Friday, November 27, 2009

Ghosts of Holidays Past

I was really stumped this morning about what to write for today's post. There is so much going on in the LGBT world right now, but I just wasn't feeling it. The blog roll on the right shows who's talking about what. Today I'm a little too preoccupied to do any of those stories justice.

The Holiday season is here again and with it, my annual end of the year funk. I'm one of those people that has suffered for years with depression during the holidays. I spent years trying to figure out why and have gotten a pretty good handle on it.

The morning talk shows will be featuring "experts" over the next few weeks discussing the causes of this all too common phenomena and make recommendations about how to treat it. They'll talk about the anxiety associated with the preparation and overspending. They'll interview people living far away from their families for the first time who miss the tradition and closeness of family during the holidays. They'll talk about old family squabbles being rekindled in overcrowded households, as we all forget that we've grown up and regress to our younger, less secure selves for a few weeks each year.

Some TV docs will blame it all on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which can occur with the lack of sunlight during the shorter days and longer nights of winter. And they'll tell us what to do to get through it in one piece.

Over the last 25 years of dealing with depression, I've developed some coping skills of my own. The main thing is that I've come to anticipate the annual onset and to plan for it. I remind myself that it's temporary, that it will be over in a few weeks and to keep the holidays as simple and stress free as possible.

I used to use counseling and antidepressants, but have come to the conclusion that it's not unusual to get depressed during the holidays, so there's really nothing wrong with me. Why should I pay someone to tell me that? As for the meds, they just mask the problem, cause my willy to wilt and give me weird dreams. Instead, I've developed some mental exercises of my own and have been okay for the most part for the last several years.

This year things have been going so well and I've been feeling so good for the last few months, that I was caught off guard when the feelings of dread hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday. Having spent the last 24 hours reviewing the last few weeks, I can see that "the monster" has been circling the periphery and stealthily closing in while I wasn't paying attention. Now that I understand what's happening, I can deal with it more effectively.

I'm feeling a lot better today and am ready with my action plan:

1. Get plenty of sleep. When I'm tired I get cranky. When I'm cranky, I get bitchy, which makes me feel guilty afterward, which only makes things worse.

2. Don't get caught up in other people's holiday drama. Everyone has their own stresses at this time of year. It may sound cold, but getting involved in their BS only makes my own depression worse. It's stressful enough dealing with my own stuff, I don't need to get involved in theirs.

3. Keep it simple. Getting stressed out about trying to have the perfect holiday is something I just don't do any more. I'm no longer willing to travel hundreds of miles, or spend hundreds of dollars, just to spend time with people I don't want to see. I no longer obsess over how to please people who can't be pleased and whose opinion doesn't matter any more.

4. Live in the moment. I've always tried to do this and I have to remind myself to do it every now and then. It helps me to enjoy what's happening in the now and to not think too much about the family holiday horrors of the past. The future will get here in its own time anyway, so why worry about it now?

I'd add something about not partying to excess, but I don't drink any more, which has also helped a lot over the years. I wouldn't recommend overdoing it if you're trying to overcome your own personal holiday funk. It's just easier to deal with it all when you're not hung over.

So, armed with my tried and true arsenal of skills, I will make it through my least favorite time of year and look forward to the new year ahead. I have one favor to ask. If you see me around town or want to leave a comment, please don't feel sorry for me or say "I hope you feel better". It sort of makes it worse. It's not that I don't appreciate that people care, because I do. I wrote about this to get it out of my head and maybe to help someone else cope a little better.

Enjoy the next few weeks. Have a great holiday season!
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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the reminders, Steve. It is always helpful to know that other folks have to find ways to cope with the holidays. There are times I really enjoy certain parts, but I also have learned from experience to keep my toolbox well-stocked for all those days when the dread descends. Your advice on avoiding other's dramas is a very good idea--though I am not always prepared for the fallout, if that makes sense.

    I really appreciate this post.



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