I have thought about this day for several months. I knew this day would arrive, whether I wanted it to or not. In fact, as you are aware, I wasn’t able to prevent it. With each setting sun and a night of sleep, another day soon begins. There just isn’t anything we can do about it. We can only accept it.
And so today has come, Christmas Day 2016. And my reality, like so many others, is being home alone on this holiday. It’s not by choice, but it just is. My family has never spent the holidays together. I’m not sure why, but it has never happened. My only child will be spending his Christmas day with his father and that’s ok. That is bound to occur when his parents are divorced. My friends are spending time with their families and friends. And so, it’s just my dog and me.
This is, by no means, what I wanted for Christmas. It’s been over 25 years since I have spent Christmas alone. I have heard many tell me, “It’s just a day.” Yes. Well, those are also the same who have somewhere to be and someone to spend their holiday with. Funny, huh? Yea, not so much. Others have suggested I begin my own Christmas traditions. It sounds good in theory, but difficult to put into practice.
Our society crams down our throats what our Christmas “should” be like. At the very least, a picture of a family around a Christmas tree opening gifts, laughing and spending time together. And everywhere you look it’s all about shopping. It’s all about gifts, wrapping paper and bows. In fact, the business of credit makes it very easy for anyone to spend way beyond their limit and means.
And yet Christmas still remains just a day to many. We often think of our homeless population going another season without anything. We’re grateful for our countries veterans but don’t seem to do enough to show our utmost gratitude. And our hearts are softened by the millions of children who will have little to no Christmas cheer this year.
For me, this year, I am forever mindful of many who suffer in silence, behind their own walls and entrenched in their own battlegrounds. I’m speaking of those, like myself, who suffer from the tolls of mental illness. Today, on Christmas, many of us would rather pull the covers over our head and sleep through the day. If only today were “just another day.”
Today I am speaking to and for everyone who is suffering. I know this isn’t “just another day.” It can’t be, no matter how hard you try. And there are many people who are going to try and convince you otherwise. Advice is free and so freely given. But, you know as well as I do, that unless someone has walked in your shoes, they truly have no idea what your life is like.
I like to think that I understand and that I understand how you may feel. But, I can never fit in your shoes, nor can you fit in mine. And so, we can only share our experiences with one another and find comfort amongst each other. We have to be there for each other, because there may not be another.
But, more importantly, I want to congratulate you! If you’re reading this then I know you made it through this day. However you handled today, whatever tool you used, you are still here. You are breathing and living and I am so proud of you! Hey, guess what? I made it too!
For those of my reading audience who don’t quite understand, I want to help. For many of you, when the word Christmas comes to mind, it envelops a warm feeling of love and happiness, family and traditions, good food and blessings. Yet, this is rarely the feeling shared by so many. Whether someone is struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, BPD, bipolar, schizophrenia or any number of other mental health illnesses, Christmas is rarely felt in the same way.
The holiday season is often associated with negative memories, hurt feelings, abandonment issues and reminders, and overall deep levels of loss and sadness. It doesn’t matter whether the individual is thinking of what was, what is, or what could be. Their feelings are valid and real. First and foremost, don’t mock them, don’t ridicule them, don’t downplay them, don’t dismiss them, don’t discount them, don’t name them, and most importantly, don’t try to get rid of them (the person and/or their feelings).
The best thing you can do to help someone at this time of year is to accept them. Accept the individual as they are right now. Accept their feelings, their hesitations, their anxiety, and their wishes. Just accept them. Don’t try and change them! If someone is feeling a certain way, then that feeling is valid. It may not make any sense to you, but it is most definitely real to that person.
With all of that said, know that you are not responsible for that person’s happiness. Do what you can and are able to do. Don’t try to do anything more. If you’re uncomfortable because the individual isn’t happy, remember that is about you and not them. The fact remains that you can’t make someone feel a certain way. But, also remember that an individual who is struggling often times can’t find a way to make themselves feel differently either.
One final thought. Don’t hesitate to do something nice for someone else. But, do it because you want to, not because you expect something in return. Someone who is struggling may not be able to express to you how grateful and thankful they are feeling. Just know that your actions and words aren’t unheard!
Over the years, as I have personally struggled through the holiday season, I have been blessed by the love and kindness of friends and others. As much as I have attempted to dismiss my feelings and desire for love from another, I have always been awestruck by its enormity.
If you know someone suffering from mental illness who is struggling through today and this holiday season, reach out and spread kindness and love to them. If you aren’t expecting anything in return, then you won’t be disappointed. Besides, you have no idea just how much you may positively affect their life and their personal story.
If you are struggling today, do everything you can to reach out to someone. I understand and know the struggle all too well. It’s not easy and I know that. Do what you need to in order to keep yourself safe today. Yes, being alone on Christmas day sucks, but tomorrow the sun will rise and until then…
Snuggle in bed, color, listen to music, dance, take a hot shower/bath, sing, read a book, watch TV, go for a walk, cook a meal, stand on your head, engage in laughter, throw darts, skip rocks, walk your pet, take selfies, play on social media, write in your journal, tell a story, phone a friend, play a game, organize your closet, do jumping jacks, put together a puzzle…whatever you do, do it mindfully. Stay in the moment. Stay healthy and most importantly, TAKE CARE OF YOU!
If no one else understands, I do. I guarantee you!