Why I Don't (Necessarily) Love Christmas

During the holiday season, there is always this massive push for everyone to start being festive and jolly and go rocking and rolling around Christmas trees. And while I know that most people get a big kick out of Christmas and look forward to the season as a well-deserved, end-of-year celebration, for some of us it can be hard to get into the spirit.

For some, it can feel like if you’re not grinnin’ ear to ear with Christmas cheer, then you’re kind of left out of the season altogether. And if you feel like that might apply to you, I’ve got some things to say about it.

I’ve dealt with depression for the past eight years or so of my life, and while I’m very happy to say that this is my best winter yet (fingers crossed it stays gentle on me), I know that in years past, Christmas season has truly felt like The Worst.

The whole world is riding this red and green euphoric rush, and I’m usually sitting around feeling tired, empty and excluded. Now I’ll own up to some of that being on me, but all the same, winter, historically, is not my best feel, and with that wild Christmas mania going around, it can be a lil overwhelming.

People travel, go shopping and reflect on everything they’ve accomplished during the year. And if you’re already disposed to feeling low, this can feel like flaunting. It’s not, but when you can’t get that kind of cheerfulness up, it feels like a confrontation. The whole world is asking you in silver and gold tinsel letters, “Why are you so depressed?” And for years my frustrated and empty answer was "I don’t know."

By the time I reached college though, I’d settled on an answer that helped me out, and maybe it’s good for somebody else to hear it. It goes like this: So what?

So what if you’re not as festive as everyone else seems to be? So what if Will Ferrel in green tights doesn’t get you hyped for the holidays, or Macy’s Day parades or peppy Target commercials or snowy flags or whatever it is?

What if this year, we all just try to be regular kids, who are dealing with depression, dealing with mental health, mental illness, the whole shebang. What if, this year, we accept ourselves and our limitations, stay optimistic and don't let the Christmas season challenge us to pretend to be something we’re not.

This year, in honor of self-acceptance—but also self-improvement—I have made myself a promise. I will not expect myself to be cheerful. I will not even expect myself to be happy. I will not expect myself to be celebratory or delighted or merry or any of it.

I will drink hot chocolate and I will flip channels past all the stock holiday specials and I’ll try to go to the parties to which I’m invited. And if I’m not having fun, then that’s okay. And if I’m not feeling that connection with Santa and the Yuletide spirit, then that’s okay too.

Christmas, if you need it to be, can just be a normal day, and you shouldn’t have to add any extra pressure to it. If you needed to hear it, here’s the message: take Christmas time to focus on you. I’ve been working this one out now for about eight years now and I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but this is what has worked out best for me.

Basically, for this season, if I can get myself to focus on contentment and self-assurance in the middle of all that ecstatic holiday bliss, then I think that’s the best kind of Christmas cheer there is. And I will Merry Christmas to that.