I was a bit of a child prodigy when it comes to depression, having my first attack at seven years old. It happened at Christmas and I can still remember being in bed (because it very often takes a form similar to ME), looking at the lovely turkey dinner my mother had brought up, with beautifully crispy potatoes (my favourite) and not wanting even a bite of it. There was the noise of Christmas jollity coming from downstairs; the sounds of my brother and sister playing with whatever they had been given and it had no relevance or significance whatsoever. I just wanted to go to sleep until it was all over.
Forty odd years ago, of course, it wasn't recognised as depression. I think they put it down to end of term exhaustion and nobody seemed much bothered about it.
The depression has occurred at Christmas a couple of times since. Each time it has not been particularly the exhaustion or dark mood that has been most hard to bear, but the sense of isolation. Even in the middle of a family playing a loud and hilariously funny game, I am stuck in what seems like an enormous goldfish bowl; the walls of murky glass meters thick. I can see things going on outside the bowl, but I can't get to or feel any of it.
And I've learned that it's OK to be there. The extended family just think "Oh, Mary's a bit tired: she's been overdoing it". My immediate family know I'm ill and tend to be a bit more protective than usual (bless them). I've learned that if nobody expects Uncle David to give horsy-rides to the children because of his dodgy back, then nobody expects me to be the life and soul if the blues have got me again.
There's never a good time to have depression. Christmas is a particularly grim time to suffer, as is the summer holidays. The important thing to recognise is that there is no contractual obligation to be happy and jolly at Christmas. The phase "Merry Christmas" is a hopeful wish, not a command set in stone.
I wish us all Peace this Yuletide, fortitude of Spirit and Endurance. Regardless of the state of our mental health we will all benefit from these.