Graciousness/Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-best-selfHi friends, just a reminder to ALL to be especially gracious with one another this holiday season. Be generous and sensitive and thoughtful in your interactions with family.

This post by Christina Cleveland is really helpful, offering 8 tips for talking to your family about Trump.

The Mighty put out a collection of 29 things people with eating disorders want their family to know at Thanksgiving, and it’s so critical. If you know of or suspect someone in your family has an eating disorder, please read this.

From my perspective as one who battles mental illness, I’ll offer this: holidays can be a huge trigger– and so can travel– and so can unfamiliar situations. When I find myself overwhelmed and away from my comfort zone, sometimes I retreat to things familiar, like checking my phone, being in touch with close friends. Sometimes I just need a little alone time. I know that to some of my family members, this can look like I’m withdrawn or disinterested, but really, I might be just barely keeping things together. I had a family member literally tear my cell phone out of my hands one Thanksgiving, saying, “Get off your phone and be with your family!” He didn’t mean it to be traumatizing, but honestly, in that moment, I was so shaken and had stepped into a separate room to be alone and to text a couple friends, to reach out to something familiar and comfortable, just for a few minutes, just for a small dose of strength and solidarity. I understand that not everyone experiences something like this, so please: just be gracious and aware that there are silent, invisible battles being fought all around your Thanksgiving table. Be your best self.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I’m thankful for YOU!

 

Christmas and Depression

sad christmasI have friends and family who absolutely cannot understand me when I say that I do not love Christmastime.  I love what it stands for, but most years, it felt like a season to simply survive.

In Minnesota, it’s cold and snowy and dark before you even leave work.  There’s this strange pressure to be joyful that somehow results in a meta-awareness of not fitting the mold.  In the light generated by the holidays, the darkness of depression becomes even more obvious.

Thankfully, so, SO much in my life has been redeemed in the last five years since ERP.  But I can still remember when the holidays were the very hardest time of the year for me (I suppose it would be true to say that they still are the hardest time).  I know that there are many of you out there who cannot wait until the calendar flips to the new year and normalcy will return (even if normalcy leaves much to be desired).

I get it.

I am thinking of you this season.  Jesus Christ, whose birth we are celebrating, is big enough to hold such heavy hearts.

Related posts:
Christmas isn’t fun for everyone.
Holidays are hard for some of us.

holidays are hard for some of us

Last year, I posted that Christmas isn’t fun for everyone, and today I am thinking again how that is true.  And not only Christmas, but other holidays too.

Thanksgiving is just behind us, and to be honest, I am glad.  Mine was fine, very lowkey– I spent it with my sister and brother, eating pizza and banana cream pie, watching the Dallas game and hushing my voice when the Cowboys fell behind the Redskins and my brother raged at the TV screen.  It was fun, very chill, lazy, and we all met up at Mom and Dad’s house, even though the parents were in Missouri to see Grandma and the rest of Mom’s family.

But it’s these winter holidays that do me in.  While everyone else is giddy with anticipation, I am anxious mostly for them to be OVER.  Somehow there is an expectancy surrounding the actual holiday, something that stresses me out and makes me just want to return to normalcy.

I think, for me, it’s a combination of the cold weather (it snowed all afternoon in Minnesota on Thanksgiving), the claustrophobia of bundling up in jackets and scarves, real or imagined seasonal depression, and memories of high school, when the holidays were the hardest.

1997.  Thanksgiving.  It was the first real breakdown of my life.  I can remember it like it was yesterday and not fifteen years ago.  Was God real?  How could anyone ever really know?  And if I didn’t know, then wasn’t I hellbound?  (Such a paradox, I know– if there was no God or heaven, then there would also be no hell.)  I was in 10th grade, and OCD was swallowing me whole, and it would still be another seven years before it would even have a name.

I was in Missouri with the rest of the family, breaking away from the games and conversation and cooking upstairs to retreat to Grandma’s basement, lock myself in the bathroom, and sob.  The ground had been taken from underneath my feet, and all I could do was weep– all while hiding it from the rest of the family, all those happy Christians upstairs, secure in their beliefs.

I can picture myself now, doubled over on the bathroom floor, lost and sad and scared and not understanding that God Himself could supercede my disbelief and make Himself known to me.  It was a dark year that followed.  I was scared of everything, especially of dying without knowing that God was real.  I held my breath when I’d pass a car on the highway, knowing I was inches from my death– and maybe eternal death.

OCD, you thief.  I hate you with such intensity.

For years after that, I could not return to Missouri without being triggered into a complete relapse which would take weeks to recover from.  Once I went to college, I refused to return.  I wonder what my mom’s side of the family thought– if they wondered if I was stuck-up or selfish for not making that 11-hour drive to see them.  It was only once a year, for goodness sakes.  They didn’t know any of the background, didn’t know the way that just crossing that state border into Missouri had become the instant switch for me to question my faith.

Christmas stumbled along after Thanksgiving, and it was just as hard.  And so, these holidays over the years cemented themselves into difficult seasons that I would have to survive.  And even though November and December are nothing like they were even ten years ago, those memories are strong.

I know there are a lot of people out there who will have such a hard time this season, those of you who have Christmas hang over you like a stormcloud, who will breath a sigh of relief when you return to “life as usual” on the day after New Years.  I’m so sorry, and I totally understand.  I hope that this year will be different for you– that God will supernaturally supercede your painful memories and depression and general feelings of wrongness, and that He will give you joy in your hearts instead of these.

As Christmas approaches, my prayer for you is this: Jesus Christ, You are the Word that became flesh, a holy incarnation that blows my mind every time I stop to consider it.  Please overwhelm us with the sacred mystery of it all in ways that memories, depression, OCD, anxiety, and other mental illnesses can’t defeat.  Jesus, be the mighty redeemer that You have been and continue to be and REDEEM this holiday season for those of us who need a rescue.  Hold us in real ways that we can feel.  Amen.