Tasha Devereaux, MA, LPC, NCC
Don't Sleep Through the Holidays!
Updated: Nov 13, 2018
Welcome to my first blog post. I couldn’t think of a better topic than the holidays and depression. This is an issue dear to my heart!
I can’t remember a holiday season in my past where I haven’t woken up sobbing under my covers about what I perceived was missing from my life. Even as I watched my children celebrating the holidays, my mind was filled with, “Why don’t I have what that family has” and “if only I had what they have, I would be happy.” I have spent my entire life living in the past and future, instead of focusing on the joys that were right in front of me. Because of my past, which you will learn a lot more about in future posts, my holidays had become a source of sadness and self-fulfilling prophecies of abandonment. Holidays had become a time of pushing people away when I should have been pulling the people I love closer. Losing my mother at a young age created a pit of emptiness that I thought could only be replaced with the “perfect” life. Social media and television show families and relationships filled with love and joy surrounding the holidays, so why wasn’t my life like that story book image?
So, what did I do fill my void? I smiled on the outside so that no one knew what I was really feeling. I created the perfect social media image to try to fool myself into believing I was happy. The only people I fooled were the people reading my posts. They never saw my tears, my loneliness, my sadness. For years I believed that I was flawed in some way and didn’t deserve love and happiness that other people had. Through intensive self-reflection and observation, I learned that I am the only one who can fill my void, not a man, not a job, not validation from thousands of followers who I have never met.
My story isn’t a special one. It is becoming the norm in our society. Many of you suffer from the same kinds of thoughts and feelings this time of year that I do. So what has changed for me this year? What is different for me now?
I ask myself these three questions:
1. Am I unhappy because I can’t do something I want to do?
2. Am I unhappy because I do not have something I want?
3. Am I unhappy because I am concerned with what others will think?
If I answer yes to any of these, I know that I am creating my own unhappiness. My own expectations of myself and others had re-framed my own meaning of happiness.
It becomes habit to dwell on past hurts and futures dreams, and when you do this, you relive those hurts and pains repeatedly, just like they are happening today. The expectations you have built into your life are resentment waiting to happen, and this is too much pressure for yourself and others to handle. It is when you stop expecting that you stop resenting, and only then can you become self-aware of the behavior that has become a repeating pattern in your life. This self-awareness creates a pathway to healing.
Grounding yourself in the present is the first step of letting go of the expectations of the past and future. Using the five senses to focus on details of the here and now is one way to lead yourself to an appreciation of your current true life situation. Teaching yourself to focus on your surroundings: what you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste, will pull your heart and mind together to the present. It takes work to become self-aware, and it’s not easy; however, when you do finally begin to heal, you will view each day with a new perspective, and joy will begin to emerge from your mind and heart.
Don’t ever forget your memories and definitely have goals for yourself, but let the emotions that have been dragging you down fall away. Forgive yourself for past lessons you thought were mistakes and show yourself some kindness and grace.
As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, I find myself sometimes slipping into thoughts and emotions surrounding what I had last year at this time. I’m not going to lie, it hurts, it kills me some days when I think of how happy I believed I was. I was re-framing that part of my life and believing it was ideal. Looking back, I see that those illusions weren't entirely true; I was trying to make myself believe everything was perfect. Don’t get me wrong, things were good, but after they ended, I convinced myself that if I didn’t have that life, with those people, my life would never be complete. I was belittling my authentic self with baggage from my childhood that I have been carrying for too long. I could go on and on with issues that go against my core beliefs and boundaries that I have ignored in life, but I won't bore you with those in this post.
There are days when I think of staying in bed all day and wallowing in my sorrow; playing the victim. When this happens, I force myself to become more self-aware by grounding myself in the present, and I see the positives that have come into my life this year. I have no expectations for myself or anyone else. I remember last year, and all the years before, but I let go of the emotions from the past that I have let define me until now. I remember the love I felt last year at this time, and I smile, not wishing or wanting what wasn’t meant to be anymore, but just accepting that it was a season in my life. That season led me to a new self-awareness that took 47 years to accomplish. I know who I am, and I try not to let the past and future define my identity. I don’t need or want anyone else to define me, and I sure don’t expect to define someone else. My happiness and self-worth come from the authentic me that God created and who I have discovered over the past year. What a weight that has been lifted from me when I quit focusing on the what ifs!
So as we head into this holiday season, don’t let go of your memories; those memories made you into the unique, wonderful individual you have become; instead, let go of the thoughts and emotions that you have let define you in the past. Walk outside, look into the sky, and release everything that has brought unhappiness into your life. Just because you may not have the family you dream of, the ideal relationship, or the perfect job at this time, does not mean that you aren’t complete. You deserve love and happiness, and that begins with your own self-awareness, understanding, and grace. So get out of bed and enjoy this holiday season!