Keep the Holiday Support Going

Image: The Baths at Caracalla by Sir Lawrence Alma_Tadema
The Baths at Caracalla by Sir Lawrence Alma_Tadema

You may be breathing a sigh of relief now that the holidays are over. There’s no question that there are many aspects of the holiday season that are tough on someone with depression. Things that tax your energy like shopping and cooking, parties and gatherings that require you to attempt a smile and engage in chit-chat, and of course, spending time with friends and family when you’d rather curl up in bed by yourself. All in all, an experience to be endured, and the worst part is that you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself!

And since you’ve heard that the holidays see the highest rate of suicide all year, you may also be confident that you’ve passed the danger zone. Well, not exactly. The thing is, we’re heading into the danger zone for suicides, not away from it. Contrary to popular belief, the holidays are not the time of the year when we see the most suicides. The beginning of the year, after all the festivities and for many people, in the dead of a dark, endless winter, can be the time when they lose hope.

Now, I have no idea how this myth originated that the holiday period sees a spike in suicides. Maybe the irony appeals to a lot of people. And we also don’t know exactly why major holidays seem to put a damper on suicides. One theory is that people put off a suicide attempt until after the holidays because they don’t want their family and friends to always be thinking of the holidays as a time that they lost someone. That’s definitely a possibility, and I’m not going to discount it.

But in addition, it’s believed that suicides go down during major holidays, when people gather, because we’re in contact with our support network of family and friends. So the family who you probably love dearly, but who can absolutely drive you nuts, is literally what keeps you alive. The best thing that you can do for yourself after the holidays is stay in touch with family and friends.

That’s a bit of a problem. Most people with depression prefer to be alone. Depression can make most of us fairly inarticulate, for one thing. It can be really difficult to hold a conversation with someone other than your cat. Also, we know that we’re a downer when we’re depressed. So being with other people, even close friends and family members, can be such a challenge that it doesn’t really seem worth it.

But for your own sanity, you really need to stay in touch and make plans to see people instead of cocooning at home with the remote control.

Also, if you don’t have a therapist, and you’re feeling particularly depressed, this might be the ideal time to start talk therapy. If you do have a therapist, don’t skip appointments because you’re really down – you need them now more than ever.

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