As we’re in the thick of the holiday season right now, I figured I should take a moment to discuss all those terrible things too many of us go through during this period of the year. Because, look, mental health is a serious thing we all need to be concerned about, and it’s simply not something we talk about nearly enough. In fact, until very recently, it was incredibly taboo to even think about, much less have open and honest conversations regarding.
I’ve been pretty open about it on here for years, but I struggle with my mental health on the regular. It’s been something I’ve gone through numerous different therapeutic techniques to help with, and I certainly manage it a lot better than I used to, but I still struggle.
And I think part of that struggle is that it’s so dang hard to actually get a grip on what is actually troubling you, when it comes to mental health. When I was first diagnosed with depression, it was during a period in my life where I had a lot going on, and things weren’t exactly moving in the direction I wanted them to move, and, well, I just felt lost. Sad, definitely, but I think even more than that, I just felt lost.
And so, one day, when I was feeling more exceptionally lost than usual, I up and left work with a quick message to my boss about feeling under the weather, and I went for a long drive. About halfway through my drive, I sent a message to my wife telling her I thought I was finally ready to do something about my mental health issues and she immediately called and set up an appointment for me. This was when I knew I had found the right person to marry. There weren’t any additional questions about what I needed from there, she just called and got an appointment set up for me.
And I showed up at the doctor’s office, told him that I think I suffer from depression, and after filling out a quick little questionnaire that would determine just how much depression I have, I was diagnosed and given my first prescription for anti-depression medication.
It was incredibly easy to get that first step completed.
But as I’ve gotten older and have learned some of the techniques for managing my mental wellbeing, I’ve started to realize how little there seems to be with regards to diagnosis outside of that questionnaire and just saying you feel sad a lot. While I know that the questionnaire has been developed as a proven method for determining whether people are depressed vs. just being sad, it still felt a little weak of a diagnostic tool for me. I remember answering questions about whether I feel more sad than happy, whether I have trouble getting up in the morning, and whether I had ever considered self-harm. And while I know that these are not things that all humans struggle with, they still felt a little too much like questions any person could score a few points on easily.
But maybe that’s the point? Because mental health isn’t exactly stable, just like your physical health isn’t. While there are those of us who suffer from a chronic chemical imbalance in our brains, that’s not to say that someone can’t get an acute case of the sads.
And the holidays seem to be the time in which this happens more often than any other time. Which makes sense. Not only are there so many requirements of us to try and make sure that others have a happy holiday season. Not only do most of our jobs become that much more taxing as we prepare for the end of the year (or, if you’re in retail, deal with the hordes of people who are trying to rush through their holiday shopping). Not only is this a time where we most remember our lost loved ones. And not only is this when we see the least amount of sun for the entire year, meaning we’re just not getting as much Vitamin D as we usually get. But also, the end of a year is yet another reminder of all those things we didn’t get done that we had wanted to get done.
The concept of New Year’s resolutions means that as the new year comes along and we start thinking about what our new resolutions might be, we also realize that we didn’t actually do that great of a job on last year’s resolution. Another year passed, but it feels like we didn’t actually do the things over the year that we wanted to do.
So, to add on to all the sadness and the stress of the holidays, now we get to throw in a little bit of guilt and disappointment as well.
Because this season of joy is really a season of closure for the year. And so many of us have so many high expectations for ourselves at the start of a new year, it can be really rough to see how few of those expectations we’ve met when the year winds down.
So, this is my message to you to take it easy on yourself. This year has been a rough one. We’ve all fallen short of where we want to be. We’re all still wishing there was more we could have done. And we’ve all just come out of the rush of the Christmas season feeling just plain exhausted.
As such, if you can find the time this week (or in the coming weeks), find some way to take some time for yourself. A mental health day (or hour) to just sit back and realize that although you might not have done all the things you wanted to get done, you’ve managed to get through another year. Another year of a global pandemic. Another year of political and global strife. And really, just another trip around the sun trying to survive. You survived. Be proud of that.
Mental health is nothing to take lightly. In fact, all of us could do a far better job of just sitting back and giving ourselves a mental sick day. Even if it means that tomorrow’s going to be that much more work because of the day we took off.
Of course, I’m saying this while also knowing that I’ve got a few more days with my kids around the house and trying to find some way to make their winter vacation fun…so, maybe next week.
It’s my New Year’s resolution to find a day to take for my mental health. I’m really hoping I can actually manage to succeed on that one.