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When I think of the holidays, the first thing I think about is the time I spend with family and friends. In a healthy mindset this should be something that brings a smile to our face. However, so much of what we’re told to embrace during the holidays is what our depressed and ill mind can be completely against.
I’ve had holidays where I’ve spent the entire time away from loved ones, listening to sad music in my lonely room. As recovery has come, I’ve found that each year is more focused on enjoying time with people I love. There are a number of thoughts that I’ve challenged and adopted as I turned away from my disorders.
The first thoughts I think anyone should address in this season are the thoughts that promote isolation.
We all have reasons for why we choose to isolate ourselves when life gets gray or worse. When family and friends are getting together in such a big way, depression seeks to take away not just another day, but a day that’s meant to belong to relationships and joy. The stakes may seem a bit higher here, but while depression tries to take, as always, you also have the opportunity to assert that you’re not letting depression call the shots.
Allowing yourself to be around people that want to care and support you is huge. Your depression doesn’t deserve to take away this chance to refuel and feel loved.
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If your family doesn’t understand your disorder or if you feel that they are a major piece in why you have the disorder you have, understand that you’re not the only one that’s walked through that as well. Some of the healing takes time, but remind yourself people are often overly critical of their family and friends, especially when mental illness is painting the picture. On top of that, remember that often it’s not that loved ones don’t want to help us in our struggle with mental illness, but rather they don’t know how they can help us.
As we’re learning to give ourselves grace in recovery, it’s also wise to start to give grace to those around us.
This is not, however, an encouragement to spend time with people that have played the role of “abuser” in your life. Parts of recovery have to do with forgiveness, and other parts of recovery have to do with learning to put yourself in safe environments. If you’re hesitant to come to a get together where your abuser may also be present, you may very well be right about finding another setting to enjoy the holiday.
My advice to anyone struggling to figure out how to tackle your next event, (given that it is a safe place): make the decision, before you arrive, that you are going to engage. Notice that I don’t have a specific thing that you have to engage in. Help your grandmother cook the meal. Spend more time playing with the kids. Focus on conversation with a relative that you feel most comfortable with.
It doesn’t matter what specifically you’re doing, as long as you’re choosing to be a part of the event, instead of letting it pass by.
It’s the commitment to trying I want you to focus in on.
Making the definite decision to engage keeps us from quickly turning a “maybe” into a “not gonna happen.”
With all this in mind, understand the holidays could go a number of ways. I’m happy for you if you’re excited to meet with family and friends for whatever reason. Above being excited with what you’ve imagined for the day, be open to the reality of what it gives you.
You could have the best or worst holiday of your life this year, but no matter which way it goes, take this experience as a way to learn more about yourself and how to function in recovery.
Let your control and expectations go. Keep up the important work you’ve been putting in for your recovery.
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