Christmas Blues Creeping Up On You? I Hope You Know You Can Live a Good Life
My family and I are slightly obsessed with Christmas. We usually can’t wait to set up our tree which is a celebration that is infused with a few of our own traditions. The most important being that we have a special dinner afterwards to kick off the countdown to Christmas Day. But before we tuck into a sumptuous meal (which I never spend more than an hour making, because simple, easy dishes are fundamental to my sanity); we complete a few other traditions. One segment being the specific part that each of our children play in ushering in the Christmas season when we decorate the tree.
Eli places the star at the top of the tree, which has always been the job of the youngest child.
When we only had the girls, it was then Talisa’s job to crown the tree with the star. Now she has the job of switching on the tree lights.
Savannah being the eldest gets to place the wreath on the front gate with help from Michael. Each person places their own Christmas ornament on the tree and we capture the moment in a photo to mark the occasion. I keep photographs of this moment for each child for almost all their lives.
We have ornaments for extended family too and they get to decorate our tree with it when they visit us. Then we have ornaments from friends and family who live far away and we think of them as we find a bare branch for their ornament.
As I watch my children taking more of a lead in decorating the tree and I listen to their banter about continuing these traditions in their own homes one day, I’m struck by the contrast in what makes up their childhood memories and in what makes up my childhood memories. This time of year can be a wonderful experience for many children when their families look forward to coming together to recreate moments from an ocean of memories filled with traditions, warmth and love.
For adults with traumatic childhoods, this time of year can be a sad reminder of what we missed out on as children. The magic of Christmas are only drops in our ocean of memories. I remember so many Christmases as a child feeling an ache inside of me as I ‘made-believe’ that I was happy. I wrote about this earlier this year in the post The Past And the Present Met and in a post last year You Cannot Be Depressed Then There Was Me
I remembered so badly wanting the make-belief to be real. With that childhood as my backdrop, I became a parent to a child with a disability at eighteen years old. I had to parent within a family and a social circle with loose morals and a tight grasp on maintaining the look of success at all costs.
For many Christmases as a parent I wrestled with depression and suicide. Not having developed skills to recognise and to deal with trauma, meant that I felt more overwhelmed at this time of year as my life became defined by my daughter’s special needs. It was a very long process to becoming mentally and emotionally strong.
What kept me from completely going over the edge was the determination to raise my children in a life that was without fear, without self-doubt, without question of my love for them, without insecurity and without violence. I wanted my children to know what it felt like to look forward to weekends and school holidays and to enjoy being with their parents in peace. I wanted them to have the freedom to express themselves freely and honestly without restraint or fear of disappointing anyone.
I wanted them to want to live each day to its fullest.
I wanted to ‘want to live’.
I wanted to get better from having lived with sadness for so long. It felt like it was in my bones. It was so much a part of me that it took a long time for me to recognize it. But eventually I did. I did whatever it took to get better. For me it meant learning to believe that my life had value. I found that value in understanding who I was as a child of God. I am so eternally grateful for that simple truth and all that it has given me.
Becoming more of who I was meant to be was a process of understanding my faith and understanding myself. I could not always get professional help and it was incredibly tough to have to deal with my demons very much on my own at times. There were relationships that I could lean on at different points, in big ways and in small ways. There were also very dark days when no one understood what I was going through. I wish I had known about the South African Depression and Anxiety Groups website which would have been incredibly helpful in finding resources.
Someone told me they felt I write to ‘poke the world’. I guess that is one way to look at it. Though I have never intended to do that. I simply write because I’m grateful. To have lived with depression and to have overcome suicidal feelings while being responsible for what seemed like everything and everyone, is a story worth telling. It is worth telling from all its perspectives and all its shades.
It is especially worth telling at Christmas time, when I am snuggled in my home with my Christmas tree twinkling away and the memory of all my loved ones beaming with delight keeping me company. December is a time when many people from all different walks of life are more likely to be depressed and suicidal. If this season makes you hurt like hell and you can’t find something good to hold onto then please remember this:
The past is made up of memories. You are a seed of hope. Starting today you can make new and beautiful memories.
You are as capable as anyone of having a good life. Believe Me.