“It's the most wonderful time of the year...”
Or so the song goes anyways, but for many people, Christmas is not all that wonderful.
In fact, it can be the worst time of the year.
For people struggling with mental illness, Christmas can magnify the suffering and the challenges they face on a daily basis.
Depression and other mental difficulties can often be isolating. Being trapped in the darkness of an unhealthy mind is one of the loneliest places in the world.
I told a friend once it is like I was screaming in a crowded elevator and no one hears me.
I can remember driving around in my car and feeling so overwhelmed by loneliness I honestly did not know how I was going to make it through another Christmas.
It is such a desolate place to be: trapped in your own mind that is telling you no one is there for you, no one is in your corner.
Of course, these are lies fed by my illness. I had people who cared about me, but I could not see it through the choking smog of pain ignited by the fires of mental illness.
Christmas and all the joy and togetherness it represents was like pouring fuel on that fire. Those feelings of solitude, isolation and, indeed, desperation, grew to such a fury, the fires of hades paled in comparison.
Over the years, I have come a long way in my personal struggle. I have sought out counselling, read a lot of books, taken courses and worked hard to understand why I was feeling the way I was. Dealing with mental health issues, no matter the type, is a self-determined journey: you are the only one who can take the first step on the road to wellness. You are the only one who can make you climb that mountain.
For the most part, those feelings of loneliness are now gone, but they are far from forgotten.
Even as I write this, I remember how alone I felt, how empty I thought my life was and my heart breaks for anyone suffering through such darkness at any time of year, let alone Christmas.
You are not alone. You are not the only one struggling with those feelings.
I know how hard it is, I know the anguish it can cause, the desolation of the spirit it can bring upon someone.
But there are places to go to not be alone. Many churches hold candlelight Christmas eve services. You do not have to be a person of faith to attend. It is just a peaceful, welcoming place to be where you are not alone, where you interact with people.
A good friend of mine found solace in an online group and it is now a tradition for him to spend Christmas chatting and Skyping with people all over North America.
The Canadian Mental Health Association also has numerous resources available to help, kelowna.cmha.bc.ca.
And if you feel it is more than you can take, I implore you, please call the crisis line where you will find people who care about your well being.
Remember, you are not alone, others walk with you. Help is available, all you have to do it accept it.