Tag Archives: depression

8 tips on getting through the un-merry holidays

For many, December is the season for the Christmas Blues – the time of year that becomes the most dreaded instead of the most joyous despite how many songs have the word “merry” in them. That feeling of dread only grows if you’re broke, if you are missing a loved one, if you find yourself suddenly single… If one more person says “merry” to you, you’ll shove that merry up their….mistletoe.

I can’t promise you guaranteed happiness over the holidays. I won’t insult you by making light of your situation by telling you to fake it till you make it. The holidays can be the hardest time of year, mostly because everyone expects you to be happy – or at least pretend to be happy so everyone around you can be comfortable. Let me be the one to give you permission to cross anyone’s name off your gift-giving list if they try to pressure you into feigned happiness.

And then let me give you a few tips on how to get out of your slump on your own terms:

1. Give to others who can’t pay you back. The holiday season is supposed to be about giving and goodwill towards others. Some still abide by this. But for the most part, I think many of this has been lost. It doesn’t even have to be big. Buy a box of hand-warmers and pass them out to the homeless. Go a step further and give them a blanket too. Donate your time at a soup kitchen. Take a few hearts off the Secret Santa tree. Go to the Volunteer Center and see where they can use your help. If you personally know of a family who is struggling, lighten their burden with a bag of groceries, help with cleaning, or offer them free babysitting. Small things add up to big things, and smiles are contagious. Trust me, the love you give results in a warmed heart, and soon it becomes easy to forget who’s getting the better deal out of your generosity.

2. Refuse to overspend. Set a realistic budget, and then stick to it. Vow to keep the credit cards sheathed, and just use the cash you have. Don’t have much? Get creative. Check out Pinterest for a few ultra cute ideas. Give the gift of service instead of a wrapped gift. Bake your present. Write a poem and frame it. Write a nice letter. But don’t give so much in December that you’re hurting in January. No one wants that for you.

3. Exercise! I know, I know. It’s cold outside. The mornings and nights are too dark. That holiday pie is weighing you down. There’s too much to do. And did I mention it’s cold outside? Yes. Whine about all your excuses. Get it all out there. And then put on your walking shoes and take a walk around the neighborhood. Grab a few friends and do it every day. Do whatever you can to get your body moving. It’s hard at first, really hard. But if you stick to it, soon it will become your favorite part of your day. And then, you’ll feel restless if you don’t exercise. And then….you may even feel (cringe) happy.

4. Get your Vitamin D. The days are shorter, meaning that it’s dark when you go into the office, and dark when you leave. But Vitamin D is the happy vitamin, and so important to keep you out of the doldrums. My first suggestion to you is to make sure you take at least 20 minutes in your day to sit outside in the sunshine (when it’s not raining or cloudy). But my second suggestion is to make sure you’re taking a Vitamin D supplement, especially in the winter months. The recommended dosage is 600 IU for anyone under 70 years old, and 800 IU for anyone 71 and older.

5. Keep organized. It’s easy to feel like there’s no time in your day if you’re not sure how you’re spending it. But if you create a schedule and try to keep to it, you’ll be surprised at how much you can get done in a day. Same goes for how much money you’ll find when you stick to a budget, and how much sanity you’ll have left if you keep your house clean. Do your best this month to keep all areas of your life contained, and you may even develop a new habit for the new year.

6. Don’t over-budget your time. Be realistic, you can only do so much in one day. So don’t create some crazy schedule that will only make you feel like a failure when it collapses in your lap. Instead, put a star next to two or three things you have to get done today. Then, if you finish those and still have time, you can get a jump-start on a few things on tomorrow’s list as well.

7. Allow yourself time to be sad. Let’s face it, sadness happens – and that’s okay. It’s a necessary emotion that everyone must feel sometime or another. Own it. Spend a day in it. Truly feel it. Don’t mask it with electronics, or hide it behind a smile. You are sad. And the only way to get past being sad is to give yourself permission to be sad.

8. Ask for help. If you can’t get past the sadness, there is no shame in seeking out a professional’s assistance in lifting you out of that deep hole of depression. If that’s too scary for you, talk with a trusted friend and let them make that call for you. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to be so incredibly sad that everything tastes bland, every day is on repeat, life has no purpose, and the sunshine just can’t reach you. And I know that when it gets to the point, the hardest thing to do is ask for help. Be brave, and ask for it anyway. It’s the best gift you can give to yourself, as well as to those who love you.

5 reasons for the blues

I’ve been a real ray of sunshine on this blog as of late, haven’t I? I hate that the last several posts have been so negative. I’m afraid I’m becoming one of those people that use social media to complain – the very people I eventually unfriend on Facebook because I can’t take their negativity any more on my newsfeed.

Luckily there are only two or so of you who actually read this blog religiously. Unluckily, I’ll be real sad if either of you stop reading.

So hang in there with me, ok?

First off, I promise that my life is not that miserable. I have a lot of good things going on right now. I’m newly married, and totally still in the honeymoon phase (when we’re not being cranky, lol). I hope this phase lasts a long, long time. My new raise at work takes effect this next week, something that couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time. My birthday is in two days (yay!), and Christmas is just around the corner (yay!). And the editing of my novel is going so smooth, it’s possible I might even be able to get it published before my projected May 2013 release date.

So things are good.

Then why do I have the blues?

First off, it’s possible I’m suffering from post-wedding blues. Maybe. I’m thrilled to not have to plan a wedding anymore. You guys, I am so not a wedding planner. And yet I put every ounce of my energy into planning that wedding. And then it went by before I could even remember what happened at the party. Then we went on this fantastic honeymoon. Now, things are back to normal. And the “normal” is both a relief, and a bit of a letdown. I’ve discovered I suddenly have a ton of time on my hands – which I have slowly been soaking up in novel edits.

Second, this lack of daylight is giving me the blues. In the morning it’s dark. I get home from work, it’s dark. As a result (or maybe my excuse), I’ve stopped running. A few months ago I could run 3-5 miles, no sweat. Now, I don’t think I could run a mile, at least not very easily.

Which brings me to my third thing. I’ve stopped exercising altogether. My muscles are still in that achy stage where they are trying to will me to get up off the couch and get in some exercise. But my body and mind are like, “Screw that, hand me another chocolate covered cookie, please.”

And that brings up reason #4 – I have gained back the 10 pounds I lost before the wedding. I know, I know. That doesn’t seem like a lot of weight. But on my frame, it is. All my clothes are fitting tighter, which is so depressing I keep reaching for the chocolate and carbs to make myself feel better. Any hint of muscle definition I’d gained before the wedding is now gone. My stomach is spilling over my jeans. My pants, that were loose on me two months ago, are now a struggle to get on. The simple answer is to stop the mindless grazing, forbid sugary foods from my diet, and start getting up and exercising. But for some reason, the drive I had before the wedding is totally gone. I even had to take the scale out of my bathroom because I was habitually weighing myself and getting depressed over the number, and yet I was doing nothing to change that number.

Finally, #5. I’m excited about my birthday. I’m not excited about getting older. I’m turning 35, which might not seem like such a big deal. But there was a time when 35 seemed really, really old to me. I mean, it’s practically middle aged. I’m officially leaving my early 30s and entering my mid 30s. I might have to start collecting social security.

Perhaps if I up my Vitamin D, I might feel better. Or maybe if I can get myself to at least take a daily walk I can chase away these blues. I don’t know. But please hang in there with me. I’ll try not to be so depressing.

When the sad becomes too big

I met my friend “Lisa” about 6 years ago when she was a new mother, and a single one at that. My sister introduced us, seeing how her friend felt incredibly alone in the process and needed someone who could relate. I was a little more seasoned in the single mom arena, and we hit it off immediately. It’s not often I find friendships like this, where we go from being perfect strangers to friends who confide in each other about everything. But when I do, those are the friendships that generally hold the most meaning.

My friendship with Lisa was just like that.

Over the years we became allies. At the time, neither one of us had the other parent helping out with our kids. But we did have each other. We created a babysitting swap between the two of us, watching each other’s children to create moments of sanity and reprieve from motherhood, and a chance to maybe find love in the dating world.

Being writers, we’d share our daily life stories through long-winded emails that only the two of us could appreciate. We both blogged, and were consistent in commenting in each other’s blogs. She might have been my only reader, but her hilarious blogs garnered tons of comments from all her friends and fans appreciating the laugh.

Lisa was the kind of person who said what she was thinking, even when it’s not something that should be said out loud. She pushed the envelope when she felt like it needed pushing. She never failed to shock me, or to leave me in awe of her bravery at being unapologetically herself.

I was there when she struggled in a one-bedroom apartment with a toddler. She was there for every dating disaster I subjected myself to. We overlooked each other’s messy homes and low-income living. I celebrated with her when she found Mr. Right, got engaged, and held a beautiful wedding. She was there when I found my prince among a trove of frogs and settled into a relationship that finally made sense.

And when a series of circumstances attacked her out of left field, I watched helplessly as depression overtook my beautiful friend, leaving her a shell of the women she once was.

I’ve suffered my own bout with depression. A decade ago I lived in a large house that didn’t seem to garner any light at all. We had just lost a baby to stillbirth. My marriage was failing. And our money situation was incredibly bleak. I lived in the darkness, every day excruciatingly the same. I stopped talking to my friends or leaving the house. In return, most of my friends forgot about me. I was afraid of the dark feelings inside me, as if they were an infectious disease. Caring for my kids became exhausting. Just getting up and walking in the other room to make them something to eat made me feel so tired. So I spent most of the day lying on the couch with the curtains drawn, and I silently hoped to fall asleep and just never wake up.

When someone is going through depression, they are the last ones to admit it – at least out loud. I knew I was depressed, but I was afraid to tell anyone. Of course, it’s not like depression is easily hidden. My mom, seeing that I wasn’t capable of helping myself, pulled me aside and insisted I needed serious help. I finally made an appointment with my doctor, a wonderful woman who recognized the devastation growing like cancer inside me. And as I sat and cried on her exam table, she gently handed me a prescription for medication.

However, even after suffering and surviving depression, I feel totally incapable watching Lisa suffer through her own battle with this debilitating disease. It’s hard to know what to do as my friend falls deeper and deeper into her grief, going from a normal sadness to something that is much bigger than she is. I miss my friend, and it’s been a struggle to sidestep my personal feelings of abandonment while my friend withdraws.

After several failed attempts to contact her, I finally made a decision to consciously step back from our friendship. I didn’t know how to be there for her, and was starting to feel like she didn’t want me there anyway. And this devastated me. But our lapse in friendship only lasted a short time. Her name showed up on my phone a few days later, and I listened to her sob for a full 40 minutes – giving her no advice except to tell her “I know”, and “I’m so sorry you’re going through this”.

And then I just listened.

When I lost my baby 10 years ago, I sat in the hospital room feeling more alone than ever. My husband was gone with the kids. The nurse had left the room. But another friend of mine showed up.

“I don’t know what to say,” she told me. “I have no advice at all. But I’m just going to sit here. And I’ll be here if you need me, even if you just need to cry.” And she sat there for over an hour while I slipped in and out of sleep and tried to escape my grief. And her presence meant more to me than almost anything anyone has ever done for me.

Being a friend doesn’t require knowing all the answers, or trying to fix what’s broken. That can be the hardest thing to remember, or even to accept. But sometimes, being a friend requires nothing more than just being there – and listening.