Get help for holiday depression

December 9, 2013

If you are struggling with depression this holiday season, please reach out for help. That first step is scary, but it will be the best gift you can give yourself and those you love.

People suffering with depression generally work hard to hide it from family, friends and coworkers. That pressure becomes more intense around the holidays, when there’s a cultural assumption everyone is looking forward to a season of eggnog-fueled cheer. The British have even given it a name – smiling depression.

Most people have felt sad or depressed at one time or another. Feeling depressed can be a normal reaction to loss, life's struggles, or an injured self-esteem. But when feelings of intense sadness -- including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless -- last for many days to weeks and keep you from functioning normally, your depression may be something more than sadness. It may very well be clinical depression -- a treatable medical condition.

While depressed people employ the "fake it 'til you make it" philosophy as a coping mechanism, it’s not a very effective one. Pretending to be happy consumes the limited energy available to get through the day and creates an invisible wall between the depression sufferer and people who – if they only knew what was happening – would do whatever they could to help.

If you are reading this and you are depressed, please know there are some very simple things you can do to help yourself – and more importantly, to reach out and ask others for help. Let’s get started:

  • Talk to your personal physician. There are many successful treatments for those suffering from clinical depression.

  • Let YouTube lead the way. In just four minutes, “I Had a Black Dog, His Name Was Depression,”gives voice to the overwhelming exhaustion and emptiness that every depressed person fights to keep at bay. It also highlights a path to healing and hope.
  • If you are grieving a death, talk to a grief counselor, priest or pastor.  If having lost someone in the past year is making the holidays particularly difficult, these individuals can help you access resources like one-on-one counseling, support groups and reading materials. With their help, you won’t feel alone.
  • Tell someone you trust. Commit to talking about your depression with one person you know you can trust. Maybe it’s your spouse or your best friend – or maybe it’s not. The important thing is to tell someone and, if they are able, to let them help you figure out next steps.

If you are struggling with depression this holiday season, please reach out for help. That first step is scary, but it will be the best gift you can give yourself and those you love. 

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