What Christmas Is Like For People With Depression: Bloggers Share Their Experiences And Advice

21/12/2015 10:00 GMT | Updated 21/12/2015 10:59 GMT

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We tend to associate the festive season with large family gatherings and raucous office parties, but this focus on frivolity can put extra pressure on people with depression.

Add in the financial burden that comes with buying presents and Christmas can become unbearable.

"Everyone can have off days, or feel blue for a short time, but for most people this usually passes relatively quickly. However, being depressed is a medical condition and you can experience intense emotions of anxiety, hopelessness, negativity and helplessness that simply won’t go away," Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, chief medical officer at Bupa says.

"Unfortunately, although the festive season is often one associated with joy, it can also be a stressful, lonely or sad time for many people. For those affected by depression, Christmas can actually be the worst time of year and something many of us need to be more aware of."

To raise awareness of how difficult this period can be, three HuffPost UK bloggers share their experiences of depression in December and offer tips to anyone suffering.

Toni White, 29, Administrator, Devon

toni white

A couple of years ago I was severely depressed as I had a breakdown and I couldn't cope with the thought of spending a whole day with my family when I didn't even feel able to leave my bed. Worst of all I felt stressed and anxious about having to be "happy" when I felt so overcome with the depression.

My mum made the executive decision that we would spend Christmas together, just the two of us. We went for a beautiful walk by the sea in the morning, had a gorgeous roast dinner with all our favourite food and then spent the afternoon on the sofa watching movies. Although I was still depressed, I wasn't stressed or anxious because I was allowed to be myself.

Society tells us that this part of the year, above all else, is the time where friends and family should get together but if you don't have much (if any) family and few friends, it can make you feel as though you're the biggest failure and loneliest person in the world.

Get togethers are all over social media reminding you that you don't have people to turn to, the days are short and dark and it's cold, all of which makes you feel even less sociable than normal. It's an incredibly isolating time for many people but particularly those who struggle with depression and anxiety.

If you're suffering this year, stay away from social media. While it's a big part of our lives, we have to remember that it's not reality. We have to stop comparing ourselves believing that the other person is having a better time because their status may not be true.

Shun the traditional! If you hate the idea of being around the Christmas shops, songs and people, book a trip somewhere different or exotic if you're able to. Or if you know a friend who is struggling in the same way as yourself, get together and have the Christmas YOU would prefer instead of one that society or family dictates for you.

Craig Butler, 22, Biddable Assistant, Stafford

craig butler

Suffering from depression is difficult at the best of times but if you add Christmas into this, it can sometimes be even harder. I remember when my own struggles with depression were at their height, the festive season was almost an impending doom for me.

I was genuinely dreading it and I distinctly remember actually trying to cancel plans and staying alone in the homeless shelter I was in because I didn’t think I was able to manage.

Sounds crazy but when you bear in mind that people suffering from depression are reclusive and have this perception that they need to be on their own, putting them into a situation where being with groups of people, even family, is unavoidable can be almost unbearable.

The problem is, you are expected to be happy and cheery. There is a pressure to be the life of the party and if you’re not, then you’re ruining it for everyone else. At any other time of year, putting this pressure on a sufferer of depression can make things worse but it is almost seen as compulsory at Christmas to be happy.

Unfortunately, people in these circumstances really struggle with that and more discussion and patience is needed.

If you are suffering from depression over the festive period, it is so important to be able to talk to loved ones before, so that they know your circumstances and cut you some slack.

At the same time, when the time comes, try and fight those strong instincts to be on your own. It’s difficult but not impossible – I did this myself and I ended up really enjoying Christmas. This went a long way to helping me cope long term too so it’s a valuable thing to do.

Take the holidays as a chance to do the things you love and most importantly, focus on yourself. This is all easier said and done but it is doable and I am proof of that. Today I am so excited for Christmas and to get stuck into the celebrations (and the turkey).

Michael Finnegan, 32 Rugby Coach And Founder Of State of Mind Rugby Union,Dublin

depression christmas

I really struggle at Christmas but it has got easier over the years. It's not easy and you're more aware of being alone and not having a family to share what should be a wonderful time.

I can't really comment on what its like for others with depression at this time of the year, but for me I do get upset, tearful and wish things were different.

Its hard for anyone who's alone at this time of the year and terribly depressing because Christmas is a time for family and those you love. I remember one Christmas, I felt so worthless I just wanted to escape how I felt so I downed a bottle of whiskey, fell asleep and woke up the next day.

The festive period almost magnifies your depression and you become more aware of your failings at this time of the year.

If you're experiencing depression over the Christmas period, I'd advise you not to be on your own. Reach out. Pick up the phone and speak to those in your life that care about you.

You'll think there's nobody but there's somebody who will gladly have you round for the festive period. Do not isolate yourself. If you're feeling low and need someone to speak to I'd recommend giving the people at Calm a call. It's a great service for anyone feeling depressed.

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@getconnected.org.uk
  • SEE ALSO:

    Why Men Experience Depression Differently To Women

    Nearly Half Of British Men Have Suffered From Depression And Anxiety

    Landlord Gives Family The Best Christmas Present Ever

    The Facts About Depression Symptoms