“The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18, KJV).
Christmas is typically seen as a time of celebrations, family and holiday cheer. As a child, I absolutely loved everything about Christmas: family, fun, toys, gifts, games and all of the food and desserts that my heart desired around that time of year. All of that changed for me, however, the year that I turned twenty years old.
That year and for many years afterwards, I, like many other people who currently live with a mental illness, dreaded the Christmas season which only seemed to magnify my feelings of loneliness--no matter who was present. I was lost even in familiar places and distressed even when everyone else felt that I should be happy.
For ten full years, without rhyme or reason, this sense of dread would begin to envelope me in the month of November and not let up until about April. My unmet expectation that there was a wonder drug out there that would somehow “make me happy” only added to my frustration, anger and sense of brokenness.
Thankfully, God broke that cycle in my life long ago and even today there are those who tell me that if I never told anyone, no one would ever associate me with someone who is mentally ill. I understand what they are saying but, that’s one of many issues for me. Few desire to be associated with mental illness, therefore there are many misconceptions regarding mental illness and those diagnosed with a mental illness.
Without a single doubt, I can tell you that I never once woke up choosing to be mentally ill. I never, not even once, chose to go through 10 years of mental turmoil before God's deliverance but, because of my experience, I do choose to let others know that mental illness doesn't discriminate. It can strike anyone at any time. I choose to remember the incredible despair, shame and mental pain that I felt all of those years. It makes me a better advocate for those who have lost their voices due to mental illness. And I choose never to forget those who are still struggling.
As Christmas approaches, it is important to recognize that there are many who are not feeling a lot of “holiday cheer” due to their illness, estrangement from family and friends and life circumstances that are constantly changing. If you or someone you love, are finding the Christmas season challenging, here are some Do’s and Don’ts to remember which may protect your mental health or the mental health of someone you love during this time.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for support during this time.
- Do make time for family and friends. Isolation may not be the best option at this time.
- Don’t over-extend yourself. Know your limitations and seek balance as much as possible
- Do know that you are not alone.
© 2015 Linda A. Haywood. All rights reserved worldwide.