Holiday Blues

After months of waiting and waiting, New Year’s Eve has finally arrived and it’s the last day of 2014. I can’t believe this year has gone quick. This year has been such a big year and a struggle for me which I’ll explain later. I was suppose to publish this post on Christmas Day but because it took longer for me to work on this post as I expected, I haven’t been able to post it til now. So here is my post:

Christmas…Christmas is a special time to celebrate with family and friends. Being excited that holidays has arrived, looking forward putting the Christmas tree up and decorating the house, watching the Christmas Carols, eating a yummy feast with family and also exchanging Christmas gifts. Sounds like happy days, right? Well, not exactly. Christmas should be a happy one but for some people, it’s also a very difficult time for them.

Before I continue on with my post, what is my Christmas usually like? Well, every Christmas, my family and I would always have a Christmas dinner at my house and we would always invite our extended family to come over since our house is the biggest to fit more people. We’ve done it for many many years, tho, I don’t remember the early days when we celebrate Christmas but I do know that my family would always prepare the food in a few days advance, decorate and clean the house, write cards and wrap up gifts.

When the big day arrives, you can feel the excitement buzzing in the air because you haven’t seen your relatives in awhile and when they arrived, you’re just so happy to see them. You greet them, kisses and hugs all around and you talk to each other about what you’ve been up to and any gossips you’ve heard. Then you’re just waiting for dinner to be prepared and cooked, and when dinner has arrive, you have all these yummy food and then after having a full feast meal together, you wait til your stomach digest all the food you just ate because you’re so full.

After about waiting half and hour or so, the best bit of the night comes with exchanging gifts to one another. You always get excited about something you always wanted and you also feel that gratitude when you give someone a present that they’ve always wanted. You can see smile faces all around and everyone is happy but it’s an entirely different story for one person. Who would that be you asked? Yep, you guessed it, it’s me.

Don’t get me wrong, I still do enjoy Christmas but that’s was more when I was a kid. It would also have been a different story if I didn’t had to go through the traumatic experiences I had to go through in my childhood as you all know by reading “The Dark Truth”. Growing up with depression, it just seem to be taking over my life. I didn’t really enjoy Christmas as much compare to others who don’t suffer from a mental illness or has a “normal” life. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to ruin the holiday season but what makes Christmas such a difficult time for me and other people?

Well, I know for myself and I don’t know about others but you get these expectations to be happy because other people are happy and you don’t want to ruin the celebration. You have to spend some quality time with people but you just don’t feel like it because you want to be alone. Since we’re on a topic of alone,  there are also people who spends Christmas by themselves because they live far away from their family and friends or they’re not alive anymore. It makes it hard for them because they have no one to celebrate Christmas with.

There are many more reasons out there and I can’t speak for everyone but you get the idea. It’s hard when people don’t know that you’re actually struggling because they might think you’re being moody or don’t really care about Christmas at all. Then they tell you to cheer up or get upset at you because you’re supposed to be enjoying Christmas but it’s not that. Christmas can be a real trigger for people especially for those who suffer from a mental illness because of what they’ve been through in their lives and it’s something not a lot of people understand why Christmas can be hard for them.

With my experience celebrating Christmas when I was young, the fact that people had no idea I had depression in my late childhood and early teenage years, it was really difficult and I was alone. I had to pretend to be a “normal” kid and smile all the time to people even tho I was hurting in the inside and it got harder and harder every year. Even now, I still do that sometimes and it’s something that I’ve always been good at because I’ve done it for a long time. That’s why there are times where you see me smile all the time even though I don’t intend to especially at awkward times.
Let me explain when I mean awkward times. So say, I talk to someone about something really traumatic I had to go through like with the bullying for example and in the middle of talking, I smile and that person asks me, “why am I smiling?”. And every time I smile, I smile more and more but I’m not actually smiling and I had to explain to them that it’s something I naturally do and in no way I was happy with the bullying. Can you see how awkward that is? I also even have to try pinch myself or think of something really really sad so I don’t smile. How embarrassing but anyway, on to my experience.

Christmas did get better after I finally reach out for help with my depression when I was in Year 8 because I had lot more support from people like with my family, friends and the professionals. I also didn’t need to hide my true self but it was still hard dealing with my depression tho as a lot of people still didn’t understand what I was going through. They never been what I through and the reality is, they probably never will.

Fast forward to the last two years of high school when I was in Year 11 and 12. You guys may remember in my last post, how I was talking about my dog, Sweety and my grandma who both passed away. The first few Christmas without them was one of the most heartbreaking things I had to go through as I was still not coping with their deaths and among other things at the time. Sweety and also Charlotte my other dog would always asked for food from everyone when we would have a Christmas dinner. They would be really cheeky and also greedy as well when they were both around together.

Sweety always loved food and she would eat her meal so fast and Charlotte would look at her thinking, “how can she eat so fast?!?!” and once Sweety finished her meal, she would always try to get Charlotte’s meal. Of course, Charlotte doesn’t like to share her food with anyone. Speaking about Charlotte, her anniversary of her death just passed (19th October 2013). I can’t believe it’s been more than a year since she’s been gone. I should tell you guys the truth, I wasn’t looking forward to Christmas this year because this was the first Christmas back at home (in Sydney) without Charlotte this year. The last two years, I spend Christmas in Beijing and Hong Kong.

Even tho people keeps telling me to remember the happy times when Charlotte was alive, I still can’t help but still feel sad that she’s gone. It doesn’t feel like it has been more than a year that she’s gone already. There are days where I get these moments, I feel like I can feel Charlotte being here even tho she’s not there. Even at night time when I have to stay the night alone at my place, because Charlotte would always stay with me, it doesn’t feel the same. It was like this with Sweety and my grandma. Anyone who has lost someone or a pet you loved or who had to put down a pet should know how I’m feeling right now. It’s like your heart has broken into a million pieces, not literally but losses are so hard to deal with, well for me anyway.

I also want to apologise for not being active on here lately. It’s been such an up and down ride this year. I’ve have gone through a lot of changes mainly to do with my support networks which has been affecting me a lot all year and I haven’t been able to cope as well with my depression lately. It’s also very frustrating for me at the moment because I was going so well earlier this year but now, I’m struggling again. I probably talk about next time in my next post since it’s a bit long to explain.

Okay, enough with the sad stories. What did I ended up doing for this year’s Christmas? It was actually a quiet one surprisingly. I was suppose to have dinner with my whole family but because my extended family had already made other plans, it didn’t happen. So my family decided just to have a Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve at one of a childhood Malaysian restaurant we’d always go to when I was young. Still pretty great food to eat with the curry chicken, roti, hainanese chicken rice and other food and the service we got at the restaurant, well, I won’t say anything about it on here. I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

Besides all that, what have I been up to these last few months? Well, I went away to Hong Kong and China for a holiday in October/November for a month which was awesome and it was great to finally get a proper break from everything. I mainly visited family and friends who I haven’t seen in awhile so it was good to catch up with them. I also got to do some work experience in Shanghai. It was a short but great experience and It was a bit unexpected and I had to delay my return to Sydney.

Speaking of delay, I celebrated my birthday in Hong Kong. I was suppose to celebrate my birthday in Sydney but because of the work experience, I had to do it in Hong Kong. It’s different but a good experience celebrating away from home. I didn’t really do much. I just had a quiet day celebrating with my dad and cousin’s family. I also wasn’t expecting them to surprise me with a cake and present so it was a nice surprise from them. Oh and just letting you guys know, I’m working on a post about my trip but it may take awhile to get it up on here as it takes me a long time to work on a post.

If you guys haven’t read my story I posted back in July, I encourage you to read it by clicking on this link -> The Dark Truth. I have to warn you though, this is a very dark story but also an inspirational and powerful one. I have also added a trigger warning because the content in my story involves mental health or in my case, depression, something not a lot of people understands it. It’s awareness of mental health but using my experience. That’s why I wrote my story.

For those who have already read it and gave me feedback, I just want to say thank you for all your feedback. The responses I’ve been getting from you guys were all posititve and that my story was inspiring and it really had a deep meaning to it. I’ve also been told that my story also hit close home to them because they had no idea I had to go through all those experiences that no one should have to go through. Even those people who I have known for a long time since my childhood, they had no idea I was struggling back then and it came to a complete surprised to them.

I have been overwhelmed with all these incredible response from you guys and never ever was I expecting this heart-warming response so thank you. You guys have touched my heart and I really mean it. I’m very lucky to have met amazing people on my journey and it’s great to see that I’m not alone.

I’m not gonna lie, I was actually afraid of publishing my story to the world because we all know it is a dark one and this is not something that you can just post straight away because it’s personal, right? Also, another thing is, I actually didn’t know what to expect with people’s reaction. These topics can be controversial and is not for everyone but I guess I was more afraid of people looking down on me which I don’t know why. Maybe because there are people out there who might not agree with me but I’m really glad I did took the risk to post my story because this was very important to me.

I also had to modified my story as there were a few things I wanted to add and there were some stuff I said out wrong which I didn’t intend to so I apologise for that. If you read it the first time but haven’t read the modified one, you should read it again.

If you feel like you’re struggling during the Christmas holidays, here are some tips and skills you can use.
– Plan ahead: If you plan your schedule in advance, you don’t have the time to worry about what you should do during the week and this is important because it helps you keep busy. If you’re at home all day all week and doing nothing, it’s actually not healthy unless you’re sick or have another a valid reason.

– Organise meet ups: If you’re feeling lonely during Christmas or don’t have anyone to spend Christmas with, you can organise a time to catch up with family or friends. If you can’t meet up with them or they live far away, you can always call them or Skype with them etc.

– Prioritising your own needs: If you feel like you need to priortise your needs over other people’s, that is perfectly okay. if you also feel like you can’t look after other people, you can take a step back. The most important thing is looking after yourself. If you can’t look after yourself, how are you suppose to look after other people’s need? And no it’s not selfish.

– Always be mindful: Yes, I’m talking about mindfulness and I know it’s not for everyone. For those who don’t know about mindfulness. It’s a type of meditation that is practiced in Buddhism. Being mindful means being aware of your thoughts, feelings, urges, your surroundings around you like sounds or sight etc. You notice it’s there but you don’t interact with them and learn how to cope with them, that’s the whole point. It will take a lot of practice using mindfulness!

– Know your triggers: If there are certain anniversaries that come up during Christmas like with my example the death of my dog Charlotte, instead of thinking negatively or thinking about the past, just think about the good times. If it’s something that was really traumatic, don’t blame yourself for what has happened. You can use the skills I’ve already typed out.  If you need support, there is no shame in asking for support and if that doesn’t work, ask for another support from someone else. Also, I know this may seem hard but it’s best not to isolate from people because I find if I isolate, I tend to ruminate more and more which makes my mood worse and goes into a cycle.

– Grounding: Grounding is one of technique you use to get yourself back in the presence if you have overwhelming thoughts, emotional pain or having flashbacks from the past. If you feel like you’re losing control, grounding helps you detach from them. Example, if you’re at the beach, list five things using your five senses (what you can see, smell, hear, taste, touch). I can hear the waves splashing and the seagulls chirping or you can feel the sand against your feet, the heat from the sun, and the wind in the air. Another example could describe your surroundings, like where you are, who’s with you or what you’re doing. This is a great skill to use

– Eating: Okay, I’m no dietitian here but I know food gives you energy and if you don’t eat, you won’t function properly. Try to eat more healthy food instead of snacking on chips or the sugary food, try to eat fruits or nuts which can be good in nutrition. Also if you love to cook like me, you can cook whatever you want like baking cookies or try your best cooking a new recipe. Another alternative, instead of deep frying something, try baking it instead. Always eat in moderation and don’t overeat!

– Sleeping: Not only we get energy from food but we also get it from sleeping when we rest our bodies. Apparently, we should try to get at least either 7 or 8 hours of sleep depending which research you rely on (the old studies or new studies). Oversleeping is not healthy either! It makes you more tired. It’s also good to have a good routine so your body system knows what time to wake up every morning and going to bed at the same time every night.

– Exercising: I don’t like to exercise either and should exercise more. However, I also find exercising helps. Go to the gym or play footy or soccer with mates. Apparently, you should try at least exercise half and hour a day or more from what I have heard. Even going out for walks is good. It will keep you fit and it also releases the endorphin in your brain. I think it’s a natural antidepressant from your body from what I have heard. Even I should know what it is as I have a mental illness but still don’t understand completely

– Music: I love music and it is one of my passions in life. Playing the guitar or piano helps me get everything out of my mind because I can just play it out and do my own thing. If you can’t play an instrument, that’s okay! You can also just listen to the music and sing along with the lyrics. Another thing if you like to hear the sounds of the beach and the waves, you can listen to that. It feels like you’re actually at the beach without going to one.

– Creative Arts: If you like art, this could be the thing for you. You can paint whatever you want to paint or even just draw what’s in front of you. If that’s not your thing, you can even do a collage. It doesn’t have to be perfect and so what if it doesn’t look like the best. You don’t have to be like Leonardo da Vinci. It’s your own art! That’s all it matters!

– Volunteer job or helping others: I find if I help other people when they need help and know that I have helped them, it makes me feel I have accomplished something and that I have contribute to their lives. Like even right now, with my blog, I want to reach to other people.

– Christmas Gifts/Cards: I like to give out inspirational Christmas cards because I want people to feel better about themselves and if they supported me with something, I like to give something back to them. The different messages I write to people in their cards, they tell me that they are very powerful and inspiring and they all really appreciated my gratitude and that makes me happy. You also don’t need to buy a very expensive gift as well, it can be just like a gift card or something small.

– Sunshine: We all need sunshine because it gives you energy and it’s good for our bodies especially for those who are living where winter is and don’t get a lot of sunshine! Go to the beach if it’s a sunny day or go have a picnic. Even me, I need sunshine. That’s why I get a relapsed with my depression during the Autumn and Winter seasons.

– Know this will past: Christmas holidays is not forever but it is a time that will past. Like I said earlier, plan your scheduled in advance and keep busy!

– Writing/Blogging: Sorry, I had to add it because both writing and blogging has always helped me and still does. Writing in your diary or journal is a great way to express yourself. You could just write about how your day was and don’t have to show it to anyone. Maybe you can do creative writing and write your own book. You already know what blogging does for me but it doesn’t have to be what I’m doing. If you have an interest in photography, you can do that or if you like to design things, you can do that too. Just some examples!

– Support network: Since it’s Christmas, most of the clinics will be closed (if you see a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist etc.) so if you need to talk to someone, contact someone you trust like a family member or a close friend. If you’re not able to talk to them or anyone else, there are hotlines that are available to you locally. I also highly advise to have a safety plan with your doctor or psychologist.

– Get Help Immediately: If you or someone you know are at any time feeling unsafe or feeling at risk and requires immediate help, please call your local emergency provider or go to your nearest local hospital emergency department and stay calm. They will happily assist you for any help required. If it’s not an emergency but you really need to talk to someone straight away, you can always call a crisis number which I’ll add at the end of this post.

Psychiatric Hospital: Most people know them as a “mental hospital” which I find it really offensive when people use the term. I’m sorry but that’s the truth because people suffering from depression or another mental illness like schizophrenia aren’t crazy like what they portrayed in films and TV. They are just unwell and needs help. Being admitted into a psychiatric hospital could help you or someone you know if it’s the only last solution there is.

From past experience with my previous admissions in hospital in the last six years, it’s one of the best things that has helped me get through my struggles. It’s also good to have a rest and get away from everything (like work, study, family etc). The hospital staff (doctors, nurses, psychologists etc). will do their professional best to look after you in a safe environment. Just a friendly reminder, each hospital may be different so one hospital can be different to another one. so you might need to check with their rules. I will also do a more detail post about my experience being in hospital.

Okay so that’s quite a lot of skills I’ve mention that anyone can use. Yes, that’s right anyone can use it. You don’t need to have a mental illness to use these. If you’re coping with a loss or going through a difficult time, you can use these skills. The skills that I have listed are the ones that I have learned in various therapies with the cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). I would have write more skills but I think that’s enough for the time being. I know, it kinda looks lame listing those skills but I just want to reach out to people. That’s not a bad thing, right?

Here are a list of crisis numbers you can use in Australia if you need more support. Note: This isn’t a complete list. I will also add another page to my blog which will include more support networks and also other countries’ crisis numbers.

Australia Crisis Numbers
Emergency: Triple Zero – 000 or 112 (calling from mobile)
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Kids Helpline1800 55 1800 (Free & confidential counselling service for young people aged between 5 and 25)
Suicide Call Back Service1300 65 94 67

Other Services
beyondblue1300 22 4636
Headspace
eheadspace1800 650 890 (Free & confidential counselling service for young people aged  between 12 and 25)
Mensline1300 78 99 78
SANE1800 187 263
1800RESPECT1800 737 732
Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA)1300 657 380
The Butterfly Foundation1800 ED HOPE (1800 334 673)

NSW
NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511
NSW Rape Crisis Centre1800 424 017

Web Sites
Boys Town
Reach Out

Thank you guys again for your support as always. You guys have been great to me all year this year especially with my story. Like I said, never ever was I expecting this positive response from you guys and I really appreciated it. I also want to aplogise again for not being active on my blog this year but I have already started working on a few writings for my blog and hope to publish soon once I’ve finished with it next year

Hope you guys had a great and safe Christmas. Also, have a fun time celebrating New Year’s Eve tonight. Remember, don’t drive if you’re planning to drink. Hope 2015 will be a better year for you guys and of course, me.

Also, if there is anyone who needs to talk or if you’re struggling and you just want some additonal support, you guys know you can always  talk to me. I will never ever judge you but will listen and support you as much as I can. I will also try to give you advice using my past experience and I won’t discuss anything of what you have said.

See you guys next year and Happy New Year!!! You are all beauttiful people! Don’t forget that!

Be random but stay safe! ^_^

Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict from life, but the ability to cope with it. – Unknown

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