The holidays can be a wonderful time for many people: connecting with family, giving and receiving gifts, eating to their heart’s content. I enjoy all of these things and more over the holiday season, but there’s always a sheen of grey over all the lights and colourful decorations.
I have Borderline Personality Disorder, but like most people, I have co-occurring disorders. Regular old depression still takes hold of me sometimes. For the past five years or so, depression always rears it’s ugly head around the holidays.
If you’re familiar with Borderline Personality Disorder as a daily yo-yo of emotions, you might be wondering how someone can simultaneously experience depression (a long period of feeling down) at the same time as feeling daily ups and downs. Seems contradictory, doesn’t it?
The only way I can think of describing it is with an illustration:
The horizontal line in the middle represents that baseline normal that most people experience. The normal Borderline experience is constant ups and down in relatively equal measure above and below that baseline. When you’re depressed at the same time as being Borderline, you experience the same degree of yo-yoing emotions, but everything starts and ends at a lower place.
I don’t know if that makes any sense, but it’s my experience. Please note the above is not a scientific diagram, but simply an illustration for how I’m feeling.
Of course, I don’t want to be a downer during the holidays. Everyone’s having a great time, and I want to experience that with them. When someone asks me how I feel about the holidays, I usually just shrug it off with a “bah-humbug”, because it makes them laugh and I don’t have to explain myself.
Why do I feel this way every year? I’m convinced that a lot of my depression stems from way too much empathy. I know this makes me sound full of myself, but it’s honestly the only thing I can come up with. I have a great family, I love giving gifts, I’m not poor by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m never alone at this time of year. I have everything I could want. There’s no reason for me to be depressed.
Except one: I’m hyper aware of the fact that others don’t have everything they could want.
There are people dying and starving on the street while other people are spending way too much money on electronics and gorging on treats. There are seniors lying alone in their beds, while other people are partying in rooms full of friends and strangers getting black-out drunk on champagne. There are families struggling just to keep their lights on while corporations are making billions and passing those profits on to shareholders instead of their minimum wage employees.
The ironic thing is that both the poor and rich are likely to experience depression at this time of year. Money can’t buy you an escape from its clutches, but it can buy you a whole lot of distractions. Depression is a black hole that we try to fill with things, but it just slowly swallows them up and leave us feeling emptier.
But here I am being a downer on your holidays. I don’t want to do that. The holidays are a wonderful time of year, and I want you to enjoy every single second of it. All that I ask is that you try to share your holiday cheer with someone who may be experiencing holiday drear.