Have you ever felt lonely or anxious during the holidays? Many people do, especially those who struggle with mental illness. Stress runs high as we shop, cook, plan, and travel. Expectations go unmet and we may have to deal with personalities we haven’t seen all year. Without healthy coping methods, sometimes all of that stress and stimulation can be quite overwhelming! But we do have a friend who can help us through that season, or any season for that matter.
I remember as a little girl riding in our family car through the dark nights of New England. My older brother up in the front seat rattled on about the video games he wanted, the new Magic cards he wanted, the wooden practice sword he wanted…. He’d ask mom to give him money for this and that. In the backseat, I rested my head against the frozen window, staring out into the darkness. Here and there, we’d pass a house, lit up with pristine white Christmas lights.
But suddenly I’m startled back to reality as my brother begins shouting and arguing with mom. He’s angry about something…. I don’t know what. I just keep staring out the window, pressing my face against it, hoping and pretending that I can be somewhere else. I try and lose myself in wonder as I gaze upon the beautiful lights that adorn the houses and trees. I want to be out there, alone in the peaceful winter wonderland!
As surely as the sun rises, He will appear…
Light is such an interesting thing. There is a deep science behind it, wrapped up in frequencies, wave lengths, and electromagnetic particles. Despite its very scientific nature, there is also something dramatically beautiful about light that has caused it to dance across literature, hearts, and minds for millennia. It has come to represent truth and clarity, as well as safety and comfort. Even as a child, I was enraptured by that light and tried to escape into it. Somehow the beauty of the light distracted me from everything else that seemed so broken.
Back then, I didn’t know Jesus like I do now. He is my light and my hope! I love Hosea 6:3 that says “…as surely as the sun rises, He will appear…” That is a promise. We all know there are 24 hours in a day. Half of that time is spent in darkness, but our planet continues rotating and suddenly the sun appears. The exact hour changes gradually throughout the year, but it always comes in predictable fashion. The rising of the sun in our emotional lives, however, does not always seem so predictable….
Struggling with depression often feels like I’m stuck in that endless night, where things will always be hard and my mind will never make sense. There is often a lack of hope and clarity. Everything feels dull and pointless. But dawn is coming….
In my mind, I sometimes wonder if daylight will ever come again, but we have a promise from Scripture that it will. In the middle of a challenging season, that promise might not make things feel better, but somehow it gives me the strength to keep holding on just a little while longer.
So I try and start each day by choosing to focus on Jesus, whether that’s reading a devotional or even just saying a simple quick prayer. And at the end of the day, as I sit in bed, I redirect my attention to Him before turning the lights out. Sometimes, that’s all I can do: redirect my attention. I often lack the energy or motivation to do a full “quiet time.” Even though I believe that’s important and beneficial, nevertheless if I can’t fully engage in that discipline on a given day, then I still try and just whisper these words: “He loves me. He’s with me. He’ll never leave me.” And as I lay my head down on my pillow, still feeling that uneasiness in my gut, I just say, “He is good and He is enough.” Then I close my eyes and wait for morning to come.
How do you make it through the holidays?
I hope this blog will help start conversations, enabling us to support one another and be an online community for those struggling with mental health difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and others. One of the most important pieces of mental health recovery is finding a source of hope as well as choosing healthy coping methods. Above, I shared that my biggest source of hope is Jesus. What is yours? And how do you cope during the holidays? Even if it seems small, please share with us by leaving a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!