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Coping with Christmas

Monday, 19 December 2016 Caitlin

Caitlin, who’s struggled with depression and anxiety for many years, blogs about the challenges and mixed emotions of Christmas.

Christmas brings a mixture of childhood excitement and dread. As a child, I always wanted it to be like Miracle on 34th Street, snowy and dreamy. These felt like the golden years, but as I grew up this became a pressure for perfection I just couldn't ignore. 
I felt that Christmas should be a time for love and peace, but I felt I didn’t bring anything to my family at Christmas. And that was the worst and hardest feeling. 

That was when I knew I needed to make a change.

"My little sister said ‘when you’re feeling sad, home is where you should be’"

When I went home to be with my Mum and three younger sisters, I thought ‘I shouldn’t be here making you sad’. My little sister said ‘when you’re feeling sad, home is where you should be’. Now I know it’s human to feel like that. You just  can’t put on a mask and fake Christmas spirit when your spirits are down. There are days it's impossible to be jolly.  
A friend went with me to a GP appointment. I’d resisted taking medication. I saw it as weak. I thought it was a step backwards. When I finally did, I felt empowered and brave – it was a true step forward in self-care.
I’ve had ups and downs since then.
Last December, I’d come out of a happy relationship and everywhere there seemed to be couples Christmas shopping; Coca Cola ads of happy people; everyone seemed to be buzzing, decorations everywhere but I couldn’t feel that Christmas was there – just an overwhelming sadness. I felt ‘I’m not entitled to be part of this. I don’t deserve it’.

"It’s a struggle to do anything. Boiling a kettle is as difficult as running a marathon."

Depression feels like an invisible storm. Turmoil inside. Only you fighting it – with an upside-down umbrella over your head. It’s a struggle to do anything. Boiling a kettle is as difficult as running a marathon.
I was feeling there was no point in going on, I was never going to be happy. I felt like a fraud.
Some survival instinct made me google support numbers and I found Mind. It took me a long time to press the call button – it felt like a huge task.

"I didn’t’ speak at all at first. She stayed on the line and asked ‘are you there?’. I told her ‘I’m lost’."

I didn’t’ speak at all at first. She stayed on the line and asked ‘are you there?’. I told her ‘I’m lost’. I felt someone was listening and caring and wanting to know. Talking to someone outside my life is what I needed. I didn’t want to feel like I was burdening those around me. When I called there was no judgement. 
She was very understanding, quick to give information, empathetic, she listened but was proactive too with strategies. She unravelled what I could use to get out of that hole. 
She advised me to go to my GP and to A&E if I was feeling at breaking point. And we talked about how I could go through each day to get out of that pit. When I said I found drawing a release and a distraction she came up with the idea of using my art. 
I sat in the garden and drew and doodled. It made me feel so present. I drew Christmas cards for my family and close friends -  festive animals with sarcastic faces to show how I was feeling about Christmas! Creative and comic.

"Mind helped me feel I wasn’t alone."

The call was a turning point, a shift. I’d felt trapped in a box, now I was able to feel more. Mind helped me feel I wasn’t alone. 
I still have ups and downs but this year I’m feeling more excited about Christmas. I have my sisters and mum, a safe place, drawing and writing about it helps too 
If you can relate to any of this this year, I want you to know you can reach out and that you’re not alone. It’s not shameful or unusual to feel like this at Christmas. Don’t be afraid to express it or to get help and support. It’s positive, brave and brilliant.
Caitlin has shared her story with us as part of Minds Christmas appeal.

If you can, please make a donation, so we can give more people like Caitlin somewhere to turn this Christmas

If you're struggling this Christmas, have a look at these tips and resources we've put together.

Caitlin loves blogging, everything with guacamole and opportunities to help others. She writes a monthly Mental Health Column for DIVA Magazine called Spilt Milk which she is thrilled to be turning into a collaborative space in the form of a website on January 1st. Welcome to The Spilt Milk Club! Follow Caitlin on Twitter and Instagram for the latest updates. If you'd like to submit your creative pieces to The Spilt Milk Club, please email [email protected]

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