Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to admit having the problem. So rather than trying to ignore it, I’ll just come right out and say that I’m struggling with holiday depression. I go through this every year, so I’m used to it. Fortunately it comes in waves, usually just a few days or hours at a time, and not the months-long emotional adventure it used to be.
I’ve studied it, read about it and interviewed experts on my radio shows. I know plenty about holiday depression. In my case, part of it is a lingering set of mismatched expectations. I grew up in a stable, predictable family environment in which each holiday season was pretty much like the previous one. Mostly it was good, enjoyable and pleasant. Things changed in my adulthood, as it does for most people. My life is generally good but I’ve had periods of instability, unpredictability and dysfunctional family and personal situations. Those emotional and situational extremes fight with each other.
I don’t really expect the holidays to be great but I do want them to be. Last year I decided in advance that I was going to have a great holiday season, I defined what that would include in terms of people I would spend time with and activities I would engage in. The result? One of the best holiday seasons I’ve ever had. I spent time with two of my best friends, my sister and some of her friends, a former best bud from high school and two different sets of cousins, some of whom I had not seen in decades and whose children I had never met. All of this happened on a road trip and I didn’t have even a second of holiday depression for those nine days.
A similar road trip is on my agenda for this month. I’ll spend time with some of the same people and do some of the same things. There is a little bit of sadness in the cousin circle, including a death and a cancer diagnosis, but I think there will still be some joy in that setting. Maybe I’ll be the one to encourage that. It will be an awesome nine days right in the middle of the season. I’ll probably feel great for weeks after. But right now, tonight and maybe for the next couple of days, I’ll accept that I feel blue and am experiencing some holiday depression. For me, depressing that feeling would make things worse, so I am admitting the problem to myself (and I guess to you) and that should help solve it.