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Merry Christmas Blues. Tuesday December 24, 2013

I was a bit of a child prodigy when it comes to depression, having my first attack at seven years old. It happened at Christmas and I can still remember being in bed (because it very often takes a form similar to ME), looking at the lovely turkey dinner my mother had brought up, with beautifully crispy potatoes (my favourite) and not wanting even a bite of it. There was the noise of Christmas jollity coming from downstairs; the sounds of my brother and sister playing with whatever they had been given and it had no relevance or significance whatsoever. I just wanted to go to sleep until it was all over.

Forty odd years ago, of course, it wasn't recognised as depression. I think they put it down to end of term exhaustion and nobody seemed much bothered about it.

The depression has occurred at Christmas a couple of times since. Each time it has not been particularly the exhaustion or dark mood that has been most hard to bear, but the sense of isolation. Even in the middle of a family playing a loud and hilariously funny game, I am stuck in what seems like an enormous goldfish bowl; the walls of murky glass meters thick. I can see things going on outside the bowl, but I can't get to or feel any of it.

And I've learned that it's OK to be there. The extended family just think "Oh, Mary's a bit tired: she's been overdoing it". My immediate family know I'm ill and tend to be a bit more protective than usual (bless them). I've learned that if nobody expects Uncle David to give horsy-rides to the children because of his dodgy back, then nobody expects me to be the life and soul if the blues have got me again.

There's never a good time to have depression. Christmas is a particularly grim time to suffer, as is the summer holidays. The important thing to recognise is that there is no contractual obligation to be happy and jolly at Christmas. The phase "Merry Christmas" is a hopeful wish, not a command set in stone.

I wish us all Peace this Yuletide, fortitude of Spirit and Endurance. Regardless of the state of our mental health we will all benefit from these.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

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Adam Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 7:54am

The 'murky glass goldfish bowl' really resonated with me. Thank you. I hope you find yourself happily free from it this year.

Rupert Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 9:41am

Is funny because I am actually feeling like that today - at work now but in a way dreading the next few days - have been so looking forward to it but now just feel numb.

Julia Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 9:50am

Happy Christmas Mary and thank you for all your blogs this year. At least amongst the Moodscope community none of us needs to feel isolated. Tomorrow is just one day, the same length as every other day of the year. It will soon be over. We must not wish our lives away! I am certain that each of us contributes in our own way to other peoples' enjoyment and the rich tapestry of life. Imagine a world full of happy sorted people, clones of each other really. No thank you! Let's be at ease with our depression and see it as something positive tomorrow :)

Anonymous Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 10:08am

Thanks Mary x i find my mood drops significantly this time of year. Having to smile and be "ok" is the only way in my family. Each year i have to see my brother and act "normal" even though he abused me growing up. It muddle s all the emotions up to an overwhelming cloud. Suffocating. Now that visit is over i am safely in my home trying to just breath.
Love fish bowl analogy. Its like that for me especially if too much going on.
Wishing everyone peace and a good Christmas xxxxx

Anonymous Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 10:50am

My depression started at age 7 as well. The way I handle social situaitons that are uncomfortable like Christmas is to focus on the senses to keep myself grounded and in the moment with people instead of detached, in my head and on my own. I think about how my back feels against the chair, about the music, well i dont think about these things i just focus on the sensations. even the carpet on my bare feet, or the taste of something, those sensations keep me present, its mindfulness but its also based in the dialectical behavioural therapy approach which is a common therapy for depression and anxiety. It is impossible to feel detached and alone or aloof when one is connected with the senses. At leas then even if i am not enjoying the situation or gathering, i am present and i can find comfort and groundedness in the sensations tha ti focus on. This year for me it is interesting bc i have recovered from 30 years of depression and this is my first christmas w my family not being depressed. I think my mom tried to start a fight with me after she was drinking because now that i am not depressed and clinging to her or just aloof and laying there like a lump she doesnt know quite what to do with the lack of drama or any problems so she is creating them herself. also i think with codependency once one member changes the others panic bc they cant manipulate nor feel the same sense of neediness from the recovered person so they are forced to focus on their own problems-in my case my mothers own drinking problem instead of my problems which makes her uncomfortable thus she ''trued'' to start the fight. I didnt buy into it and just stood up for myself with her silly provoking comment and did not make eye contact. i have also limited my time with them now, i am only up for a week instead of the usual ten days i used to do several times per year. short visits will now be the norm. Its like when you are sudenly consistent with a child reacting to their behaviour by ignoring it or some other tactic, the behaviour goes into overdrive and reaches a peak bc the child does not get what they want any more and they dont recognize the reaction so you get a spike in behaviour but if you are consistent they learn the new rules and settle down. Same goes for this situaiton. i will not react to foolish provocaton and instead will just be very neutral and /or stand up for myself without emotion...never giving in or buying itno the behaviorus, not even once because that sets the family back. They are realizing im ok on my own now and i think that is uncomfortabel for them bc their own personal problems are now at the forefront instead of mine.

Anonymous Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 11:18am

Mary, your blogs are always wonderful, but this one this morning made me really really really want to give you a massive hug. I am finally depression free after Somatic Experiencing sessions and am feeling very grateful. Love and hugs to all of you who struggle. May you all find your way.

Julia Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 11:29am

What an amazing person you are, so brave to come through all this. Well done I say!! I am sure we can all learn from you.X

Anonymous Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 11:43am

My Christmas was with my now ex family and none of them understood me. In fact they never made me a part of the family for 25 long years. Now divorced absolutely now I have time with my sons and my dog (we never judges me but is always there for me).

I was never permitted to go on sights like this and so felt isolated and alone but now I feel "normal", that I am permitted feelings.

All the best to all and may your futures be yours to control

Anonymous Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 12:44pm

I really identify with this you've written today. I had my first recognisable bout of depression at around 7 years of age too and have been debilitated by it ever since despite years of medication, therapy and inpatient treatment. I witnessed an abusive childhood and a serious sexual trauma as a young teen and life has been one long struggle since. I have lots to be thankful for though too and it is my children now grown up who really keep me going and my beloved husband.I lost my career 2 years ago as I now have ME, Fibromyalgia, Lymphoedema and can't walk more than a few steps anymore and life feels like a huge uphill struggle and I seem to often just sit on the sidelines and watch the fun and laughter going on infront of me as I don't have the energy to join in. I try to pace myself so I can have some fun too and to rest when my body tells me I absolutely must but I feel constantly guilty that I can't be the mum or wife they need or deserve. But, I try so hard to be thankful for what I have as compared to so many I have so much! I wish you all a peaceful and Happy Christmas with your loved ones. April x

Anonymous Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 12:59pm

Your read of codependent beh. is spot on. You may get hooked tho so be forgiving of yourself if they do find that button to push. All will not be lost.. I love your shorter visits. You are the master! Blessings to you. 2014 will be a your of continued growth & maturity for you. Pls share.
Oh. I also like "merry Christmas" is not a commandment. Good reframe for me.

Anonymous Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 1:09pm

Dear Mary,

Yes its okay if the Christmas isn't "merry". If it makes you express yourself so well so that it resonates with others who find themselves in a bowl such as yours, I think that is definitely better than just screaming "Merry Christmas".

Lostinspace Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 2:05pm

Well, I thought there would be more comments than usual.
What really depresses me about Christmas is that my grown-up children live far away in other countries, the longer they are away and the more Christmases we spend apart the harder it is to be properly in touch with them. I feel like I am in a goldfish bowl and cannot reach them.
There is something about other people's expectations at Christmas that seem to highlight the shortfall in others who are not mad about it. All that smiling, my mouth hurts already. The other problem is drink. Apparently it is a fact that after the first 2 oz. of alcohol which give you a lift, the rest is a depressant. Oh but the temptation to use it to get past the leaden non-participation and dealing with people who have already had much too much and have turned into temporary idiots. Funny how people who knock back enormous quantities of booze will look down on a person who admits to taking anti-depressants! Alcohol should be treated like cigarettes perhaps and ought to come with warnings. What is the ratio of drug related death as to drink related death? That is a statistic I would be very interested to know about.
What I really miss is a proper English speaking church service, I used to just sit in the pew and feel peaceful and more centred about Christmas and the true meaning of it which I interpret as Goodwill to All Men, regardless of religion.
Anyway, Mary thank you and all the other posts too. So, Goodwill and Peace to each and everyone.

Anonymous Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 3:59pm

For anyone who is depressed or alone, or alone and depressed - please remember that 25 December is just one day. It's puffed and inflated by the media and it's difficult to resist buying into their concept of what a merry Christmas should be. Very few people experience that happiness - there are so many expectations and stresses behind the smiles. I have spent Christmas on my own and enjoyed the solitude and lack of responsibility, I have arranged large family Christmas gatherings, I have spent Christmas with friends at their homes and in restaurants. I have been suicidally depressed at Christmas. All were different experiences. Please, please don't buy into the Christmas commercials and ads, the constant music - they are marketing tools to encourage people to spend money. As simple as that and as hollow as that. If you are depressed this Christmas please don't give yourself any goals or expectations - apart from giving yourself tender loving care.

Julia Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 6:01pm

I couldn't agree more with you about alcohol Lostinspace. If no-one drank alcohol at all these Christmas and new year parties, the party would end after an hour or so. I hate having to drink in order to prolong my stay at a party.It's madness. I hope that maybe you managed to listen to the carols from Kings College this afternoon on the radio? Happy Christmas and I am sure your children love you just as much as ever however infrequently you might see them.

JustMyself Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 6:52pm

I have never posted a comment on any Moodscope blog but I feel moved to today. I really dread Christmas and I am currently at home with my husband, wishing tomorrow was over and that all sights and sounds of Christmas were gone. I am no longer in contact with my mother or my brother because my relationship with them was so dysfunctional and unhappy. My father died nearly 20 years ago but it seems like yesterday. It is very difficult to have no immediate family around me at this time of year and I feel that I am alienating my husband with my constant anxiety and low mood. We are unable to have children and this also makes Christmas very raw and surreal, almost ike we are on the outside looking in on what is "normal" and "real'. I do not know how I am going to get through the next few days. I am frozen with panic and I feel sick to my stomach. I want to disappear, basically because I think it would be easier for everyone. God bless anyone out there who is feeling desperate tonight; may they find courage and strength to keep fighting.

Anonymous Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 6:59pm

Thank you for your post today. It was perfectly timed as I've been finding myself sliding back into my "checked out"/isolated status. Hoping to wake up in 2 days when "its all over". With things like your posting, and DBT and other skills I've learned, I can choose to try to be more present and connected without feeling like it's all a big mysterious fog dragging me down.

Julia Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 7:27pm

It would be much more difficult for everyone if you were to disappear. Just remember that. Why don't you ask your husband if you really are alienating him? I must admit I often think this, that I bring mine down but then I ask myself why should he be influenced by my moods, why can't I be influenced by his? Why can't he notice how I am feeling and try to cheer me up instead of being despondent himself (but without articulating why)? Just be yourself and accept that is how you are right now. It's good, it's you. You will survive the next few days I can guarantee this just as we all will. Good luck and let us know how you got on.Please

Anonymous Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 8:03pm

God bless you, too, JustMyself. I feel validated by your post--thank you for reaching out. The only thing I can think to suggest is to do something compassionate for yourself and your husband and/or take some opposite action to how you are feeling and see if that eases the pain a bit. This too shall pass. Merry Christmas and I'm rooting for you!

Anonymous Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 8:16pm

You are absolutely right. They now have to focus on themselves and don't have someone else as their excuse. Keep strong. Well done you.

carol Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 9:17pm

Thank you so much for your honest comments and the good wishes and encouragement you send today, they make so much sense, tomorrow is always another day.

Anonymous Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 9:20pm

Thank you for such a timely post. I have always struggled with Christmas and felt guilty about my feelings. However, I have come to realise that the expectations ( either in the media and/or within extended families ) and the reality are poles apart. I have always kept Boxing Day as a day to spend with my side of the family and have dreaded it if I am honest. With a brother and sister whose idea of conversation is to reel off the latest exotic holiday/ expensive gadget/ car and such like, it has never been an easy time as I am not at all materialistic. For years I spent money I could ill afford on trying to match up to their expectations as regards presents. However, I have decided from now on to donate to charity on their behalf and to avoid meeting up with them and it is such a relief - almost to the extent that I am actually looking forward to spending time with my daughters and husband. My message would be please yourself, do what you feel is right for you (and, if it applies, for the people you REALLY care about) and the rest can go hang!

Anonymous Tue, Dec 24th 2013 @ 10:40pm

Hello everyone, I have never commented before but really had to throw in my support, admiration and understanding for all of us who have had depression from a young age and who are feeling challenged by Christmas. i wish you well and thank all the moodscope community for sharing - you are a valuable help. Every best wish for the festive season and 2014.

Anonymous Wed, Dec 25th 2013 @ 8:03am

Excellent post,

Thank-you !!!

Anonymous Thu, Dec 26th 2013 @ 11:55pm

Thank you so much for your post. I'm just now starting to acknowledge that I have a problem and haven't seen a professional yet, and Christmas this year has been hard. I've really been feeling that "murky glass fishbowl" effect. It's just nice to hear you say that it's okay to not be life and soul of the party. Thank you <3

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