Coping with depression and anxiety at Christmas
It’s known as 'The Most Wonderful Time of the Year' but for many, including Kyle, it’s filled with anxiety and depression.
Kyle was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2013, after years of misdiagnosis. He's married with 3 cats and is a massive film fan. He tweets at @gordondon
When I was younger I loved Christmas. It was a time for spending with family and friends, going to parties and, of course, presents. But as I got older it started losing its lustre and I began to dread it. As soon as I spotted the first Christmas display in a shop, the pressure inside me would begin to build.
My anxiety over the festive season got to the point where I started proclaiming that I hated Christmas, which lead to my being compared to the Grinch (a personal hero!). I’d even dress up as the Dr Seuss character on Christmas morning to deliver presents for my nieces and nephews.
The Grinch is a good mask to wear to hide the real reasons why Christmas is a stressful and scary time for me. Having a reputation of not liking Christmas made things a little bit easier.
"Having a reputation of not liking Christmas made things a little bit easier.
I’d always try to please everyone around me which lead to a Christmas break which was far from relaxing. Being unable to say no meant that I over-committed myself and then got so overwhelmed I did nothing. This then spiralled into guilt and me beating myself up for letting everyone down.
Going into overcrowded city centres caused me a lot of anxiety, as did attending the work Christmas Party - especially when it seemed like every other workplace in the area was having their night out at the same time.
"I’d go for the meal to be polite and then escape as quickly as I could from the packed pub or restaurant."
I’d go for the meal to be polite and then escape as quickly as I could from the packed pub or restaurant. I would regularly break out in sweats and find myself grinding my teeth.
Then there is the joy of New Year’s Eve. I can once again spend days beating myself up for not achieving anything in the past year or, for that matter, ever (which, of course, is not true).
Last Christmas I had my third mental breakdown which resulted in another appointment with a Psychiatrist, more counselling, and a change in medication. It was not specifically Christmas which brought this on, but it was a factor.
The perpetual darkness of the days, the self-imposed pressure to do things and dealing with the whole seasonal rigmarole all played their part.
"This Christmas is going to be different. I’m going to be honest to the people around me about how I am feeling."
This Christmas is going to be different. I’m going to be honest to the people around me about how I am feeling. If I don’t want to do something I’ll be saying no in the nicest possible way. I am using online shops to reduce the need to go into crowded places, but also so I can do it in my own time instead of feeling anxious and rushed.
My wife and I are planning trips over the Christmas break to combat the fatigue from staying in, watching TV and eating too much. This will help keep both my mind and body active, which I find helps me a lot.
And on New Year’s Eve, I am not going to berate myself for the things I thought I should have achieved this year. Instead I am going to use the time to celebrate how far I have come. There will be no resolutions made.
I think it is time for the Grinch to be packed away and to this year face Christmas as Kyle. I think it is going to be a good one!
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