Depression Getaway

encouragement, information, inspiration and hope


My First Married Christmas – Not So Merry

This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series Taking Control of Christmas Chaos



Look at that happy family! They appear delighted to see each other. The wreath on the door suggests they are ready for Christmas and for company. I just bet that behind that door there is Christmas music playing, a fireplace crackling, the smell of home cooking and a beautifully decorated tree packed with presents underneath.

That was not unlike the family I grew up in. Yes, some people really do have families like that. My 66 years, however, have shown me that this kind of family is the exception, not the rule.

Let me tell you about the first Christmas when my 'happy family' bubble burst. It equals the disappointment of finding out there is no Santa.

It was a chilly December day in 1971. The scene, Ottawa, Ontario. It is cold and snowing, perfect Christmas weather. My new husband, Bryan, and I made the thirty minute drive out to his mom's to celebrate our first married Christmas. We would divide our time between both families, but give deference to his mom and bachelor brother for Christmas, since that was all there was of his family and it just didn't seem right to abandon them. I was sure that I would be happy as long as my precious new husband and I were together. Little did I know….

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“It’s the most Wonderful Time of the Year” – NOT!

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Taking Control of Christmas Chaos

This Staples ad gives me a depression getaway giggle everytime. It is such a fun use of that Christmas song, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."

Here are some of the lyrics 

It's the most wonderful time of the year.
With the kids jingle belling,
And everyone telling you "be of good cheer",
It's the most wonderful time of the year.

It's the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call.
It's the hap-happiest season of all.

There'll be parties for hosting,
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow.
There'll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.
There'll be much mistletoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near.
It's the most wonderful time of the year.


That's a lot of pressure for someone with depression.

Please, don't get me wrong. Christmas CAN be a wonderful time of the year for some, it really can. But for anyone who's depressed, it is absolutely not. And even if you're not depressed, there is a lot of stress connected with Christmas.

Here is a typical conversation you may hear as Christmas approaches. 

"Are you ready for Christmas yet?"

"Not really. I haven't even started my shopping. And I never know what to get for my parents. I know they expect something and everyone else spends so much on gifts, but I just can't afford it. They have everything anyways and I resent spending my scant budget on something they don't even need."

"Oh, I know what you mean. Both sets of grandparents spend so much on the kids that it makes my gifts look cheap by comparison. Where are you having Christmas this year?"

"Well, that's another story. Neither set of parents is willing to celebrate on any other day but the 25th, so as usual we have to split up our time. One of these years I am going to tell them we are staying home and if they want to see us they can come to us."

"I know what you mean. But my parents don't do it anymore. My sister has taken it over and we all hate that. Her house is so dirty and messy you don't really relax and enjoy yourself. And there's no place for the kids to go and play and so we are all cramped into the small living room. No one lingers like they used to at Mom and Dad's. We all go home early. It has stopped being fun."

This is a shortened version of the kinds of conversations many of us will hear at this time of year. Do you hear any joy in that dialogue?

Why do we do it? Why do we succumb to the pressures of others? Why do we let others define the way we spend Christmas?

I know, I know. When it comes to family, there's a delicate balance and you don't want to rock the boat, right?

But is it worth it?

Not if you have depression. No, it's not worth it.

Take care of depression first and then fit Christmas into that plan.

And just how can you do that?

Make a plan, a preventative maintenance plan to survive 'Christmas with Depression'.

We'll get into some specifics next time. For now you may want to check out "Depression and the Holidays Survival Guide".

"A Wonderful Life" is a popular Christmas movie with a beautiful moral and a theme that will NOT overwhelm you with the usual commercial pressures of Christmas.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Is Christmas 'the most wonderful time of the year' for you? Does the pressure to be happy at Christmas affect you?

May you take control of the Christmas chaos this year and NOT let the Christmas chaos control you!

I'm so glad you dropped by Depression Getaway today. There is hope for depression. Don't give up, I'm praying for you!

Wendy Love


Juggling Christmas with Depression: It’s a Toss-up!

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Taking Control of Christmas Chaos


I remember the first Christmas I gave myself permission to 'scale back'. I was so sick with depression I wanted to cancel it altogether but our five kids were still all in their twenties and even though there were no grandchildren yet, I wasn't prepared to give up on hosting Christmas. So far our house was the gathering place and I was so thankful that these five wonderful kids were still willing to spend time with the family, especially since we are a 'blended' family. Besides, sick or not, being together with all of our kids is one of my best depression getaways. Selfishly, I did not want to deprive myself of that. Truthfully, I thought this Christmas was just a little bump in the road and next Christmas I would be 'my old self'

This year however, had to be different. I was not well enough to make my usual Christmas preparations but I was well enough to turn up! My doctor was trying me on yet another new medication and as with most medications, my body was not responding positively.

I probably didn't tell the kids just how bad I really was (what is it about being a mom that you don't want to burden your kids with your own problems?). They all knew that depression was part of my life but I didn't like to dwell on the details. I just told them that I wasn't very well, I was trying to adjust to a new medication and that there would be a few changes this year. For starters, there would be no tree. And secondly, they would all have to bring food and help prepare the meal.

I didn't even set the table ahead of time. They did that as well. Did anyone mind? If they did they certainly didn't tell me and make me feel bad. We do have amazing kids.

At one point in the afternoon the meds were making me so sick that I had to go off to my room and lie down for awhile. When I woke up there were sounds of laughter and I joined the family to see some around the table playing monopoly and some working in the kitchen. It was a wake-up call for how dispensable I was and how they can all have lots of fun without me!

After supper I thought the kids that weren't staying with us would just go home since there was not much going on. I plopped down in the middle of the couch in exhaustion and my two daughters sat on either side. They seemed in no hurry to escape. One said "it was a nice day wasn't it mom?" The other said "it's just nice to hang around together for a whole day." Any feelings of guilt I had about that day lifted. Any pressures about creating a traditional Christmas, since I am after all 'the mother', disappeared. 

That was my first year to scale back and I have been scaling back ever since. Now one daughter has taken over Christmas and another daughter Thanksgiving. Do I feel great about it? Not all the time. But at least I can save what little energy I have for enjoying my growing family at Christmas.

So what does this juggling clown have to do with it all?

Well, we depressees have something in common with this clown.

His smile is painted on, it's not real!

That might be us at Christmas time, pretending to be happy when we're not. Pretending takes a lot of energy. Is it worth it?

Why do we go along with the expectations, real or imagined, of others? To please them? To ease our guilt? To cover up our depression?

Juggling Christmas with Depression is not impossible. So let's get down to some practical ideas.

Let's see just what we have to juggle.


presents, shopping, budget,  eating food, preparing food, parties, relatives, family dynamics, special events, expectations, pressure as Christians to not forget 'the real meaning of Christmas'


medication, rest, therapy, exercise

The demands of depression management have to be factored into to every day, every season, every situation, not just Christmas. Just as you would not ignore any other serious condition at Christmas, such as diabetes, so you should not ignore the needs of depression. So how are you going to juggle it all? 

Participating in any of these Christmas activities is going to be stressful if you are battling depression. What are you going to minimize? Or better yet, what are you going to cut out altogether? Only you can make these choices. No one is going to do it for you.

These posts are meant to be a 'heads up' not a 'how to' but each week I will recommend an article that might help you. Check out this brilliant article: 10 Simple Ways to Create a Happy Minimalist Holiday.

Even though I find Christmas stressful, I do enjoy Christmas movies even though they are far from realistic. I love the pretty Christmas decorations, the simple wholesome stories and a guaranteed happy ending. One movie that has that and more is Miracle on 34th Street.


WHAT ABOUT YOU? Are you willing to give yourself permission to do Christmas differently this year?

May you be willing to take control of the Christmas chaos and not let the Christmas chaos control you.

I am so glad you dropped by Depression Getaway today. There is hope for depression. Don't give up, I'm praying for you.

Wendy Love



Recipe for Disappointment: 10 Cups of Expectation, 1 Teaspoon of Reality

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Taking Control of Christmas Chaos


My Christmas surprise – spoiled by me! crying

One of the magical parts of Christmas for many of us is SURPRISE. Little did I know how much work went into setting up these surprises.

I was 15 and my sister was 18. By now I had long gotten over one of the first big letdowns of Christmas – there was no Santa. I still enjoyed the magic of the surprise presents under the tree. On this particular day in December, I foolishly decided to go snooping for my gifts, which I found under my parents' bed. My sister and I often got similar gifts and these boxes were exactly the same. But I only had time to open one box before I heard someone arriving home. In the unwrapped box was a coat. I loved this coat! Stylish and cozy, this fake fur was fuzzy and fluffy and the same colour as my beloved cat, caramel and white. I could totally picture myself in it. Excited, I was full of expectation – until Christmas morning.

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‘Merry’ on the Outside doesn’t mean ‘Merry’ on the Inside

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Taking Control of Christmas Chaos


Christmas is popular in so many ways. 'Christmas' sells. Movies based on a Christmas theme and books about Christmas are top sellers. They are all about love.

What's not to love about love?

I enjoy Christmas movies. You can usually count on pretty scenery and happy endings and they are wholesome enough that the whole family can watch together. That is a lovely depression getaway for me! I am able to realize that they are not real and I do not compare my life to them. They are strictly entertainment. My old favourite is 'Miracle on 34th Street' both the original version and the newer one. Next might be 'The Holiday', not necessarily about Christmas but it ends up there. Then there is 'White Christmas'. When my girls were little that would be their go to movie every time they got sick, no matter what time of year it was.

Hallmark really knows how to make Christmas movies that are beautiful, heartwarming and wholesome! You may want to check out this list of the best Hallmark Christmas movies.

But beware and be careful. If those kinds of movies make you depressed, then stay away. If you are tempted to compare your life or your decorated house with what you see in the movies, you might be headed for a pitfall. Some of them are very emotional and may bring up some sad memories for you. I love a good cry though. Strangely, for me, a good cry can be a great depression getaway! Is that silly?

There may be several aspects of this season that can trigger depression and it's good to be aware of them and avoid the pitfalls. Decorating the tree often brings to mind sadness for me as I hang ornaments filled with memories of Christmases gone by. 

One part of Christmas that I find difficult is missing the people that I loved who are no longer here. If you have lost a loved one this year, Christmas will be especially challenging for you. Grief makes Christmas hard. Also media depicts an unreal expectation of Christmas. These are just two things that can challenge anyone at this time of year, whether they have depression or not. The main thing is to know that the season has potential to be stressful and sad and there may be some triggers you should be aware of as you enter into these holidays.

11 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Depression Triggers gives lots of ideas for coping with the season.

May you be able to take control of Christmas chaos this year and not let Christmas chaos take control of you.

I'm so glad you dropped by Depression Getaway today. There is hope for depression. Don't give up, I'm praying for you!

Wendy Love



Merry Christmas!

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Taking Control of Christmas Chaos


I used to envy people with faith. I remember thinking 'it must be nice to have the peace that comes with believing that there is a God who cares." I wanted to believe, but for some reason I couldn't.

My sister became a Christian before I did. I trusted my sister and she started lending me some interesting books about faith in Jesus Christ. Then I started reading my bible and even going to church. As I opened my heart to Jesus, He walked into it and has been living there ever since.I remember the first moment I began to believe that Jesus Christ was real. I was 30 years old and I had been reading about Him as I ventured into my bible for the first time. One day it just came over me. He was real! Instantly I thought "why did it take me so long to see this?"

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Christmas Recovery Boot Camp

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Taking Control of Christmas Chaos


Looks like this Santa needs to come to our 'Christmas Recovery Boot Camp'.

I've rewritten new lyrics to this favorite tune of 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' for our camp theme song:

You better watch out,
Go have a good cry,
You better lie down,
I'm telling you why,
Christmas let-down can be so hard.

You've thrown out your list
You've hidden the scales
Now catch up on sleep
Don't open the mail
Now you can relax and reflect.

You've worked so hard to get there,
And now it's almost done,
The parties and the presents
And all that Christmas 'fun'.

So, you better watch out,
Go have a good cry,
You better lie down,
I'm telling you why,
Christmas let-down can be so hard.

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Congratulations! You Made It Through Another Year! Hooray!

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Taking Control of Christmas Chaos

This past year I had good days and bad days. I know everyone has their ups and downs, not just people with bipolar disorder. But if you have any kind of mental illness, those bad days can feel insurmountable. Those bad days cloud over all of the good days. There were several times this year when I felt like giving up. There were moments when I thought 'how have I managed for so long with these awful thoughts, these feelings of hopelessness? Why do I have to live a life where I am weak half of the time as I would be if I had the flu?' But I managed! I survived! Some days I even thrived.

But I will avoid making any New Year's Resolutions. Why? In order to make resolutions I would have to analyze what I have not done well this year so that I could resolve to do better. And I don't want to remember that stuff. I want to hang onto the successes.


Give yourself a pat on the back instead!

This entire series on 'Taking Control of Christmas Chaos' won't be complete without getting you over the New Year's hump.

Making a list of New Years resolutions can just make you more depressed. That kind of list points out the parts of your life that you're doing wrong. You don't need to dwell on that, especially during your weakened post-Christmas condition. You are delicate. You need to be kind.

So here's an alternative plan. Make a list of successes for this past year. If you think hard enough you can find something. It doesn't matter how small it is.

Here's my list:

1. I survived.

2. I kept taking my medication even though it really doesn't seem to help much.

3. I'm still on speaking terms with everyone I know.

4. I survived supporting my husband through four surgeries, several trips to the big city, and compromised eyesight while he recovered.

5. I survived doing all of his jobs as well as mine. (Truthfully, I fell apart several times along the way, but I survived!)

6. I managed to craft a blog post every week.

7. I continued to search new ways to cope with this insidious bipolar disorder. I did not lose hope.

8. I adhered as much as possible to my coping strategies of walking, solitude, writing, quilting, reading and drawing.

If I made a list of my perceived areas of failure, it would be a much longer  and depressing list.

If I listed the ways I could improve on my failures, I would become exhausted and depressed.

If I listed the number of times I lost hope, I would lose more hope.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Are you ready to make that list of your successes? Try it, it may not be as hard as you think.

I am so glad you stopped by Depression Getaway today. There is hope for depression. Don't give up, I'm praying for you.

Dare I say "Happy New Year"? Why not!

"Happy New Year!"

Wendy Love

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