It’s that time of year. And yes . . . I’m one of those.
The month of December is a difficult one for me. I won’t get into boring details and personal information, but suffice to say that I struggle with the holidays for the usual reasons, and for some that are not so usual. I try not to be grouchy, and I actually love giving gifts to people (but I love that all year, and the more I can make someone smile, the better!). I find a great present for someone and I can barely contain my excitement – it’s hard for me not to rush up and tell them what I got!
But there are aspects to the season that make it difficult to sustain that excitement for more than brief periods of time. It has been this way for several years, and even back in my teens and 20s, I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder. This year has been particularly grueling, and without rehashing the drama of 2011, let me simply say I will be happy to throw this whole 12 months away (minus a few bright spots), wipe the slate clean, and start over in the new year.
Over the years, I’ve developed a way of coping through the nastiness, and this year I’m employing even more tricks to help me function. If they might be helpful to you – feel free to steal! The first trick is that I try to focus my attention on other people. I have lots of easy options for this one. A dear friend is going through chemotherapy, my oldest daughter is contending with her first Christmas as a wife and mother, another friend would like to use my home to get married in on New Year’s Day, and my 22-year-old niece is expecting a baby this April and has chosen to go forward without the baby’s dad. There are many opportunities for me to “get outside my head” as my friend Jared is so fond of saying. This helps me focus my energy in positive ways rather than allowing my brain to wallow in emotions that are not helpful and further killing the joy of the season.
Another trick for me is to keep busy. That’s a lot easier when I am employed full-time, but I’m making do for now with little projects around the house, baking for neighbors, and of course writing. Gallery of Dolls, the novel I coauthored with my friend/writing partner Jared, is undergoing revisions right now (and they are almost done J~!), along with a new YA novel called Death Kiss that I’m well invested in. On top of that, I write a sort of electronic journal each night that recaps my day, expresses my emotions, and helps me sort through issues I’m working on.
The thing I find about writing at this time of year is that it is much easier for me to get lost in my alternate universes because I so desperately want the escape. I find I think about my writing more when I’m away from it, and I immerse myself more fully into the time and place because my head wants to be anywhere but dealing with lines at Wal-Mart or trying to figure out how to fit all the kid activities into the schedule (holiday concerts, lessons, Christmas plays, etc.).
Writing is a mental health break for me all year, but during December, it is literally my sanity saving device. Interestingly, it’s when I do some of my best writing as well. The Deepest Blue, the novel my publisher just bought, was started during the month of December a few years ago. It was, of course, written over many months, but the opening chapters were some of the strongest when I went back to do revisions.
My doctor has suggested that I take extra vitamin D6 to help me with the winter blahs, and she even suggested I buy a tanning pass for days when the valley experiences an inversion. For those of you unfamiliar with Salt Lake City weather patterns, the Salt Lake valley sits in a bowl between two sets of mountains. Occasionally, cold air gets trapped in the bowl beneath a layer of warm air and the valley looks like it is a bowl of oatmeal. It can get so bad that they will warn people with respiratory problems to stay inside! These inversions can last for a day, or up to weeks at a time. Mental health experts will advise people to drive up into the mountains so they can see the sunshine! The tanning beds are a good alternative to driving up the canyons – which can sometimes be impossible if you don’t have a 4-wheel drive vehicle (or even if you do, depending on snow levels!)
The best news about December is that, like all the months of the year, it eventually comes to an end and we all move forward. Despite my Bah Humbug attitude (which it really isn’t), I wish for each of you a joyous and healthy holiday season, and many blessings in the New Year!