The reports from Centers for Disease & National Institute of Mental Health both show that there is no rate increase of suicide during the cold holiday months. In fact, most get a heightened spirit and probably don’t want to miss any hopeful celebrations that might give them hope for life.
Now I’d have to say that while the numbers of actual suicides reduce during this time, I believe stress, depression, anxiety; emotional challenges increase. If you come from a positive life the holidays are exciting, or maybe just a little difficult to get along with some family at these gatherings. If the holidays are filled with outrageous expectations either financially or in having the perfect holiday home; this alone can be quite pressing, but doesn’t usually cause any suicidal thoughts or major depression problems; more likely anxiety problems.
If you are an adult survivor of childhood abuse, either through parental mental illness, addictions, neglectful, imposed servitude, physical or sexual harm; your holiday with family might be completely out of the question. I do know many who go through the motions. They bury their fears, anxiety, and tears, do their best to fake the holiday excitement without ever saying a word about the difficulties they are battling as a result of these types of harms, even how difficult to be in the same room or house as their abuser. We continue on without ever confronting the subject and often the victims/survivors are the only ones who carry any emotions about what happened. The offenders usually never feel any remorse or guilt, rarely will they acknowledge or apologize. Most will say; ‘It’s just the way things were back then, get over it already’!!
For me the holidays are a huge challenge. I was raised as the caregiver for my brother and younger sister, but neither of them wants to believe or accept what our parents did to train and refuse even the most basic care or kindness to the enslaved child who cared for everyone else. They talk about the alcoholic rage, the violence, the constant late night parties; but not once acknowledge my having to answer his little brass bell or all the other insane attacks and prostitution that were especially worse during those last five years of my teen life. It’s been five years or more since I’ve talked to any of my relatives, or at least the ones I know anyway. My biological father’s family has made a few attempts but in our connections, it’s just casual contact via Facebook. A part of me wants to engage with them, the other side has no idea how to begin. I keep my family/friend contact close and it doesn’t reach out unless someone else is reaching out in that same cautious and distant manner. Close relationships are few and far between, but I really don’t get out to socialize much and of course, the cold makes it even more difficult.
During my younger holidays, I was the one to help with all the cleaning, starting the week before to get everything scrubbed and shined. I was given the responsibility for making all the pies and cleaning up all the mess from dinner with family and visitors. No one had to help, and after my dinner cigarette, it was time to get everything spot cleaned again. I couldn’t sit to watch tv or spend time without being called to serve drinks, clean messes, and making sure everyone else was taken care of, many times being the last one to sit and eat as the others carried on.
I lived in this sense of responsibility and constant pressure through all the special events and holiday dinners through my adult years. Everyone, through marriages, living in other countries, having my little kids; just all the years when life was so busy, the holiday times were much easier to handle and much more enjoyable.
Today the holidays for me are quiet, barely even recognized. If I’m lucky maybe there’s a phone call or a little special time out for my birthday, but as it is for most of us in older years; it’s just another day on the calendar. For me it’s been slowly getting worse, more emotionally challenging for over the past five years. It’s weird because I consider myself to be strong, a survivor, a changed and peaceful person. I don’t understand why the dark clouds and memories want to climb in like they do, but it really turns me upside down.
It could be related to the changes in my physical abilities. I can’t cook a full meal and do the dishes in the same day. My upper body burns like a hot iron rod being shoved through my spine, it’s honestly excruciating. I can’t clean my house like I used to, so my OCD has had to accept dusty shelves, and only weekly vacuuming. My cognitive abilities are changing and my feeling of usefulness is getting worse. There is a huge need to get something else in my life that will help me feel a purpose once again. Something that will help me become a better advocate and supportive resource in creating the needs we want to build in alliances with area resources.
Having to go on disability, being in pain management for ten years, and trying to not let the chronic injuries and pain take the brightness out of my spirit is a daily battle. One that is becoming exhausting but I know I will get there. I know I will be alright. It’s just the hanging on and always having these challenges that simply makes me isolate myself and shut down, rather than seek friendship and encouragement. Like always for each and every one of us who are in this same seasonal/daily funk; only we can change the dark by focusing on something truly good!!
Here’s hoping your holidays are pleasant, that family and friends gather for great fun. I turn fifty-six tomorrow but feel more like I’m eighty and done. I feel out of focus and out of energy. Is it too late to rejuvenate my spirit and help me find a way through the darkness that seems to climb into my world from Thanksgiving to Spring? Like many others, when springtime brings back growth and beauty; the blossom of life seems to create a light in my spirit and a renewed energy to keep fighting; not just to live, but to thrive!!
If you find you’re suffering from depression or challenging emotional triggers at any time, please know you’re not alone. The hotlines across the country are there to help. Survivors, you matter!! Your family matters!! Your sense of peace and happiness matters!! Don’t give up, even if you can’t figure a path right now. Hang in there, talk with your friends, find an advocate source either online or in your community.
Heart to heart, one hand to another, we can breathe life into others and inspire a safer, happier, healthier life journey.
To learn more about getting help for Suicidal thoughts or actions, for help and intervention services – a few links have been provided below. You can also find information through Butterfly Dreams Alliance, NFP; the foundation myself and a team of area experts are continuing to build to serve those throughout Clinton County and South-Central Illinois.
We cannot let the darkness win! Please fight for your spirit and your happiness!!
Wishing you a happy holiday season!!
Suicide Prevention – LifeLine – https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Domestic Violence/Family Violence Hotline – https://www.thehotline.org/
Prevent Child Abuse America – http://preventchildabuse.org/
Mental Health – What to look for – https://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/mood-disorders/sad
CDC Suicidal Facts & Myths – https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/holiday.html
Butterfly Dreams Alliance, NFP – http://www.butterflydreamsalliance.org