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A blog about coping with suicidal feelings at Christmas and the idea of making a self-care stocking.
Bells were ringing in the distance. I imagined people in other houses were adding the last touches of tinsel to their trees. They were probably drinking mulled wine. In other houses, people were laughing, excited, looking forward to Christmas morning. That’s what I told myself.
Me? I just wanted it to be over.
I couldn’t stand it. Every advert showing a picture-perfect Christmas. Every shop assistant who tried to make small talk about turkey and presents. It was hard enough coping with suicidal feelings on a regular day, but right now it felt impossible.
"I kept telling myself I was meant to be happy, that crying into my wrapping paper made me a failure."
I kept telling myself I was meant to be happy, that crying into my wrapping paper made me a failure.
I’d been coping with suicidal feelings for a long time. Talk therapy was helping, but my counsellor didn’t work at Christmas. He could take a break. I couldn’t. I still had my suicidal feelings. Even at Christmas.
Especially at Christmas.
Until I realised what I was doing. I was being unkind to myself. I’d been to a peer support group and that’s what they said. “Be kind to yourself at Christmas.”
I used to think that meant practical things. That’s part of it, but kindness is also about what you say to yourself.
What would I say to a friend who was struggling with depression at Christmas? Who was putting on a brave face, pulling crackers and going through the motions when they wanted to curl up and cry?
I wouldn’t tell them they had failed by being unhappy. I wouldn’t tell them off because they were “supposed” to enjoy themselves.
I’d say: “I’m sorry you’re struggling right now. Christmas can be such a hard time when you’re depressed.”
So why wasn’t I saying that to myself?
That was the most important Christmas present I could give myself: kindness. Kindness and permission to need help.
It was still hard getting through Christmas, but being kind and gentle with myself? That made a big difference. Letting myself be sad. Letting myself need support, which I got from Samaritans who replied to my emails all through the Christmas period.
This year I’m planning ahead instead of abandoning myself at Christmas. I’ve been working out what my triggers are and thinking of ways around them.
For example, I’m upset by shop assistants asking friendly questions about Christmas, so I’ll wear headphones when I go shopping.
"I’m trying to be kind to myself, too, like making myself a self-care stocking with things that will help."
When I was in denial about finding the festive period a struggle, I didn’t really think about things I could buy for self-care. And when Christmas Day came around it was too late to get them so I ended up feeling worse.
It could be something as simple as some nice bath bubble – much better to buy it ahead of time than feel miserable without it. Especially if it’s nicely wrapped up like a present from me to me. I might even write myself a card to go with it.
You can’t choose when Christmas comes or how you feel about it, but you can choose to help yourself get through it.
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