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Dublin: 3 °C Monday 24 November, 2014

Column: Christmas is a tough time with depression. Here’s what I’m doing about it.

Garry Williams has never liked Christmas – but this year, he writes, it will be different.

Garry Williams

CHRISTMAS IS THE time of a year when we are all happily surrounded by family and friends, unwrapping dozens of presents with huge smiles on our faces whilst we step outside and play in the fresh white snow. Assuming  that is that you live in Hollywood,  where people are not sad or alone on Christmas Day, where people are not disappointed about the lack of presents and where people are not listening to their parents arguing over dinner or what to watch on the television.

Naturally the real world gives a different picture for someone like me who battles depression. Christmas time is one of the worst times of the year for me. I become sick with BahHumbugitis and count the days until it is over.

Anxiety

Having children and their expectations of gifts only increases the stress and anxiety of the period. No matter how hard you try to emphasis that Christmas is about family and friends, as they get older you feel like you have the parental responsibility to ensure you do everything in your power (and often beyond) to make sure they do not feel disappointed. No matter how hard I try to explain to them about finances there is always a part of me that dies inside when I imagine them heading back to school after the holidays to hear from their friends about the shedloads of presents they received. My kids are lucky to get multiple presents, let alone shedloads! The cruelty of kids these days, especially the ‘haves’ over the ‘have nots’ is an added pressure.

After all, the Christmas memories you give your children now will reflect their future Christmas emotions. Growing up, every single Christmas guaranteed one thing for me –  the annual fight between my parents, which led to us being late for dinner at my Nan’s house. Looking back now at my childhood, this is THE stand out memory of Christmas for me and another reason for me to dislike it.

Avoiding people

Every year for the past ten years I avoid walking into shops throughout December. I’m avoiding the shops due to the crowds of people rushing around to get food that will be thrown away because they bought too much, while I decide whether it’s presents or food – not an easy choice with four kids ranging from three to 15!

The same Christmas songs on a permanent loop year after year also do not help. Hearing Yoko Ono singing War Is Over one more time could just tip me over the edge. It does not make me full of the festive spirit, but makes me remember the disappointments of previous years where Christmas and disappointment fit like hand in glove.

But this year WILL be different. my youngest is three and a half and I cannot wait for Santa to arrive with presents for her. We have overspent a bit on presents to make sure the boys get spoilt for the first time and I am determined to embrace the spirit of Christmas and make this the best one ever. The kids won’t be kids forever – I need to realise that. I want them to look back at Christmas with fond memories and when they eventually have kids of their own to enjoy Christmas – not count the days until the tree can be taken down and shops stop playing Christmas songs, like me.

I am one of the lucky ones though, I know that. I have an amazing wife and four wonderful children; some others they have no one. This is where the famed “spirit of Christmas” can make such a big difference to someone.

Help

The power of a card or even a phone call to someone could really mean the difference between life and death. There is no feeling in the world worse than being alone at a time when we are bombarded with how important family is at this time of year. Hiding away for me is not an option any more. I intend to make the most of Christmas for the first time in my adult life and visit family rather than sending the wife and kids to grandparents and staying indoors on my own sleeping the day away.

I know people with no one at Christmas and I will spend my time checking in on them to make sure they are okay, or at the very least, letting them know I am thinking about them and available for a chat.

What will you be doing to help someone with depression at Christmas? Look around at your family and friends. The chances are you know someone who suffers from depression, who hides away year after year because there is never anyone to be there for them. You could make a difference. As a good friend of mine told me: You don’t have to be on the streets to be alone and friendless.

Garry Williams is a 33-year-old unemployed man from London who has been dealing with depression for over four years. To visit Garry’s blog, The Depressed Moose, click here. He has self-published two books which are available via Smashwords here.

Read Me: An open letter to my own depression>

1,000 people honour loved ones at Console Celebration of Light>

If you feel you need to speak with someone over Christmas please call the following numbers:

The Samaritans, 24-hour helpline, 365 days a year on 1850 60 90 90 or email jo@samaritans.org

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre , 24-hour helpline on 1800 77 88 88

Childline Ireland on 1800 66 66 66 or Text 50101

Teenline Ireland, 7 nights a week, 7pm-10pm, on 1800 833 634

Console Ireland on 1800 201 890

Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline on 1800 341 900

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