I hate the term holiday blues. I think that’s because when I was 19, December rolled around and I fell into a full-blown depression, complete with sleepless nights, loss of appetite and thoughts of suicide. The holiday blues sound like an uptempo jazz standard compared to the nightmarish thoughts blaring in my head. I’m hardly the only college student who has teetered on the brink of a breakdown. It’s practically a cliche to experience some sort of mental and emotional suffering when you’re that age. But at the time, it didn’t feel like a cliche. It felt like the fight of my life, the recovery from which, with the help of therapy, was an epic journey up from an underworld I feared I might inhabit for the rest of my life. Months later, sitting in my therapist’s office, trying to solve a Rubick’s Cube that she kept on her desk, I clicked one row of orange squares together and felt a spark of hope. I woke up the next morning and thought, What’s for breakfast? I knew I was doing a lot better — at least enough to begin to function again.
I’ve never suffered another episode of depression, but ever since then, I’ve never experienced a happy holiday season either. I know that this is a particularly difficult time of year for many people. Especially those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or those who are grappling with more tangible hardships like financial struggles or a death in the family. I wish I could say I had a definitive reason to feel so meh in December. It’s much harder to pin down my discomfort around this time of year because it’s not related to my external circumstances — I have a wonderful family, great friends, a happy relationship and a job I love. I have much to be grateful and joyous about and I know it. The thing is, I consider myself a more-or-less happy person — at least for big pockets of time year-round. I understand how to access joy more often as I get older — positive thoughts, low expectations, balance. Even still, at this time of year, despite my best efforts, despite all my blessings, I find myself hanging on tight and crossing my fingers that I don’t spiral into darkness again. Keep reading »