'The festive season triggers my suicidal thoughts, here's what I've learnt to deal with them'

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Illustration. (Getty Images)
Illustration. (Getty Images)
  • For some people, the festive season is the most exciting time of the year. The season inspires feelings of joy, cheerfulness and a sense of belonging.
  • For Lori 30*, the festive season is not the season of being jolly, but the season of ‘heightened stress, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.’ 
  • This is her story.

Growing up, I used to look forward to the Christmas holidays. My favourite tradition was waking up at 5 am to open my presents with my siblings around the Christmas tree. My parents always ensured that Christmas was special to us.

At the age of 16, I noticed that the festive season made me quite anxious. I wouldn’t look forward to family holidays and reunite with old family members.

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When everyone was jolly and in the Christmas spirit, I felt sad, lonely and it almost felt like the more commercialised the season was, the more anxious I became. It didn’t make sense because I loved spending time with my family. 

When I started working at age 24, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and was not surprised. So much had happened that year. My parents separated, I was unhappy at work, I had an eating disorder, and everything seemed to be going wrong.

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In the same year, I spent the month of December at a psychiatric hospital and from that year onwards, the festive season has never been the same.  For me, the festive season serves as a reminder that the year has come to an end and I am nowhere close to where I want to be in regards to my goals and the kind of life I want to live. T

he constant reminder to be merry is a painful reminder of the happiness and love I lack in my life. Christmas used to be when my family came together, and now it’s a reminder that we’ve split up. Attending family gatherings is also one of the reasons why I have suicidal thoughts. The constant comparison from family members and the subtle reminders that I’m 30 years old without a husband, a home and kids are reasons I dread the season. 

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For the past six years, I’ve had suicidal thoughts during this time and I’m working through them with my psychologist and we established that there are numerous reasons for the feelings and thoughts, such as:

  • Setting unrealistic expectations. I realised that I grew up thinking that Christmas was supposed to look picture perfect and that everyone had to get along. I had the ideology that every day would be filled with warmth, love and a joyful spirit.
  • Feeling like a failure. The festive season serves as a reminder that the year has come to an end and I have not achieved much. The season also pressurises people to feel like their lives are in order.
  • A reminder that I’m not financially stable and unable to even go Christmas shopping or partake in festive social gatherings. I realised that social media also has a significant role to play in me comparing my life to others. Not being able to post boomerangs of my glass of champagne or posting videos of road tripping with family or friends because of the lack of finances are the reasons why I decided to minimise my time on social media during the season. 

I’m working on overcoming these thoughts, but for someone who is in the same shoes, the one thing I would say is that it’s okay! It’s okay to have these thoughts, but it’s your duty to try and overcome them and seek help. 

If you or loved to need help, please contact The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG).

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