA) trauma – Broken Pieces and its sequel Broken Places – for the first time a couple of months ago, many of her essays and poems struck a cord within me as a fellow survivor of CSA. My experience was different than Rachel’s, but some of the demographics are the same; my abuser was also someone I knew, though he was a child himself (8 years older than I) and the abuse occurred only once. Probably because my parents, and his, put the fear of God into him. But it didn’t stop him, only kept him away from ME. I know of at least one other girl, a good friend of mine, who he sexually abused, perhaps more than once; we didn’t discuss it much, even when we grew up. My abuse was also in the late 70s, at a time when such occurrences weren’t talked about.

Unlike Rachel, I never strove for perfection (I was always awkward. Still am, a bit, come to think of it.) or became a straight-A student (Geometry was my high school nemesis). I did, however – as I can see from the distance of 25 years – suffer from depression as a teenager, which probably contributed to me becoming an introvert (I still have to give myself pep talks  sometimes in order to interact with people in a crowd), who writes sometimes dark and depressing poetry. This was recently confirmed by my therapist, who also confirmed that my sexual “acting out” as a child was a direct result of that one incident, experimenting with both boys and girls, well into my teenage years. I’m not sure why it stopped then. Perhaps because at that point I realized I could get pregnant and knew I wasn’t ready for that.

I never forgot my experience. Not Innocence cropped graphicTo this day, I can remember every minutiae, as if holding a magnifying glass on the scene, every word that was spoken down to the image that goes with it. It’s almost as if it was another little girl, another blonde, green-eyed, 4-year-old pixie of a girl experiencing that and me watching and cringing, helpless to do anything to stop it. Then again, watching that same little girl seeking out that same experience with other children.

Later, when I was about 10 years old, I had a crush on this same boy who abused me, with whom I went to church and school (K-12) for years. Until he married and moved away. I saw myself as sick, that I would crush on someone who would victimize a child – only I didn’t think of it in those terms until I reached adulthood. All I knew was that I was ashamed to have tender feelings toward him, and didn’t understand the why of any of it. I’ve always wondered, but never asked: did she, the woman he married, know what he’d done? They’re divorced now, have been for many years. And when out of the blue, my parents received a Christmas card from him and his new wife “Wendy,” that’s the first time I remember having a “trigger” – it really scared me…as nothing had prior to that in a long time… Was he trying to say something? Send a message? Why did he marry a woman with MY name?

Was this why I became introverted? (How to make friends when you’re carrying around this huge secret.) Why books became my best friends? (Books cannot hurt or betray you.) Why as a teenager I would stare for hours at the ceiling above me? Why for years I couldn’t sleep in the dark or without my stuffed animals? Why I would shut myself inside my bedroom and throw my Birthday Girl figurines – I had all of them at one time; none of them survived – against my bedroom walls until they shattered into tiny pieces? Why the calm descended after each of those girls shattered? (Throwing things and hearing them break against a wall is very soothing. Cleaning up after yourself, not so much.) Were they ceramic substitutes for my own body? I had too much survival instinct, or else too much fear of hell to attempt suicide (though one summer spent with my cousins on our grandparents’ farm in Texas, I carried a thick rope, and when I was alone, would twist it tightly round my neck) – raised in a conservative Christian household, I learned from a very young age that suicide is a sin…and there’s no repenting THAT sin.

cropped-cropped-cropped-Stigma-Fighters-V1Though I’ve never really been secretive about this, I’ve not made it a regular part of my conversations, either. Since becoming friends with so many other writers – collectively known as Stigma Fighters – who, like me, live daily with some form of mental health issue, and who have become such inspirations to me through their bravery and selflessness in sharing their stories and their encouragement, I knew I needed to be brave enough to share some of the darkness within my own soul, in hopes of lending my support – and the occasional hug – to others like us.

 

(Stigma Fighters logo used by permission. The lines of poetry in the graphics are my own.)

 

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Filed under Anxiety, Booktrope, Depression, Life, Mental Health, Writing