I have depression. Here is how I manage it during the holidays

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I have depression. Technically, depression is an “illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act.” For me, depression manifests as profound heartache on the inside and intractable tears on the outside. Although the root cause of my depression is a mixed bag of experiences and genetics, when I’m symptomatic, I’m constantly choking back tears. A Gladys Knight song came on yesterday and I was a wreck. 

To manage my depression, I take a pill every day, maybe forever, maybe not. I don’t make myself promises about what the future looks like because if I know nothing else, I know I don’t know shit. I also learned to feel my feelings and respond to – not react from – my own nervous system. Being an active participant in my mental-emotional wellness means learning what triggers me and contending with it, not avoiding it. 

I’ve learned to shake off the shame of being reliant on pills to balance the chemicals in my brain—or at least try cause I was socialized to be a boss ass bitch and undoing that shit is hard. It’s slow and possible. It’s been two years since I started a regiment, and most days I take my pill, drink my water, mind my business, and feel fine. Some days, even with the meddies, I feel low though. This year is the first year I let myself have weekends in bed and take mental health days off work like I would if I had the flu. 

The holidays are upon us, and this time of year can be tough for people like me and for folks who have not been diagnosed but experience the holiday blues or seasonal depression. My family loves me, and they have no idea what my life’s like living with depression — and that’s OK, they experience things I know little about, too.  

If you experience depression, here are three ways you can set boundaries around your mental-emotional health this holiday season: 

  1. Check in with yourself, with your body, your spirit, and your nerves. Reset your nervous system by breathing eight counts in and eight counts out. Do that five times. How do you feel?

  2. Say no to events with people and places that make you feel bad. I had to learn to put my integrity over my desire to be liked and accepted. No amount of “respect” is worth sacrificing your heart and health. Depression is real, even when no one knows you experience it. 

  3. Create a holiday wellness plan. Depression management requires some work on the backend because mental wellness is inextricably tied to physical and emotional wellness. So, do something physical if your body is able, eat well, sleep, consume booze mindfully. If you are depressed, alcohol will make you more depressed because it is a depressant.

I can’t expect people to understand what I’m experiencing so I try to stay proactive about my care practices. Whether you experience depression or not, proactivity is a helpful measure for self-care. 

Blog, LifestyleShanelle Matthews