Picture Thanksgiving Day. You’ve just joined your family at the table to feast on turkey and stuffing when suddenly, a festive, well-meaning relative suggests that everyone go around the table and share something that they are thankful for.
If you are one of the millions of Americans who experiences depression, this may feel like an impossible, unanswerable question. If you’ve been feeling such deep despair that you haven’t been able to get out of bed for the last several days, then you probably feel you don’t have anything to be thankful for. You’re probably just trying to get through the day. And you probably want to push your chair away from the table, tell your relative to mind their own business, and crawl back into bed.
Fortunately, Thanksgiving isn’t here just yet. So, let’s take a step back and think about what you might do to keep the holiday from worsening your already-difficult emotional state. First, as a person facing depression, try as often as possible to surround yourself with supportive, patient, loving people who make you feel safe. Some people are fortunate enough to find this with their families, but many are not. If family problems contribute to your depression, or if your family just can’t figure out how to support you, consider spending the holiday away from them.friends and coworkers will probably reveal that many people are as excited about family holiday gatherings as they are about getting the stomach flu. So ask some friends if they would be interested having a Thanksgiving celebration together.
Even if you don’t get any takers, you may get an invitation to a friend’s family Thanksgiving. Spending the holiday with a family who enjoys a healthier dynamic might feel really good. On the other hand, it could be a painful reminder of what you do not have. If you feel your thoughts beginning to shift to your own family’s shortcoming, remember that, for this one day, you don’t have to deal with those shortcomings. Instead, you can be completely present in each moment—enjoy every bite of good food and every ounce of pleasant company.
There are also many options for people who would rather forgo holiday gatherings all together. If you are very career-oriented, consider volunteering to work over some or all of the holiday weekend. You’ll probably make a holiday pay rate and your colleagues will appreciate your sacrifice. If you are a philanthropic sort of person, consider volunteering to serve a Thanksgiving meal to the homeless. Serving a vulnerable population can be a deeply meaningful and fulfilling experience—it might remind you of the good things in your life, and it will certainly feel good to do something kind for someone in need. If you are a movie buff, consider taking in a movie or two. If you are a fashionista, hit some of the Black Friday sales. If you are a travel aficionado, consider taking a trip to another country where Thanksgiving isn’t even a holiday!
The bottom line is this: dealing with depression is draining on a good day and crippling on a bad day. If you anticipate that Thanksgiving is going to be a day, or a weekend, with the potential to send you on a downward spiral, spend some time reflecting on what will make it manageable for you. Think about who you would like to surround yourself with, and what you would like to do. Then, work to get as close to this scenario as you can. If you are already working with a therapist, spend some time in your sessions preparing for the holiday. If you are not currently in therapy, consider giving yourself a Thanksgiving gift and schedule an initial consultation with a therapist. You don’t have to suffer alone and you don’t have to suffer forever.
© Copyright 2011 by By Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.