Blue Christmas: For many, the holidays trigger depression

December 8, 2012 7:09:08 PM

Jeff Clark - [email protected]


Judy was a successful business owner, mother and wife at the beginning of 1994. Her life was as close to perfect as it could get. But then, without warning, she was struck with a debilitating disease just as she was at the top of her game, both personally and professionally. 


"I was just unable to get up and go to work or anywhere," said Judy, who asked that her identity not be revealed. "Everything just seemed to be getting dimmer and dimmer." 


While Judy continued to try to understand what was happening to her, her condition only worsened. And as not-so-pleasant things began to unravel in her personal life, the end for Judy seemed to be rapidly approaching. 


"In August, I learned someone had been stealing from my business," she said. "I was hurting so badly that I thought killing myself was my only way out. So, I went to the pawn shop and purchased a gun. I then asked God to forgive me and I pulled the trigger." 


Fortunately for Judy, a neighbor heard the gunshot, called an ambulance and Judy was rushed to the emergency room at Baptist Memorial Hospital Golden Triangle. 


"I almost died," Judy said, as tears welled up in her eyes. 


After months of therapy, Judy was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2, a form of depression that strikes many, sometimes quietly and quickly. And sometimes the holidays can bring added depression for those who suffer with it. 


"With the holidays upon us and the New Year next in line, it seems we are all busy worrying about our health and making resolutions to better ourselves," Community Counseling Services Director of Marketing Martha Wooten said. "Whether it be our physical, spiritual, social, environmental or nutritional health, it seems during the busiest of times we often neglect our own mental health." 


There are several factors that can contribute to depression at the holidays, and even after almost 20 years since her failed suicide attempt, Judy said she still battles with depression during the holidays. 


"I'm always a little bit afraid that the depression is going to come back," she said. "Depression makes me feel like I'm dead. A lot of people turn to drugs and alcohol to self medicate, but I'm combating depression in healthy ways such as journaling, talking to my therapist, taking my prescribed medication and other healthy ways. 


"I recently lost a friend and I'm having some financial problems, but I'm just going to keep on keeping on and work harder. I still have a good bit of anxiety. I just have to put everything in the care of God. Depression had become a way of life for me -- it had become the normal. When I get depressed, I lose the ability to feel love and I don't want to feel that way again." 


Another common cause of depression this time of year could be caused by the weather. It is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year, usually when the days are shorter and weather cooler and wetter. The symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, making one feel moody. 


To combat holiday depression or SAD, Patricia Thornton, assistant director of the Pines/Cady Hill Adult Treatment Center, said many people turn to drugs or alcohol to help escape the pain. 


"The holidays are a lot of pressure for anyone," Thornton said. "But when you throw in people that suffer with alcoholism or addiction and they aren't treating it, a lot of people give into the pressure in negative ways. Right after the holidays, we always see our number of clients increase. I think people just want to keep going and partying until after Christmas." 


Thornton said those needing or wanting help with addiction should contact the Community Counseling Services-housed treatment facilities. 


"If you need help, give us a call and we will set up an assessment," Thornton said. "We will then do the assessment and share the results with our staff. Then, we will either recommend coming to the Pines/Cady Hills or make arrangements to try and get someone in treatment in another facility. Addiction is a disease and it has to be treated as such. There is no shame in seeking help for addiction." 




Fall and winter seasonal affective disorder  


(winter depression) 




Symptoms include: 




  • Depression 


  • Hopelessness 


  • Anxiety 


  • Loss of energy 


  • Heavy, "leaden" feeling in the arms or legs 


  • Social withdrawal 


  • Oversleeping 


  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed 


  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates 


  • Weight gain 


  • Difficulty concentrating