I don’t know about you but I don’t understand why we have to make such a big deal about the holidays, specifically Thanksgiving (Halloween for some) through New Years? The rate of depression and depression-related suicide jumps dramatically during this same period. Why don’t we see the same rates for Independence Day, Memorial Day, or President’s Day?
Okay, so maybe those holidays are not so family focused as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the like. But really, when are we going to stop feeling sorry for ourselves? Heck, who am I kidding? I am just as guilty of holiday depression as perhaps you are. The fact of the matter is that I don’t have much family, and the family I do have is scattered around the country.
I used to pack up the kids, put the dogs in kennels, and fly half-way across the country to be with family during the holidays. Not only was it expensive and exhausting, but very stressful. My sisters would argue over food preparation, my father would sit back and watch the fireworks with a bizarre sense of enjoyment. I would try to blend in with the wallpaper but would eventually get right in the middle of the chaos, trying to defend my right to an opinion.
When I was in my early twenties and first married my husband and I were always so stressed over how to divide our time between our respective families. It didn’t matter how hard we tried, our efforts were rarely appreciated. Oftentimes the focus of the visits seem to be more on the gifts than the people! I have one family member who would not only recycle gifts, but had the nerve to give away used items that she didn’t want anymore! One time she gave my then three year old daughter a ski jacket that was a woman’s size 4 and obviously worn. When I asked her about it, she responded with great indignation, "it was an expensive jacket, she will grow into it!"
We are expected to be cheerful and festive, but not everyone feels like they have anything to be cheerful or festive about. The holiday season is especially painful for me because I lost my mother when I was a young child. Sometimes it feels as if she died just yesterday, and yet it has been over 30 years. I look at others that have large extended families, when I have less than five family members still alive, and I feel envious. When I find myself getting depressed I think about the family that I have now: my three children, my wonderful husband, the friendship that I have with my ex-husband, and my childhood friends. I am so fortunate, and sometimes I forget that.
You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be miserable. It really is something that we all can control. Life happens: good, bad, and indifferent. Whether you are happy or miserable will be determined by how you choose to handle life’s ups and downs. Why get depressed because you can’t spend a small fortune on your kids holiday gifts? Gift-giving should be a small part of the holiday season. So many people have lost the true meaning of the holiday season. Did you know Thanksgiving was first introduced to our great nation by the American Indians and the Pilgrims. Christmas is a time that profoundly effects the entire world. It is a day that many religions share in celebrating the essence of life.
My husband and I try to encourage our children to focus on the many blessings we have and not on the many gifts they would like (and often do) receive. We have had a rough 2007, I struggled with health-related problems, my husband struggled with post-divorce issues, my dad, who turned 87 this year had a major heart attack, and my daughter’s boyfriend lost his very young father (53) to esophageal cancer. Life can be difficult! But then all of a sudden, things turn-around and we have a period of extraordinary and wonderful events. That is how life is. Some days are better than others and so you hope, in the end, that your life had more positive experiences than negative ones.
So when you start to feel depressed, remember it will be over soon. The in-laws will be safely in-route (or you will be) home, and miraculously all will seem quiet and back to normal. I watch a lot of comedies during the holidays and I surround myself with people who are positive and make me feel good about myself. It also doesn’t hurt if they have a great sense of humor!
Instead of being down and hard on yourself because you don’t have what you think you should have, focus on what you do have. Make your experiences positive. You can’t change what you can’t control - so change what you can control - You!
To my colleagues and those who read my column,
I wish you a very happy and healthy new year. I thank you for reading my column, for the emails, and for the stories. I have been writing for the Denver Nursing Star and the Oklahoma Nursing Times for over five years and I have enjoyed every minute of it! In health and wellness!
Dr. Mundorff is a Board Certified Naturopath, and not a medical doctor. The information in this column is for educational purposes only and should not be used to self-diagnose and treat diseases. She is the author of several books, her latest, Take Control: A Guide to Holistic Living, is an innovative health guide which helps the reader learn how to regain control of their health.You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.freewebs.com/bridges2hlth.