Living through the holidays with anxiety feels familiar to me. I escape to a bedroom or a bathroom sometime midday and practice some deep breathing or mindfulness. Sometimes I go for a walk. It feels legitimately overwhelming at times, but I can survive.
Living through the holidays with anxiety and depression seems a bit harder.
The weeks leading up to Christmas Day didn’t contain the normal amount of cheer. I tried to play the part, of course. I wore my Christmas Hat. I dressed up in red and green for weeks on end. I wore a Christmas tree necklace and snowflake earrings.
I looked happy and in the spirit on the outside. Inside, I felt anything but.
I did somehow force myself to attend some of the get togethers I planned with friends. I also balked at a few of them and canceled plans at the last minute. I hate looking flaky, but sometimes the demons win. “They don’t really want to spend time with me. They don’t really care about me. No one really wants me around anyway.”
When I did manage to attend, I mostly enjoyed myself. It’s hard to stop those thoughts once they start running though, and I’d find myself near panic attack in the middle of some friendly party. I don’t know how I talked myself down off those ledges, but I mostly managed to hold things together until I got home.
Home is a different story. I spent a lot of time sleeping in and sleeping during the day and going to bed early or sometimes entirely too late or staring at the ceiling thanks to insomnia during this month. I cried. A lot. I didn’t do a lot around the house. I waited entirely too long to purchase gifts. I didn’t read a single book. Sometimes when I would practice good self-care, like coloring or meditation or yoga, I would still lose myself to the inner voice that whispers, “You’ll never be good enough. Why do you bother? They’re better off without you.”
Things felt marginally better after my daughter’s birthday, but not resolved or easy. I went to therapy later that week. My therapist reminded me that I do possess coping skills, that I know how to use them, that I can do this. Which, guess what? Made me feel like more of a failure. I have support. I have the skills. I know what to do and how to do it. And I’m still just stuck.
One day, I felt very overwhelmed with everything. I didn’t get anything into an Advent Activity envelope. When I told the boys we wouldn’t be doing anything that evening, LittleBrother told me he felt disappointed and upset. While I recognize the fact that he told me such a thing as an indicator of the way we’ve provided a safe space for feelings and emotions, man, I felt like absolute crap. Letting my kids down, one missed Advent Activity at a time.
Christmas Eve felt okay, until we sang “Silent Night” at service. I made it through the song last year. Not this year. I choked up more than once. I miss my grandparents keenly on Christmas Eve and Day.
Christmas Day, however, felt mostly okay. Mainly because we stayed at home and cocooned up with our people. I rested when I needed to rest. I cuddled with dogs. I played games with the boys. I managed to eat good food.
But here we are. We finished our last Christmas event of the year today. And I’m still left feeling like I’m never going to be good enough as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, anything. More than anything, I wish for 2017 to bring back the sense of peace I worked to hard to attain and lost once again. Always.