Browsing through my FB feed I came across a blog entry from a mental health blogger that had me thinking. It was yet another one of those sentiments about being happy with what you have, because someone who has way less than you is happy with what they have. That was point, then later in the same article it spoke of not comparing yourself to others.....so... which one is it? Maybe, only compare if you're on the upwards swing, to remind you that you're blessed? While I get that sentiment, and I get the gist I am not on board with it.
While the holidays can be a wonderful time of year, full of giving, love, and family it can also be one of the most stressful times of the year, as well. Not everyone has the money for the giving season. Maybe one doesn't have any family, or friends to spend the holiday with. Maybe they might, but they're not pleasant people. We're not all born to loving parents, and other family members who care, nurture, and support us. Some people suffer seasonal depression that tends to peak around the mark of the winter solstice with short days, and long nights. There's all sorts of reasons why a person might be feeling low, or less than festive around the holiday season.
I know that many will say that there are ways to feel better. One can volunteer, donate money, remember to exercise, meditate, all sorts of ideas to help them feel better about their lives, and improve mental health. All those things can, and do help. What never has, in my experience, is comparing one's circumstances with those in third world countries, or that have suffered a great loss. That is not how our emotional systems work. To me, it's like saying to someone "You think you're feeling down? Well, at least you have a warm bed to sleep in/food to eat/children to hug...ect, ect...." So what does the person that was feeling down feel now? They still feel down, and now along with it a big heaping helping of guilt for feeling that way on top of the blues. Invalidating someone else's emotions because they aren't easy to deal with, or fixable is not empathetic. It's not helpful, or a genuine effort. It's dismissive. I know that for myself, nothing makes me feel more lonely than being dismissed by others. To be told I really don't, or shouldn't feel the way I do brings with it an air of shame. Shame never motivates. It only hides, festers, and comes out in self-destructive ways.
So, if you're reading this, and are feeling down about the holidays I have something to say to you:
It's okay to feel that way.
I'm sorry that you feel that way. Many people do. If you need a friend my email is listed in the contact section. I will listen. I won't try to convince you to feel differently, or be something that makes me, as the listener, more comfortable. There's no shame in depression. There's no shame in loneliness. Sometimes, life isn't peachy. It is the way it is. We can sit through the suffering, until it gets better, but I don't expect others to manufacture a mood, because being sad is so not trendy. Yes, a healthy dose of gratitude is always a good thing to keep life in perspective, but it's not gonna just sweep away true sadness.
There is someone listening. I am.