Dealing with Depression During The Festive Season

December 13, 2016
Christmas Confessional: Dealing with Depression During The Festive Season

The flip side of festivity:
How do you cope with depression during 'the most wonderful time of the year'?

It's the most wonderful time of the it though? The truth is, I've been battling the blues ever since I fractured my foot - read the gruesome story on my Dayre microblog. Now, I've always hesitated discussing mental health on this blog because, well, admitting to struggling with depression isn't terribly aspirational. Shiny it isn't but real it is, and while the causes of my current mental state may seem relatively 'first world problems' allow me to politely point out that I have the right to feel the way I do as much as anyone has the right to an opinion. 


Opinions aside, the facts are: I've had to take extremely strong painkillers for the good part of a month while recovering from a broken bone. I've just about managed to free myself from its side effects when I had to face a new set of chemical imbalances to my system (I'll explain below). Add to the mix a figurative 5 month prison sentence + not even the soothing salve of shopping to ease the pain, and I've found myself suffering episodes of insomnia, depression, and anxiety attacks. Add the aggravation of festivity forced down my throat and eventually the Christmas lights on Regent Street begin to look less like twinkling stars and more like mocking leers (top marks for mulled wine-scented toilet paper and prosecco crisps, though). 

Anyway, that's a long enough introduction. It's time for my Christmas confessional...


Would you ask a bird not to sing? Or a fish not to swim? So why, in the name of all things sacred would you withhold a travelling blogger's passport for half a year while you deliberate on whether to hand her the keys to the country she's made her home in, paid taxes to, and provided employment to the nationals of for the past ten years? The decision to grant me with Indefinite Leave To Remain should be a no-brainer really, but I respect that there's a process. 

What I find perplexing is why I have to be grounded in the country during the process without any of my photo ID - I can't board a domestic flight let alone join my family's annual trip. Right now, they're chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland.

My despondence is not helped by the many photos they're spamming the family Whatsapp group chat. The glaciers aren't the only thing that's blue. My misery at not being able to travel abroad for another five months is only going to get worse, to say nothing of affecting my work as a huge part of my blog content is travel-related. It's safe to say that the time between now and when I get my passport back is so far the greatest personal and professional challenge I've ever faced in my life.


The run up to Christmas is most profitable for peddlars of conspicuous consumption, including "social media influencers" (I shudder to use that phrase, but alas - a spade by any other name would sound just as twee) frantically going on Net-a-Porter shopping binges to shoot for their blogs (gotta get those 'Gift Guides' with affiliate links up in time for Christmas, amirite?) before quickly returning the loot to get their money back for spending on the things that really matter, like...gin. Or buying followers. Not naming names. You'll have none of that from me, because one: I can't be bothered with disguising money-grubbing as care for my readers, and two: gifting is too personal to simplify down to the lowest common denominator. 

Besides, the only purchase on my mind right now is my new apartment in Phase 1 of Battersea Power Station. I bought the flat before it hit the public market (good job I did, too, because the units sold out in hours) back in 2013 and completely forgot about it even though I've apparently blogged about my Circus West pad. Unfortunately, my lapse of memory and blissful ignorance left me with the sudden prospects of having to renovate my current place (before I put it up for sale) and redecorating the new place. These things cost money, so I've had to prioritise practical over Prada. Save for a very versatile, sure to be 'hero piece' pair of black snakeskin Lucy Choi pointed pumps (above) and some books, all recent shopping has to be home-related...if any at all. The concept of saving vs shopping is as depressing as it is alien to me, but hey, what's the point of "having $40,000 of shoes and nowhere to live"?


...and here it is, the real reason why I'm as morose as I am. You didn't really think that lack of foreign travel and non-home-related-shopping was enough to tip me into a dark place? If yes, wow, give me some credit. Of course those two temporary lifestyle changes have contributed to me not feeling my best, but the straw or rather filter that broke this camel's back is the last cigarette I stubbed out, hopefully forever.

That's right. I've quit smoking. Allow me to rephrase: I am becoming a non-smoker. Not "quitting" - I hate that word. I blogged in greater detail on my Dayre about how painful the withdrawal symptoms were during the first week (I'm on Day 11 now) which I expected... 

...what I did not see coming was the clinical depression that followed when the nicotine left my system, taking with it the 'happy chemicals' of vasopressin, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. Yet I insisted on going cold turkey rather than wean myself gradually with a nicotine replacement therapy (vapes just look...pretentious).

Despite the hell of painful cravings plus my mind and body being caught in a chemical-based storm as my system struggles to cope with the sudden, shocking expulsion of five years worth of ingested poison, I hold steadfast that I'm doing the right thing for my health both short and long term. Plus, every penny I save helps the 'new home cause'. I apparently used to spend £300 on cigarettes a month. Shocking.

The true test of willpower was last Saturday, at my friend's star-studded birthday party. Literally star-studded (not just in the full of celebrities and Rich & Aristocratic Kids Of Instagram way): it was India's Cosmic Birthday, complete with its own sparkly unicorn Snapchat filter. I'm so proud of myself for resisting a cheeky puff despite being surrounded by dozens of London's more glamorous smokers.

Smoke Free Me: 
Day 3 and Day 7

Now you understand the three greater causes that I'm fighting for: a good home, a good house, and good health. Spending Christmas alone, without friends or family, wouldn't usually be a big deal to me. But when faced with the chemical rollercoaster that supposedly is the worst during the first 21 days from when one stops smoking, and no travel + no company + no money + no drugs to ease the pain my situation quickly escalated into full-blown depression. On the plus side though, I started my 'Smoke Free Me' journey on the 3rd, which means that the worse of this clinical depression should be over by the end of the 24th. Just in time for Christmas then. This year, my present to myself is good health.

I may not be in a position to shower myself nor friends with lavish and decadent gifts this year, but I have something rather more special to give. As per my annual tradition, I'll be volunteering at my local homeless shelter on Christmas Day. If you'd like to do the same, you can find out from my posts below on how to make a difference this festive season.

Do you or have you suffered from depression and/or other mental health issues during the festive season? 
How did you cope?

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