To a lot of people, the holidays mean lots of food, family gatherings, buying gifts, receiving presents, spending time with loved ones, and being joyful. It’s that magical time of year when everyone expects you to forget your worries and stresses about the real world and get sucked up into a vortex of joy and Christmas spirit.
How could you not be happy during the holidays, right?
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – or at least, that’s what is expected. But that is not necessarily the case for everyone.
For those of us who live with mental illness, it's not always that simple.
Trying to portray the persona of joy and happiness 24/7 is nearly impossible any time of the year, let alone during the holidays. It can be extremely hard feeling like you are letting people down because you don’t feel the way they expect you to. But trust me when I say that it’s okay not to be okay.
This is not just for people who live with mental illness.
This is for anyone who is struggling during the holidays.
This is for parents who are grieving the loss of their beloved child. For those who want nothing more than to share the holidays with the ones they love. You are under no obligation to fake your holiday spirit. Do what you need to do to survive this time of year. I believe in you.
This is for the those who are struggling financially, and cannot afford to buy presents. I promise that your family and friends will still love you. It’s not about your presents, it’s about your presence.
This is for those who are struggling with an eating disorder and feel like they cannot attend a family gathering because of the strong focus of food this time of year. I am proud of you – please keep fighting.
This is for those of you who live with crippling depression that are constantly told to be happy – I understand how debilitating this is during the holidays, let alone any other time of the year.
This is for those who struggle with any kind of anxiety disorder. I know how hard it can be to step into a shopping mall this time of year, or spend all of your energy on trying to make everyone else happy. But please know that it is not your fault if you need to take a step back and spend some time alone. I feel this one far too often.
This is even for those who do not necessarily struggle. I know it can be crushing when you are putting your all into trying to make everyone else happy this time of year only to feel ignored, unnoticed, or unappreciated. I promise that the people in your life still love you. You are doing your best to spread love and joy and we appreciate your efforts in doing so. But I also encourage you to be mindful of what other people may be feeling. If someone at the family gathering is not socializing and is off spending time on their own, give them their space for the time being. Some people may be having an extremely hard time and may need that time to re-generate.
I need to do this during the holidays often, and I can tell how it upsets my loved ones that I barely see throughout the year. I promise that this isn’t because I don’t want to spend time with you. That is the thing I want most – I just get overstimulated with the holidays and need some time to myself to rejuvenate before socializing. It can be difficult trying to explain this to those who do not experience these feelings, but I know that I am not alone in this, and it’s okay.
This is for everyone this holiday season. Do what you need to do to get through the holiday season. I believe in you all.
Written by Campus Rep Julissa Stewart