Depression

Learning to Love During the Holidays

Learning to Love During the Holidays | Libero Magazine

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The holiday season can be one of the most difficult times of the year for those struggling with depression or anxiety. Family members can be the most loving and encouraging people to be around, but the comfort level that results from that closeness means comments, actions, and behaviors often go “unfiltered.” Regardless of what you are struggling with, these “triggers” can exacerbate an already-stressful situation, or ruin a perfectly friendly or positive interaction.

As someone who struggles with depression, sometimes all it takes is one hurtful comment about my work or my relationships to send me into a tailspin of anxiety. Still, the support and love of my family remain a daily reminder of my value and purpose.

It’s important to remember more often than not, hurtful behavior by loved ones isn’t intentional.

There can be a lack of understanding when it comes to mental health issues, and it’s important to understand ignorance is not always malicious. We are all guilty of thinking “Why would they be hurt by that? Don’t they know I was joking? We are family! Don’t they know I love them?.” If this behavior is not addressed, it will lead to bitterness.

My fiancée and I are going through premarital counseling at the moment. One of the most important things most programs go through in conflict resolution is not assigning blame. It is possible to be honest with those we love without insinuating hurtful intent. Instead of being accusatory, it is more truthful to let someone know the effect their behavior had, e.g. “When you said that, I was hurt because it made me feel unimportant.”

Letting someone know that you are not accusing them of trying to hurt you or resenting them for being inconsiderate is a crucial step in not only fostering growth of the relationship but preventing future incidents.

I struggle most with my depression when I’m alone.

Being at a social gathering or a family event is a great way to distract myself from the feeling of isolation. I still have to remind myself that putting on a brave face and and having small talk does not always lead to deeper relationships (in fact more often than not, it doesn’t). That’s not to say that getting out of one’s comfort zone is unimportant. Quite the opposite! We can keep any conversation or relationship at the surface level for as long as we want. So why don’t we?

We were made for intimacy, to have meaningful connections with others.

But for those struggling with a mental illness, asking tough questions and being purposeful about truly loving others is crucial. It gives us perspective. It reminds us that no one has it figured out, that everyone is putting on a brave face, and that everyone is both terrified and desperate of being known in their full humanness.

Instead of wondering how we can avoid that aunt or uncle who always needs to be the center of attention, we want to better understand why they feel neglected.

Most importantly, seeking deeper relationships changes our mindset. People we disagree with cease to be irritants and annoyances and become sources of comfort and encouragement in an imperfect world.

My challenge to you this holiday season is to go below the surface level in your relationships, maybe just one.

Instead of wondering how much longer you are going to be at the grandparents or in-laws and killing time until after dinner, be purposeful and loving with your family.

Remember that love is a choice, not a feeling or emotion. It is action. It is choosing to listen when our cares and worries are elsewhere. Loving takes discipline, and it is crucial to recovery.

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Josh Shook grew up near Houston, Texas but now calls Nashville, Tennessee home. He began his time in Nashville at Belmont University, graduating with a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Music Business and Production. He released an EP in 2013, then added author to his resumé when he published a book with his older brother in the same year. Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own was influenced by life growing up in church. In the book, Josh and his brother talk facing tough questions and letting go of “how things are supposed to be.” He hopes to continue to share from his life experience through writing about his journey through self-injury and depression. Day to day, you can most often find Josh making music and drinking black coffee (anytime, anywhere). He also may or may not proudly wear the title of labradoodle enthusiast. You can blame his hilariously adorable family dogs, Tumnus and Aslan. What’s more important than music, dogs, and coffee? Not much. But Josh’s wife-to-be, Kelli, takes precedence. They are busy planning their upcoming nuptials and learning how to avoid burning dinner while cooking together.


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