The Doctor is In

Peanuts

It’s so right that we need is a warm hug and a pet as a companion to soothe our delicate emotional disorder. This is my favorite clip of Peanuts.

When I was hospitalized due to major depressive disorder, the good doctor at Lions Gate Hospital brought pets to work, massive greyhound dogs. Four of them. They were therapy dogs.

I am not a pet person. Never been. Needless to say, I stayed away from the dogs.

For a person with a mental illness, I supposed it shows on my face and behavior even when I don’t talk about it.  A sensitive person however, may emphatically pick up on it.  A wise manager who lives next door to me in the complex mentioned that it would be good for me to have a cat. So I did.

Enter Maurice and Lucy.

Little did I know, these cats would have a life-saving impact on my life for 20 years.  They were kittens when I adopted them. My life changed in a way that my thoughts became focused on them instead of being consumed by automatic thoughts. The cats know when I am feeling down. Instinctively, they come closer to me wanting cuddles when I lie down. There are times that it can be a bit too much when they want attention. I don’t mind it all, it’s a distraction from staying in my head. Who knows, maybe they have given me one of their nine lives or their calm nature made me feel relaxed

Not knowing the benefit of having pets, I paid more attention to the science of how animals alleviate the pain and sufferings of mood disorders. Talking to people on the walking their dogs on the street made me realized I became a social being while the owners are socializing their dogs.

The show The Big Bang Theory made me laugh when I heard what Raj had planned for one episode: “First I’m going to go to one of those spas in Koreatown, take a steam and get a massage. Then I’m going to stop at a pet store and get licked by puppies.”

giphy

Sounds silly yet it’s essential to my health– to have a ‘me’ day just like Raj did. I go to the pet store and look all those colorful living animals, from fishes to reptiles, bunnies to rodents.

So, what is your story?

 

–Perpetua Siglos

“Bottom Line – The greatest tool you have is to listen. Do this first.”

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Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NP

*According to heretohelp, symptoms of NPD include: pattern of feeling overly important, needing admiration from others and having a lack of empathy.

I spent most of my younger years putting others first and not paying attention to a lot of my own health issues, both mental and physical, and that is something that I definitely needed to do — I had five kids.

But then I had Oprah–and her show–come along in order to teach me (and millions of others of course!) that I needed to start taking care of myself before I could give the best care to others.

gif

* * *

“You can’t give what you don’t have” was the idea that resonated with me the most.

And so I learned a lot from the many experts she had on her show about how important it is to balance everything; eating, sleeping, working, having fun, relaxing, and socializing.

But — now, as I have gotten older — and much wiser — I realize that I need to be careful that I don’t go too far the other way! I was raised by a mother who had had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Our family not only didn’t know that she had it! but didn’t know it existed until just a few years ago. As a consequence of THAT I was very mixed up about the self-care issue. I’ve come to understand that I have subconsciously picked up some narcissistic traits, even as I tried to do the opposite!! And I need to be careful not to let self-care become self-centered. Because I always understood narcissism to be self-LOVE.

It was only while educating myself about NPD that I found out that it’s not self-love at all (my mother seem to hate herself most of the time!) Narcissism is self obsession.

And I am learning that the best cure for that is coming full circle — helping others!
– Dale

The Power to Live

A special thanks to our contributor with this entry. Sharing lived experiences is a great way to educate others and reduce stigma surrounding mental health.

If you or anyone you know would like to contribute to upcoming blogs or newsletters, send an email to devassist@lookoutsociety. Entry may be anonymous if the writer chooses!

 


 

“Never give up on someone with a mental illness.

When ‘I’ becomes ‘We’ – Illness becomes wellness”

–Shannon L. Alder


 

I have an anxiety disorder. I was diagnosed in my late teens, but I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can recall. I also have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, or schizoaffective disorder – the doctors aren’t quite certain which.

Like many who live and struggle with mental illness, addiction reared its ugly head not long after I was diagnosed. Or… maybe the drugs and alcohol came before the diagnosis. It’s difficult to tell.

I remember waking up in an isolation room. White walls. A metal toilet. Bright fluorescent lights. My belt missing, my pockets emptied, and my memory hazy.

I was seventeen then. And already, alcohol had become a means of coping with my symptoms.

“You’re quite ill,” the Psych Emerg doctor told me. But, I didn’t understand. I lacked insight – common in people who struggle with serious mental illness. I had little understanding of what I was going through. I was confused, scared, and angry.

After my first hospitalization (and there were many more to follow), I fell back into the same patterns. Substance abuse, self-harm, recklessness. The whole nine-yards.

Education wasn’t offered in the early stages of my illness. I was slapped with a label, given a prescription, and sent on my way. It would take fifteen years, and over twenty hospitalizations, to learn to cope with my mental illness without the crutch of drugs and alcohol.

It’s been shown that, when treated early, the prognosis of a mental health challenge is relatively positive. But, treatment is more than medication. Treatment, as it should be, includes counselling, cognitive and behavioural therapies, relapse prevention education and more.

Education, simply put, is a form of prevention. And given a strained mental healthcare system here in British Columbia, prevention would free up resources so that they may be allocated more strategically. We need only glance at today’s headlines to know that we aren’t doing a good enough job at tackling mental health issues in BC.

There are few, if any, counselors, or psychologists on our wards. And psychiatrists and nurses are often too busy to educate patients on their mental health. We have patients wandering the halls, unoccupied and bored. We have patients using drugs and alcohol to fill time while in hospital. And what we’ve created is a revolving door syndrome – patients leave hospital only to return… repeatedly.

Patients should have the right to access various treatment services while in hospital. Medication compliance is compulsory when involuntarily hospitalized… but attending groups is frequently unenforced. While in hospital, a patient’s treatment needs to be multi-faceted, and with a doctor’s approval, patients should have access to any supplementary services they require.

It’s true, I’ve learned a great deal from my treatment team members, but ultimately, I was self-educated.

Knowledge is power.

And today…

I have the power to live.

Pills


“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”

William Blake


 

I know, with absolute certainty, that William Blake was wrong.

 

Xannies, K-pins, Oxies, Dillies, Hydros, Bennies, Percs.

And how many others?

Too many to count. Too foggy to remember.

 

There’s an epidemic of addiction going on in British Columbia. And there’s no sign of it slowing down, even as the overdose rates skyrocket.

For many, it starts as harmless fun. A pill or two. Heck, maybe even three. What’s the worst that could happen?

It starts as weekend partying. Or just something to do to break the boredom. But once it’s gotten hold, you find yourself sneaking into the medicine cabinet more frequently. And when one pill no longer does the trick, you find yourself taking two.

Then it’s a habit.

 

You’re in the belly of the beast.

There’s an entire generation of young people in BC today who are turning to recreational pharmaceuticals use.  And most addictions specialists would agree – that’s where it starts.

Today, we’re in the midst of an opioid addiction epidemic – primarily – Fentanyl. But few users begin with a drug as “hard,” as Fentanyl.  It starts with something seemingly benign, typically. DXM found in cough suppressants, Codeine in Tylenol #3… the “soft,” drugs.

 

So how do we stop the wave of prescription drug addiction?

Early intervention and education.

There are many organizations and institutions that offer education to reduce the incidence of addiction. I’ve volunteered with a few. Most recently, I volunteered for a short while with the Mood Disorders Association of BC.

 

Addiction and mental illness often go hand in hand. I’ve read that approximately 50% of people who live with mental illness are also drug users. That’s a scary stat.

Aside from offering counseling services to those who are seeking to better their lives, MDABC also ventures out into the community to provide education on mental health issues. It’s the outreach element that truly reaches the hearts of communities in BC.

There’s still a shroud of secrecy and naivety when it comes to addiction and mental illness. This is partially because of stigma, but also due to the relative uncertainty surrounding the causes of mental health issues. Modern medicine has yet to crack the code. We don’t fully understand what causes these illnesses. And by nature, people fear what they don’t understand.

Community outreach is one way to connect people with the services and programs they may need. The mental health system can seem like a convoluted mess. And it can be difficult to navigate to a newcomer. By directing those in need to the right services, MDABC connects the disjointed parts of our mental healthcare system. And people seem genuinely grateful to receive this help.

 

William Blake wrote, “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

But I think the truth is, it isn’t excess that leads to wisdom. It’s knowledge sharing, human connections, and a willingness to learn from others.

From experience, I believe that the road of excess leads to a place of desolation.

Let’s make a difference. Today.

 

Support mental health initiatives in your community. Someone out there needs you to.


 

3AM insomniac

3am.

I check the clock.

Again.

And again.

Time doesn’t seem to pass.

I.

Need.

To.

Sleep.

I bury my face into my pillow and try counting sheep.

1 sheep.

2 sheep….

But sleep doesn’t come.

And I know the anxiety will strike later in the day. Like a napalm bomb. And then maybe a hallucination or two. Who knows?

1 sheep…

* * *

The Science of Sleep

I’ve read that we spend nearly a third of out lives sleeping. It’s natural, and necessary for survival.

But why?

There are two categories of sleep: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM).

REM sleep is where the magic happens. And it’s intriguing, because no one really knows what purpose it serves. During REM, we experience our most vivid dreams. It is also when our muscles are temporarily paralyzed. There’s some evidence suggesting that people who awake to find themselves unable to move, or who experience hypnogogic and hypnopompic hallucinations, are experiencing waking REM.

Scientists are divided over the purpose of REM. Some believe it provides our minds a safe place to process daily events and gives us the emotional space to resolve problems that may occur in our lives.

Regardless, both categories of sleep play important roles in our capacity to not only survive, but thrive, succeed, and experience happiness.

                                                                             * * *

Sleep for Mental Health

Sleep is one of the most crucial aspects to maintaining good mental health. It is common, during bouts of mental illness, to experience some form of insomnia or sleep disruptions. Psychosis, anxiety, depression, and mania can all be characterized by sleep issues.

Additionally, people who live with addictions, particularly to stimulants, are at risk of developing severe mental health problems, as their sleep deteriorates.

In the early stages of recovery, from mental illness and/or addiction, sleep is perhaps the biggest influencer of a positive outcome. And people who struggle with quality of sleep are at greater risk of relapse than those who get sufficient sleep.

Sleep is important to mental health because it is a way for our brains to detoxify and eliminate damaging free radicals. Without sound sleep, our brains are at risk of becoming over-stressed, and are more vulnerable to stressful events. In fact, the stress hormone Cortisol, can, during insomnia, become elevated.

Sleep is also neuroprotective and promotes healthy neurogenesis (the regrowth of brain cells). Therefore, sleep is so crucial to one’s rehabilitation from mental health challenges.

                                                                               * * *

Today I am no longer a chronic insomniac.

I try to practice good sleep hygiene. Setting a specific time to go to bed, dimming the lights, putting on soft music and practicing some meditation.

I no longer require prescription sleep medications. In fact, many say that these medications, when abused or used for long periods of time, worsen quality of sleep.

I avoid caffeinated drinks in the evening. And often I’ll sip a relaxing tea to help unwind and prepare myself for bed. Alcohol is a no-no. Alcohol may be tranquilizing as an initial effect, but it acts as a stimulant later into inebriation.

My recent sleep patterns have been effective in managing my mood, anxiety levels, and in encouraging good health.

I still experience symptoms, but nowadays, I prefer to handle them differently. My response to symptoms used to be impulsive in nature…

Now, I opt to “sleep on it.”

 

– Andrew

The Attorney General, The Clubhouse, and Unconditional Acceptance

The Clubhouse model is a powerful demonstration of the fact that people with mental illness can and do lead normal, productive lives.

***

Two years ago, I volunteered at a conference put on by a national mental health organization. The speakers at this conference were distinguished, successful, and insightful – all the things I was not. They also all had powerful stories.

The keynote speaker at this conference was a former attorney general who struggled, for a long time, with alcoholism. What I took away from his story at the time was…nothing. His story was insightful, interesting, and hope inspiring, and yet I couldn’t see the obvious – that his story was like mine. I was under the influence, an addict, and unwell. Nothing resonated with me.

When the attorney general had finished speaking, I approached him. Every muddled instinct of mine told me not to. Regardless, I told him a bit about myself. His response took me by surprise:

“You need to be extra generous to yourself,” he told me.

I had no clue what he meant.

At the time, I was becoming a burden to those close to me. My supervisors at work were struggling to keep up with my frequent, long and babbling emails. I’m sure they were beginning to see me as an unhealthy influence on the rest of the staff. I had zero insight. I was delusional, manic, and addicted to prescription medications.

The staff were the only community I had. They were also the only people in my life who unconditionally accepted me, despite my long history of mental health challenges. So, I clung to them long after I had left the organization.

I would often think about what the attorney general had told me.

“You need to be extra generous to yourself.”

When insight returned, after many medication adjustments and prolonged withdrawals, I began visiting a local Clubhouse – a place where I could go to find supports, and participate in social gatherings and events. I’d been hesitant to visit until then. I was holier-than-thou towards others who live with mental health challenges. I thought I was different. I thought I was better than the rest.

My first dinner at the Clubhouse was nerve-wracking.  I was shaky, and anxious. Walking through the Clubhouse doors, I didn’t know what to expect.  To my surprise, I was greeted warmly. I ate with the members, chatted, and then left with a smile on my face. I didn’t feel judged. I felt accepted.

“You need to be extra generous to yourself.”

Community is incredibly important to me. They say a close-knit social circle is the biggest determinant of mental wellbeing.  I had no innermost circle, and as I result, I was miserable for a long time. I was in pain.

When community greets me, I try to pay it forward. I volunteer – educating people on mood disorders and addiction. I take part in, and contribute to support groups. I run a mental health blog. I try to visit the Clubhouse a couple of times a week, and I’m beginning to build a social network of people I can relate to.

Every recovery story is ongoing. I don’t believe in reaching point B, rather I believe recovery is all about the journey. When I stumble and fall, I get back up. When I take a step backward, I bounce back with two steps forward. I must remember that I’ve come a long way. I deserve a great deal of credit for coming this far.

As I think back on my experience with mental illness and addiction, I’m thankful for the communities that embraced me as a person and not a diagnosis. However, not all communities are willing to accept people who live with mental illness. Stigma is prevalent in today’s society.

This week is mental health week. And it is my hope that this week brings open forum discussions on the topic of mental health challenges. Because education is powerful, and has potential to eliminate stigma.Andrew

Things are different nowadays –

Nowadays, I’m a glass half-full kind of guy.

Nowadays, I’m kind to myself.

Nowadays…

I’m extra generous to myself.

 

-Andrew

 

#MentalHealthWeek #EndStigma #Recovery #Education

Pink Shirt Day

February 28th is Pink Shirt Day.

Opinions_pink-shirt-day-shirt

But why?

Some readers may have heard of Pink Shirt Day, but do you how this day came to be?

In 2007 two friends, David Shepard and Travis Price from Nova Scotia, decided to take matters into their own hands after seeing a fellow male student bullied for wearing a pink shirt of the first day of school.

The two students bought 50 pink t-shirts and handed them out at their high school.

Before long, their anti-bullying actions gained attention by media, spreading the anti-bullying message across Canada and the globe. By 2012, the UN declared “Anti-Bullying Day” and today, is recognized in over 25 countries worldwide.

A lot has changed in the past decade when Anti-Bullying Day began.

Technologically speaking, bullying via social media is much easier. While remainanti-bullyinging anonymous, a bully can verbally attack, intermediate, threaten or worse. Commonly referred to as “trolling”, bullying is a daily reality for a lot of people.

In recent years, we’ve seen a lot more people speaking up about their lived experiences of bullying.

 

Celebrities like Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato,  and Zayn Malik, just to name a few, have opened up about being bullied. Unique qualities that once made them feel insecure and different, were harnessed into a positive attitude and self-worth.

Of course, bullying isn’t something solely experienced by famous people, or young school children, resulting in years of individuals feeling alienated.

Unfortunately, the reality is that children, as well as adults experience bullying. Although adults are meant to be more understanding, empathetic and mature, the workplace can be a volatile environment.

From passive aggressive comments, patronizing attitudes, silencing concerns or ideas,  diminishing the value of someones work, to unfairly questioning someone’s abilities — one or all of these can lead to a hostile work environment.

Having worked in unhealthy work environments in the past, I can firmly state that a negative work environment affected my mental health. As a goal-oriented, ambitious worker, I started to doubt myself and question my worth. I began second-guessing my judgement, unable make logical decisions, slowly down my own productivity.

It is likely that everyone has experienced bullying in their lifetime. If not from being bullied, then as the bully. The good news is, you can make a public stand on February 28th against bullying by simply wearing pink!

Recognizing the seriousness of mental health at work, last year’s World Mental Health Day was themed appropriately, Mental health in the workplace.

“During our adult lives, a large proportion of our time is spent at work. Our experience in the workplace is one of the factors determining our overall well-being. Employers and managers who put in place workplace initiatives to promote mental health and to support employees who have mental disorders see gains not only in the health of their employees but also in their productivity at work. A negative working environment, on the other hand, may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity.”

World Health Organization

 

This upcoming Pink Shirt Day is your chance to become part of a growing international awareness campaign.  Wear pink and make a clear statement on Anti-Bullying Day February 28th!

be kind

 

Resources:

Bullying at School Can Take the Sunshine Out of Life

No Bullies Wanted in the Workplace

When Sorry is Too Late

World Mental Health Day 2017


If you or someone you know would like to contribute to our upcoming anti-bullying newsletter theme, please email:

devassist@lookoutsociety.ca

Waking Up Again

MDABC proudly publishes voluntary contributions to our blogs and newsletters on a regular basis. Through lived experience, MDABC is able to offer varied perspectives for our readership. If you or someone you know would like to contribute, email devassist@lookoutsociety.ca

The post-acute withdrawal stage of benzodiazepine and hypnotic abuse can last for years. I’ve been off these medications for 8 months… and I’m just beginning to wake up.

andrew

For the first time since my addiction began.

14 years ago.

What’s it like?

I can’t describe it any better than a re-awakening. This may sound overly-spiritual, but heck, I’m a bit of a spiritual guy. I’m also highly sensitive, so this process was bound to be difficult.

Difficult.

But amazing.

I went for a run, as part of my therapy, around the lake last night. The lights had been strung before the holidays, and there must’ve been thousands of glittering specks lining the walkways.

I’d seen them before. But this time the experience was entirely new to me. The lights were vibrant, exciting, and colorful. It’s a strange feeling… seeing something you’ve witnessed before, but for the first time. Kind of a paradox.

Waking up for the first time in 14 years has been overwhelming.

Every day I experience new emotions. Emotions I haven’t felt in years. I feel connections to others, when just a year ago, I felt distant, alienated, and angry at the world. Connections are a necessary part of living a healthy life, and are the biggest determinant of fulfillment and mental well-being. This is new to me.

My thoughts have become more insightful, more articulate, and comprehensible. I’m beginning to have a better grasp on who I am as a person, and where I’d like to go from here. I had no identity whatsoever. So, finding myself at the age of 31 is both an incredible, and frightening journey to embark on.

Addiction is an epidemic in Canada. We’re all familiar with the opioid crisis, particularly here in British Columbia. But, new controls are also being put on other substances. Certain medications, such as benzodiazepines, while potentially addictive, do have a place in the treatment of mental illness. However, more oversight and caution need to be exercised when prescribing these substances.

It’s been 14 years. A journey through ups, downs, and long and stretching plateaus. And everything in between.

I’m grateful to be in recovery. I really am. And despite being overwhelmed currently, this is a very special time in my life. I’m learning adulthood. I’m setting out into the world, with the skills and coping strategies I’ve gathered over the years, and I’m trying to find a place. I’m trying to find peace.

Mark Twain wrote:

“20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

This is how falling asleep in the dark and waking up in the blinding light is supposed to be.

This is recovery.

And I’m grateful.

 

Andrew

A Dark December with SAD

The following piece, contributed voluntarily, shares with readers one individual’s lived experience with SAD and General Anxiety Disorder.

 

SAD


 

Ahhhh…it’s December – and when the first day of December comes I think that maybe this year it’ll be different and I’ll be all ready and feel motivated and organized but as the month wears on and the solstice is coming, my energy lessens.

I used to be so hard on myself and compare myself to all the other Moms and women who could do so much at this time of the year. I tried all kinds of things with a variety of results but here it is again, the Holiday Season is upon us and I’m stalled or have spurts of energy and if things are going a bit well, then I can get enthused and say yes to things, feeling truly that I can do it or be there and then for some of it I have to push myself through.

I loved Christmas as a kid. My Mom made it nice for all of us even though she had a real Grinch in my Father who was mean spirited. There were people around, it was fun. I liked the music, the lights, the tree, the visits, baking and being together with family. I went on to enjoy Christmas even when I met my husband’s family, fine people but a lot of alcohol abuse so these Christmas were tense and my partner grew to really hate Christmas or at least what Christmas represented in his family, a time of conflict.

Before having children, I worked in the hotel, restaurant, banquet business so often I worked  during the Christmas season, this was tiring but it was nice to help others have fun and so I had fun too and being around the friends I worked with. As more time went by and my husband and I had our first child, things changed a lot. We had this precious little being but I suffered with perinatal depression and anxiety and so began the conditional Christmases with feeling more demands and the duty to provide a memorable and magical Christmas for my child and family members.  As well my partners’ dislike of Christmas was harder to roll with for me now that we had our own child. It was hard on him to have his wife experiencing perinatal depression and anxiety and his well being decreased too.  It took some time to recover for me and anxiety and I went on to have two more children and experienced it yet again with our third child.

I’ve gotten better over the years, of necessity and am better at not setting myself up for the fall or the fail. I’ve had to have self compassion and I reason that even though so many people may look like they’re doing OK or even great, not everyone is and we never really know. I suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I have many coping skills and a lot of the time they serve me very well and I’m open to learning others.  I’ve had to accept that this is not an all jolly time for me though, and so when I have some moments of feeling happy then I really take the time to be mindful that is going on. It’s often the simple things that help me feel better.

This time of year brings memories, good, bad, ugly even from other years. The losses and traumas can be underlined and triggering. Sometimes I have to really excavate to find the good feelings and memories when the triggering begins or sneaks up and my mind can go to just what isn’t good now or in the past, even worrying about the future. I try to do some self-care during the season and to have a plan for following the big day  to recover and replenish. And….remembering, that’s it’s okay to have a “good enough” Christmas. I had a wise therapist who taught this to me many years ago and it has always been a comfort to come back to, like a touch stone to take heart from.

 

Some helpful sites:

 

–Linda


MDABC would like to thank everyone who contributed to our blogs and newsletters throughout 2017. If you or anyone you know would like to contribute in 2018, contact: devassist@lookoutsociety.ca

 

“Happy” Holidays

giphy

Have you ever seen Christmas Vacation? Do you know every line, too?

Since I was a kid, watching that movie was as much of a holiday tradition as eating turkey or decorating our Christmas tree. The Griswold family (and extended family) made me laugh uncontrollably every year, even though I knew every line by heart.

So, how did somehow, somewhere along the way, that I become the living embodiment of Ellen Griswold?!

 *  *  *

Originally I thought my un-happy holiday spirit began in early adulthood, when I still lived in New Brunswick. Let me set the scene of my family’s holiday movie: The hustle and bustle of buying gifts, drinks, dinners, planning or organizing meals for a dozen people — while simultaneously trying to manage not getting ill in freezing (-25 Celsius) temperatures, driving on dangerous roads and parking in icy streets. Add in some awkward family encounters, passive-aggressive behavior, inappropriate jokes, at least one person offended and at least two people drinking too much. Sounds like the reason I’d dislike Christmas, right?

Wrong.

My family/geographical location did not trigger my dislike of the holidays as I’d originally thought. Fast forward to today where I’ve been living in Vancouver for over three years, currently in my 30’s and living a quiet, calm life. I don’t have gifts to buy, I steer free of shopping centers, take easily accessible public transit on non-icy roads (or an EVO when I’m feeling lazy), save a tonne of money by not spending lavishly family over the holidays. I’m not stressed out or overwhelmed! It’s actually the opposite of what the holidays were that I grew up with–  I’m living my West Coast, calmly, with warm weather. It’s holiday dream…right?

Wrong, again.

As it turns out, moving away from my family and cold weather did not warm my frosty Christmas spirit. In fact, this holiday season seems to be one of the most difficult yet. As someone who struggles to meet new people — introverted, with a slight social anxiety and never someone to have a large group of friends (not to mention I genuinely love being at home) — three years in this city has proven to be quite challenging emotionally. No longer are my limited but and very deep connections available during the holidays.

As a result, this year’s festive season highlights the issue of loneliness, which can easily lead to depression. Everywhere I look it seems like advertisements, movies, photos, music, social media, restaurants (and so much more) are telling me what to buy, wear, eat or drink in order to be happy. Like there’s some special consumerist “Happy” holiday recipe:

  • 6 Bottles of red wine (questionable substance use)
  • 3 Expensive holiday outfits (compounding debt further)
  • 12 Closest friends  (Acquaintances at best)
    • 17729346 Selfies (to post on social media; proving how happy you are)
  • 1 Christmas soundtrack (same songs grocery stores started playing in October)
  • 37 Small talk conversations (painfully awkward and un-illuminating)
  • Mix all together quickly for two weeks and VOILA!  Enjoy and “Happy” Holidays!

This reads more like a recipe for disaster to me!

*  *  *

In all seriousness though, this year is the first Christmas that I truly feel homesick. I now have a niece back home, my sister is having her first Christmas in her first house, my dad is selling the house I grew up in, and everything seems settled. The feeling of missing out on new traditions and saying goodbye to old ones is incredibly hard. Although I miss my family all year, the holidays just seem to intensify my emotions. It makes me sad to miss them, but that’s OK, I’m allowed to feel sad. Not only me, anyone to can feel something other than “happy” during the holidays — stress, depression, loneliness…anything!

But, if you feel like your struggling too much over the holiday season, and need to speak to someone, there are links at the bottom of this post. And if you’re in need of a warm meal or looking to help serve one, there are options for that too!