It is supposed to be the season of joy and happiness, but for some Christmas is a depressing time.
“I find there’s an increase in the number of calls I get about depression from the beginning of December to the end of January,” says Marlene Brouwer, a Red Deer Jungian psychoanalyst and psychotherapist with 30 years of counselling experience.
“It’s not just Christmas, although that’s a big factor, it’s the whole winter solstice, the long nights, the dark, the cold. It takes more energy just to do the normal things.”
Common symptoms of depression are feelings of hopelessness and pessimism, that life is passing you by, you don’t want to see people or are scared to be left alone, feelings of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness, persistently sad, anxious or feeling empty, no energy, small tasks become impossible, always thinking about what’s wrong, not enjoying previously enjoyable activities, you feel you are a burden to others, that life isn’t worth living and you have no confidence in yourself.
“With depression comes anxiety because many people feel it’s a weakness, that there’s something bad in themselves. So they try to hide it, but when Christmas comes they have 10 times more things to do, all the social obligations, the shopping, the entertaining, there’s lots of extras,” says Brouwer.
“All those extras add to our feeling of not being connected. I think all of us suffer from a feeling of disconnectedness from time to time, but when you’re depressed it’s a horrible feeling. It’s especially hard at this time of year when there are so many feelings of expectation and joy, so there’s a big disconnect between what people feel inside and what they are suppose to feel.
“Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebration, of new life, but it’s become a time of consumption and hype, of eating and drinking binges, of unrealistic personal expectations. It’s important that individuals pay attention to their own inner feelings of what’s really important. The holidays are an archetypal time of transition, a time of beginnings and endings, and renewal and reflection and so often that gets lost,” she says.
“Instead, ‘under the table’ family issues tend to pop out when a lot of alcohol is consumed. Too often it’s a bad time of turmoil and upset in many families.
“It’s very important that people who realize they are depressed, or see that someone in their life is depressed, get help. A depressed person affects everyone around them. It’s terribly important to get information about living with depression.”
Severe depression, with thoughts of suicide, means an immediate visit to emergency and people feeling depressed need to see a doctor.