It’s the holidays and everything shines and glows with wonder, right? That can be true, but for those of us struggling with depression, anxiety or grief the holidays can dredge up all sorts of negative emotions. If you are one of the ones struggling, you are not alone. I feel you.
I have struggled with depression, self-hate and crippling anxiety since childhood. I have been very outspoken about my battles in the hopes that I might help others struggling in silence.
For as long as my memories stretch, the awful voice in my head has tortured me. I’m not good enough, everything is my fault, I don’t deserve friends or loved ones. Self-hate poured through my mind in a relentless deluge. I didn’t understand it. I came from a loving, supportive family. I haven’t been traumatized. On the surface, my life looked great. Below the surface, the voice spoke poison, determined to destroy me.
I’d tried different meds and therapists with varying degrees of limited success. In my forties, my mental state took a solid slide into the pit. I have a wonderful husband, precious children, and had overcome a neurological health battle. I should have been happy.
The voice had other plans.
If that line sounds familiar, it is. My first novel “How Murder Saved My Life” revolves around the central “character,” the evil voice in Zoey’s mind. Nearly every word Zoey hears in that book, I’ve heard in my own head. Quite honestly, writing that book saved my own life. Putting those horrible thoughts on paper, having to read them, edit them and analyze them forced me to face the truth. ALL THOSE WORDS WERE LIES.
Around the same time I was working on that book, I tried once more for medical help. My doctor ordered a genetic test to determine what medicines would help and which ones were “Do not take”. Every med I had tried in the past was on the “Do not take” list. I also learned I have a genetic mutation that causes me not to produce serotonin as well as other contributing factors to depression. The biggest thing I learned from the genetic testing was IT WASN’T MY FAULT! I have a medical reason for feeling like a loser all the time. The doc got my meds straightened out and I kept climbing out of the pit.
I’m not telling you all this to get sympathy. I want you to know you are not alone. Once I started talking, really talking, about my battle, countless others have told me they struggle as well. For years, I thought I was a freak. Normal people can go to a party and not have a panic attack in the bathroom. Normal people can face a setback and not have, “You suck, you looser,” screaming in their mind. Turns out tons of people I thought of as normal do have secret panic attacks, do have nasty thoughts in their heads. We ALL have secret demons.
This holiday season I want to give you the most precious gift. You are not alone. You are normal. You are wonderful. You are enough. You can get better. That co-worker you think has it all together probably goes home and cries in the shower, too. That pretty girl with the bright smile probably smiles to cover her own insecurities. That friend with all the amazing perfect-life posts on Facebook probably has her own evil voice telling her she’s not good enough. Women I have known for years and thought had it all together read my book and said to me, “It was like you were in my own head.” I’d had no idea we were fighting similar battles.
God made you the way you are for a purpose. Embrace the things you think you should change and own them as part of what makes you wonderful. Write the evil thoughts on paper, then really analyze them and see the lies for yourself. Then write another page about how amazing you truly are. Those are the truths.
Talk to people about how you feel. Your friend is probably struggling too and would love the chance to talk about it. She keeps quiet because she thinks you won’t understand. Be brave enough to start that conversation. Get professional help if you can. I finally found a wonderful therapist who helped me through some of my darkest times. If meds haven’t helped in the past, try again, and get the genetic test done. Don’t stop asking for help until you get what you need. You are worth it.
Reading “How Murder Saved My Life” may help. Travelling with Zoey through her own journey out of secret suicidal thoughts to a place of redemption might inspire you to get the help you need.
In this season of friends and family, make an honest effort to talk about your struggles. If you aren’t struggling, the person next to you might be and is just waiting for someone to notice. Reach out to ask for help or offer it. “How are you doing?” will get a “Fine” response. Follow that with a “How are you really doing? I’m having a little trouble getting into the spirit this year.” Get the conversation started. Expose the demon in your mind to the light and it loses its power. Whenever you see holiday lights, think to yourself, “Shine this light on my demon.”
You are worthy of all the joy life has to offer.
Truly wishing you all the best,