The Christmas of 2013 was not only the worst Christmas of my life, but the worst time of my life.
Months prior I had come off my mental health medication a little too quick and in November, a few days after Hallowe'en I had a major relapse. It was if my brain went into shock from withdrawing too quick. So there's the first lesson, don’t come off any psychopharmaceuticals without guidance from your Doctor.
I’m writing the following guide for you, not so much from a professional standpoint, but from a mental health sufferer warrior experience.
So here it is, a raw insight to how I got through the worst months of my life.
✷Disclaimer: There may be some triggers in the following content✷
Sadness & Loneliness
Christmas is a time for all families to reunite together from wherever they may be in the world. Sure, that’s lovely. However, it’s also a huge slap in the face to those of us who have lost family, whether it be through death or estrangement. That indescribable feeling in the pit of our stomachs; that heaviness on our shoulders.
It doesn’t just take death and absence of loved ones to make us feel lonely because, for some of us, our mental health has a tendency to make us feel lonely in a room full of our nearest and dearest. Sometimes, we feel sad and we don’t know why.
Feeling sad and lonely is O.K. It’s a normal human emotion. Sometimes we know why, sometimes we don’t know why. Either way, it’s important for you not to judge yourself for feeling these emotions.You’re human, It’s not wrong to feel sad, but it is unhelpful judging yourself for feeling so. Don’t try to push away or ignore your feelings. Taking time to yourself amidst the chaos of Christmas will give you time to identify why you’re feeling sad, nostalgic and lonely if you can’t actually figure out why. Oftentimes, there is an underlying reason, and taking time to reflect will often unveil the reasons. You can empower yourself to do something about it. Whether it be a lack of Vitamin D or unresolved grief.
If you’re lonely and by yourself, you don’t have to be. There is ALWAYS somebody who wants to help you, to listen and to be your friend.
If you’re dealing with feelings of despair, panic and terror remember these feelings will rise, peak and then drop again. They won’t last.
Becoming part of our Replenish Official Facebook Group is an easy, free and helpful way to taking steps to dissolve those feelings of loneliness.
For me, during that Christmas, I was on diazepam and sleeping tablets whilst I started taking my antidepressants again and waiting for them to take effect (This takes 4 weeks minimum).
I was very unwell. I didn’t think I could feel normal again. I didn’t think I could get past the thoughts my O.C.D was shooting me with. The thought of going on living was agonising and I didn’t want to prolong that agony. I didn’t have active plans of suicide, but I was wishing something bad would happen to me, like an accident or illness. I know this sounds terrible and very disrespectful because I know there are people fighting for their lives right now, but at that time I wished I had a terminal illness. Anything, anything instead of being inside my own head.
As Sylvia Plath once said “Is there no way out of the mind?”
As Sylvia Plath once said “Is there no way out of the mind?”
I didn’t want to die, I just wanted the pain to end. It was like running up a steep hill, in excruciating pain, exhausted and sore but with no option to stop. Nowadays, when I actually am running up a steep hill, the pain is nothing near that to living with the mental torment during Christmas 2013. When I run, I smile to myself remembering my victory of learning to love life again after wanting it to end.
Because, the thing is, you will learn to love life again. The darkness brings you to a place where you have a greater appreciation for all is that beautiful. So that’s why people who have been through the hardest times, have the greatest appreciation for the small, often overlooked and beautiful things in life. We need people like YOU to help people dealing with similar experiences. It takes somebody like you, an expert by experience, to really make a change in mental health awareness because you know what it's like and you know what it takes to help somebody.
So how did I come out of this darkness?
I didn’t have any quick-fix solution. I persevered through the agony. I didn’t believe my thoughts of “they’d be better off without me”. I knew these were negative, false thoughts. I decided to live. I chose to live. When I wanted to lie in bed, I actually made myself get up, get dressed, show up and never gave up. Getting up and getting showered may seem like nothing to the average person, but as Bryony Gordon said about her depression “it was like walking through treacle.”
Yes, due to the nature of our unique minds, not everyone will really understand the sting of your anxiety fuelled feelings, your sinister O.C.D thoughts and the depths of your depression. But do you know what? And this is for people who feel frustrated about feeling helpless when seeing a loved one suffer with their mental health:
You do not have to be a psychiatrist or a psychologist to help your anxious friend, or depressed cousin or grieving partner. All you have to do is be there. To sit with them, hug them and comfort them with kindness and support.
My Mother and Father, and the rest of the world for that matter, will never really understand my O.C.D, and they don’t have to.
During that Christmas all my Daddy had to do to help me with my mental health was light the fire everyday. I tell this to everyone in the Replenish workshops, to illustrate how something,like primal act of building and sitting beside a fire, can really have a therapeutic benefit. All my Mother had to do was sit beside me and talk to me about light-hearted things. They didn’t have to know C.B.T, and they didn’t have to anything other than be there.
Let me say, the mindset that you may be in now isn’t going to be the mindset you’ll be in for the rest of the year. A few bad weeks, heck even months, aren’t a determinant for how the rest of your life will be, as much as it feels like it’s never going to change. It will. I’m proof of that.
During Christmas it’s important to remember that when you see happy, perfect scenes on social media it isn’t how it actually is. Every photograph is choreographed and strategically formed, and NOT true to life. So remember that before you compare your situation to the false ones you see online.
Take it easy. Just because everyone has a party to be doesn’t mean you have to. Go ahead if you want, but don’t feel obliged. The best thing for me was to take very small steps. I would get up, have de-caf tea (caffeine is to be avoided when you’re mentally unwell), shower, put on a little makeup, put on loungewear and sit and do something creative like making Christmas cards. I’d then watch a movie, have a sleep and then have some dinner, sit with my parents, watch another movie and then go to bed. This may seem like a ‘lazy’ routine, but it was what I felt only able to do. Everyday I got stronger, i’d leave the house for an hour, then come home feeling accomplished. I’d go a walk the next day and then visit family. I slowly built myself up again at my own pace.
Do not feel an obligation to be happy. Focus on YOU.
Recovery and self-care isn’t about one solution as much as it’s about small actions. For me, building myself up a little bit more as each day progressed resulted in me then, exactly a year later, strong enough to travel to Australia on my own to visit my brother. Again, this may seem a trivial pursuit to the average person, however remember how unwell I was a year before. A small victory for many, a huge victory for me. Therapy, medication, exercise, creativity, diet and planning are all aspects of my wellbeing that sustains me and something that you can avail of this coming January when Replenish begins its 'Steps to Self-Care' workshops.
This Christmas you deserve to be relaxed. You deserve to de-stress. You need to take time to yourself, to take self-care and to build yourself back up to your strong self, because that version of you already exists, you just have to take the journey to meet yourself. It won’t be easy, it won’t be smooth but it’ll be worth it.
If you find you’re in distress this Christmas, please see the emergency numbers below:
Email me: Replenishyourmind@gmail.com