This is the time of year when I get sad. Not aesthetically pleasing or cinematically sad. Not even in a way that is particularly unique or interesting. But as much as I love the holiday season, it still happens. I don’t stay sad all the time and some years are better than others, but I accept this at this time of year. I like to keep my vacation posts full of advice because I think we could use them if we mess around on vacation, but I also thought I’d take some time to be a little reassured – even during that the holiday season (sometimes especially during the holiday season), it’s okay not to be okay.
The news that it’s okay to be wrong is good and frankly one that can never be heard enough. Throughout the calendar year, struggling with mental health or not feeling like us is often understandable. The holiday season is no different in that it brings challenges, but the challenges that come at this time of year are rather veiled. Tucked away in Christmas decorations, vacation movies, and TV shows, you’re seeing your family (whatever that word means to you) in the same place at the same time every year. But even if your vacation seems predictable, mental health is a variable that you can’t always consider.
The mental health stigma lingers in many ways, and one of the times this shows up is on the vacation. There are many reasons for this (seeing old family / friends and thinking about the past year are two big reasons) but the bottom line is that sometimes the challenges of navigating the vacation turn out to be too big. They can trigger current mental illness, past trauma, or simply create stress that can be difficult to manage. And I’m not just referring to those who are on vacation with the family – it’s a challenge for everyone. We cannot ignore the consequences of social isolation either, especially this year!
Depression and grief are also more common during the holidays. It is difficult to see other people spending time with others or having more opportunities to socialize during the holidays, and this isolation can be difficult for anyone. And while grief occurs year-round, those feelings can certainly be heightened during this memory-filled season.
For what it’s worth, I didn’t write any of this to justify how we might feel at this time of year. Because the truth is, we don’t have to justify it. We shouldn’t have to convince others (or even ourselves) that it’s okay to feel how we are feeling right now – especially after the year we’ve had.
Many of us are sad. We feel pain, we feel loss, we feel insecurity, and we struggle. And these feelings are valid. Instead of encouraging you to get over it (as unfortunately this still seems to be a form of advice some people give), I encourage you to acknowledge that these feelings are okay and try to do in the way you need Seek help. A quick fix or vacation shot won’t take the hassle out of us – but being in a place where you can really feel at home could be a good start. I wish you all the best in this holiday season and into the new year.