So, this is Christmas. At least, it will be soon. Stinking heat, humidity that turns the air into soup. Dripping sweat. As the song says “it’s the most wonderful time, of the year.”
That’s a lot of pressure to put on 1 day. And for a lot of people it’s actually the loneliest time of the year. The pressure to be excited, to be happy, can be overwhelming if you are on one of the estimated 45% of Australians who suffer from depression and/or anxiety. It can feel like the world is doubling-down on you.
How can you not be happy? It’s Christmas! Santa is coming and the baby Jesus is being born, and it really wouldn’t be Christmas without former Child-Star Kirk Cameron babbling nonsense about pagans stealing a christian holiday.
There are Hallmark movies daily to mark the celebratory season. Unlucky in loves who buy a magic ornament or meet a man dressed as Santa on a street corner who fall in love in time for the holidays.
There a songs filled with good cheer and good will and for the majority of the population who celebrate the ‘silly season’, there are few quite times to plan how the end of the year will be the celebrated and the new year begun.
Tinsel and pretty lights, elves sitting on shelves and movies where even the ‘grinchiest’ of grinches finds their stoney hearts thawing under the relentless happiness of the season.
In the immortal words of Scrooge McDuck “bah humbug.”
Christmas can also be a time of crushing isolation. Of feeling like you’re alone or at your wits-end. It can be difficult to muster the ‘cheer’ demanded by TV programmers, well meaning friends and the occasional Coca-Cola commercial.
For some of us, it’s hard to forget the Christmas’ past and to celebrate what they’ve been replaced with. It can be difficult to care about the birth of a baby in the middle east who has somehow become caucasian. It can be hard not to feel like you’ve been left on the shelf, next to the elf.
And it can be hard to acknowledge that it is perfectly okay not to be happy, just because a date on the calendar happens to be one you’re supposed to be happy on.
When the world is telling you to be joyful, to be happy, to join the throngs of people celebrating, being joyful is the last thing on your mind. Sometimes a win is just getting out of bed and having a shower.
So why do I write this? Is it simply a whinge. Maybe. It could also be as a reminder to those of you who read this to reach out to those who need you at this time of the year. There are so many people without families, without loved ones. So many people who walk this earth effectively alone.
It’s cold out there sometimes, even in the middle of a Summer heatwave.
Christmas is a day. Like any other. It is, what you make it. That said the pressure to ‘perform’ can be absolutely overwhelming. It’s okay to acknowledge what you may once have had and it’s okay to acknowledge those times are, for the most part, gone. It’s okay to not be happy.
Throughout this holiday season, my Christmas wish for anyone suffering; for anyone who looks at the tinsel and the lights and the damn elf on a shelf and thinks to themselves “Can this just hurry up, I want to get back to my real life”, is that you treat yourself well. If you don’t want to celebrate, don’t. If you don’t want to be alone on Christmas Day go and volunteer at a soup kitchen or see if the local nursing home accepts volunteer visitors for those who have no one left.
Whatever it takes to get you through the season. And for those of you who are struggling or feeling isolated and are considering taking a permanent solution to your depression. Please reach out. Below are a couple of phone numbers that may help.
If you are feeling suicidal this holiday season please make use of the numbers below:
Lifeline 13 11 14