‘Tis the Season

 

It’s that time of year again; Christmas is around the corner. For many who live with dissociative identity disorder, the holidays mean depression and loneliness.

This article will focus on Christmas depression and how to cope when the festivities bring you down.

 

Seeking Christmas Through the Lens of the Past

 

 

During the Christmas season, many people rush about putting up Christmas decorations, decorating the tree, baking and making special food, and generally stressing themselves out.

 

If you have a trauma history, i.e., lived in a dysfunctional home where everything was traumatic, even during the holidays, you can’t help but feel uncomfortable at this time of year.

 

Perhaps seeing a Christmas tree is triggering for you, or you despise hearing Christmas carols constantly playing as you try to shop for groceries.

 

You are not alone, as Christmas depression is felt by millions of people not necessarily because of trauma in their pasts but because of the tremendous stress of forcing oneself to be jolly and make memories with their family.

 

But you know what? It is okay to feel bad at Christmas and to feel depressed and lonely. It is better to acknowledge how you are feeling than to bottle it all up and force a smile when you are so depressed. You just want to sleep until it’s all over.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder

 

 

To make matters worse, some people who have dissociative identity disorder also suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a condition that usually affects people during the dark winter months.

 

SAD is a type of depression that usually begins and ends at the same time of the year. SAD makes its victims moody, saps them of energy, and has many symptoms like clinical depression.

 

Seasonal affective disorder brings a hellish emotional disruption, causing people to not get into any Christmas spirit or to feel like being among others. This means that people with SAD want and need quiet and rest and do not have the energy to attend festivities.

 

Some of the other symptoms of SAD include:

 

  • Feeling sad
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Low energy
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Problems sleeping too much or too little
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling worthless
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

 

Treatment for SAD includes light therapy (sitting under a full-spectrum light for at least 30 minutes a day), medication, and, if necessary, psychotherapy.

 

One should note that seasonal affective disorder also can affect people in the summer because of the changing seasons in spring.

 

Please, if you are feeling suicidal this time of year, seek help immediately.

 

Ways to Cope with Christmas Depression

 

 

During the holiday season, so much is going on it is difficult to step back and regroup. Perhaps you’ve been invited to a family member’s home who harmed you as a child and yet feel compelled to go.

 

Minimizing the stress at Christmas is vital to dealing with Christmas depression. However, there are some helpful hints to help you cope.

 

Recognize and acknowledge what you are feeling. It is normal to feel sadness and grief if you are a survivor of traumatic childhood events and have formed dissociative identity disorder. Acknowledge your emotions and allow yourself to express them. It is okay to cry, and it’s okay to feel depressed.

 

Reach out to others. It might be difficult for you, but reaching out to people who don’t drive you crazy is crucial. Seek religious or another social event where there are people where you fit in. Check out support groups like Adult Children of Alcoholics & Dysfunctional Families, where you will find like-minded folks who understand your pain. Their website offers a page of meeting lists, with some being virtual if you cannot attend in person. If you are religious, check out their programs or get involved in volunteering time to help others.

 

Try to remain realistic. Keep in mind that Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t rush about ignoring your emotions and attempting to create the perfect experience. Remember, the holidays are about being real with people you care about and not a rat race, especially if you are depressed.

 

Plan everything ahead. Plan on what days you will shop and what you will shop for this year. Consider shopping online to keep out of crowded stores where your anxiety can peak, causing flashbacks. Line up days and times to do any cooking you plan on doing, but don’t push yourself. If you need to rest or isolate, do so until you feel better.

 

Say NO when necessary. Saying no to unrealistic and uncaring demands is crucial to not becoming overwhelmed. If you must go to Christmas dinner, set a time limit on how long you wish to remain there. If the dinner is at an abuser’s home, do not allow them to abuse you in any way. If they do, leave immediately. You have nothing to feel ashamed about; that shame belongs to them.

 

Hide if you need to. If you find yourself overwhelmed at a party or dinner, either hide in the bathroom with the door locked or go outside to catch your breath. Don’t push yourself to enjoy the event. Instead, recognize when you are uncomfortable or having flashbacks and take yourself out of the situation.

 

Set a time limit. There is no reason for you to remain in a place where you feel uncomfortable. Set a limit on how long you will stay. If that is fifteen minutes, that’s fine. Realize how much you can allow yourself to feel uncomfortable and stick to it.

 

Try to remember that there IS NOT a requirement for you to enjoy the holiday season. Our culture tries to pretend that a hap-hap-happy Christmas season is what you should experience when a great deal of them are suffering just like you.

 

Ending Our Time Together

 

The Christmas season is a tough time for many survivors, including yours truly. Not only do I have a trauma history and DID, but I also gave seasonal affective disorder. For me, the season is not jolly but a time of feeling sadness and depression.

 

I am writing this article to help you and remind myself of what I need to do to help myself.

 

I’ve never been very good at reaching out and sharing my pain with someone else, but I think I will try something different this year. I have a great online support group called Ivory Garden, where I have formed some great relationships and friendships. I plan on spending Christmas day talking to them on a Zoom call and posting on the board. I’m also going to spend time with my two very young nephews and live vicariously through their joy.

 

What will you do this Christmas? How will you defeat my old buddy depression? Hopefully, you’ll read this piece and find some ideas.

 

No matter what, remember that I care deeply for each of you, whether or not I know you or if you come to this blog once or many times. I write this blog because I care. Try to remember that at least one person in the world thinks about you.

 

“Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.” – Peg Bracken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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