Shortly after we’d decked the halls, Abby and Henry were talking about how the holidays make them happy. Henry then extrapolated, twinkly lights reflecting on his thoughtful face, that it made everyone happier.
I explained that I didn’t think it made everyone happier. That it may make some people a bit sad. A notion, I knew, that would sound clunky and foreign to him.
As I sip my morning coffee, I look at my window and see the rain raining and the grey sky lounging just over my tree tops. I think about the holidays and about the beliefs I hold about The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Even though I know better, I still get swept up in the belief that it’s all glowy and dewy and sparkly and fun. HAPPY. And then, I’m disappointed when it’s not all that way because of course, it can’t all be that way.
Depression and anxiety don’t have a calendar. They’re don’t respect holidays or birthdays or special occasions. They don’t take vacations (unless, of course, they’re climbing into my suitcase).
Wait, maybe that’s not quite right. Maybe, MAYBE, they DO have a calendar, stealthily planning and organizing guerrilla tactics to attack when they’re least expected.
Oooh, Christmas Eve. She won’t see us coming then. We’ll weasel around the tree like the Grinch and steal her happiness. Or…WAIT! What about a New Year’s Eve ambush? When she’s surrounded by bright, warm smiles, Auld Lang Syne and people she loves?
When everything, on paper, is happy. When all the damn ducks are in a row, when the gifts are wrapped, Nat King Cole is swooning on the Pandora station and a candle flickers on the kitchen island. When a warm meal sits on the table and family gathers and then our bellies are full and the Christmas tree glows.
THAT’S when it strikes. And you know what’s awesome? That depression and anxiety, those ardent fuckers, bring their BFF Judgey McJudge Judge with them. She swoops in bringing self-recrimination, criticism and loathing.
Seriously? You’re sad NOW? What the hell? I mean, look at all you have to be happy about. Remember the warm candle and the twinkling lights? Hello!?!?
This pressure that I apply to both myself and this season is absurd. My expectations, the holiday hype, the shoulds and my snarky monologue make me feel pushed from the outside in and the inside out. I suspect I’m not alone.
The other night, I was sad. Not despondent, but melancholy. I was just home from a festive, fun party. Yet, I was a bit forlorn. For no reason. I was agitated and pissy. Was it the beginning of depression? Or just a sad day? Good questions but ones I cannot answer. That’s the pickle of this disease–sometimes, when you’ve lived with it for long enough, you’re not sure. I view my life through my own lens, and it’s tough to know if it’s me or the depression focusing the dials.
Like smokey anticipation sitting just atop the whiskey, the darkness has companions. Gritty, charcoal swills deep within the snow. A sense of otherness. Maybe it’s the shadow of the retreated light. Or maybe it’s a shroud, a tent, an escape, a gateway to something else. Or, perhaps, darkness is a season unto itself.
So, after the party, I found myself lying on my bedroom floor, staring out the window. Twilight fell. Dusk dimmed my room. Legs and arms stretched. Trees stretched just outside. I settled into my emotions. Sad. Melancholy. Agitated. I named them. Had a little Meet & Greet. Hello, ardent fuckers. I stretched a bit more. And breathed.
In that quiet moment, I allowed myself to feel. I gave the yuck and the melancholy and the ardent fuckers time and space. Then I got up and moved on. I’m still a bit amazed. But this is another iteration on my journey, of the lesson I learn again and again (and again and again): I am practicing. The more light I bring to these dark corners lessens the reigning power of Depression, Anxiety and Judgey McJudge Judge.
I know that the dark provides a platform on which the light can shine. A fissure in the charcoal clouds and then a spike of brilliant sun. I’m paying attention to their meeting places: the blurred line between night and dawn and the necessity of each. Small flickers of compassion. A bit of light amidst the dark. A twinkle on a dark winter’s night.