Your depression is stable. You have fought your depression with everything at your disposal. Medications, counseling, cognitive behavior therapy, self-care habits are in your arsenal. You are in a good place.
Then the days draw close to Thanksgiving. Nervous foot tapping begins. You recall other family thanksgiving celebrations where you found it hard to carry on conversation. When you think about the gatherings you feel low grade fear and tension.
Your depression starts to feel rocky.
What is going on?
A diagnosis of anxiety often accompanies depression.We can have a romanticized version of thanksgiving, thinking other families are perfect. They aren’t. They have their Uncle Joe’s who drink too much. Or Gertrude who complains about her latest ailments. John the football fan listens to the game while the family eats. Norma, the family gossip, is quick to make up juicy stories.
Then there is the fear family won’t understand your depression. You fear getting lots of advice like,”put on your rose colored glasses”, “we all have bad days, pull yourself up,” or “this is just psychobabble, get real.”
What can you do? Here are some things to remember.
You are not your depression.You have other parts of your life that are successful. Focus on the things that are working, not on dysfunction. A gratitude journal can help change a negative to a more positive outlook.
Keep a gratitude journal for the weeks before thanksgiving. Each day make a list of five things for which you are thankful. Keep adding to it. Reminding ourselves of the positive things can help before negativity causes you to spiral down.
“What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” Psalm 116:12-13
Maintain heathy habits. Take your medicine as prescribed. If your symptoms worsen contact our psych doctor.
Practice self-care habits including adequate sleep. Exercise can be helpful. During my difficult times I went out for my “Thanksgiving Run” which was much longer than my usual jogging distance.
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things…” 1 Tim 4:8
Don’t try to do too much. Set limits according to your energy and time. Boundaries can help you contain your anxiety and depression reactions. The Bible reminds not to overdo: ”So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.” Gal 6:9 MSG
Find things to look forward to. You may need to create these yourself, for example, going to a movie you have wanted to see. Take time for reading a favorite book. Make extra time to do things that energize you.
Manage to spend time with the people who build you up. Be with family members or friends who understand you. Becoming a friend to others is the best way to find friends for times of need.
“As iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other.”
Prov 27:17 NCV
Pay attention to your self-talk. Don’t repeat your negative thoughts about holiday gatherings. Reframe the negative with positive thoughts.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. “Phil4:8
Keep up healthy habits, define your limits, guard your mind, don’t over expect, and this season can be a blessing.