It seems every January, for as long as I can remember, I get post holiday depression. Each year, I head home for Christmas, reconnect with my family, trade gifts, and enjoy myself. I see old family friends, hang out with my cousins, and for a few days, feel really content and satisfied with life. This year’s celebration was no different: we all came together and had a good time, even though my brother, his girlfriend, and her child were unable to make it. The two weeks I was home flew by, and before I knew it, I was back in my apartment here in San Jose, returning to the daily grind that is my life. About January 3rd, post holiday depression started to set in.
I’m not sure why it actually happens. It seems like all the joy and fun of my life is crammed into one or two days of the year. The remaining 363 days are monotonous, mundane, and at times, very stressful. Perhaps that is part of the problem. Our society needs to pace out our relaxation time. Instead of saving it all for the end of the year, maybe there should be “Christmas in July”, to borrow an old, overused marketing cliche. It would give everyone, especially people like me, an excuse to relax and spend time with loved ones, for better or worse.
For me, the symptoms of post holiday depression are similar to other depressions I experience. I spend most of my day in bed asleep, unmotivated and unwilling to do any sort of work. I desperately check – and then re-check – my email a few dozen times each day, as if I was playing a slot machine, waiting for that magic combination that produces some much needed excitement. I stopped going to the gym. I started exercising again late October, so that I wouldn’t appear fat when I went home. Now, I don’t feel the same pressure to work out. Instead I just lie around my apartment, with occasional trips to the store for food and candy.
Much of my depression also comes from spending most of my time alone, and feeling helpless that I won’t be able to change my social situation. I’m going on 32 and don’t have a girlfriend. My parents were married by the time they were my age, and at the time had what was considered a “late marriage”. I was born when my Mom was 33. As each day creeps by, I think about all the girls I liked and never had the nerve to ask out. I wonder if a relationship with them would have altered the course of my life, taking me to different places but somehow making me more happy than I am now. There is an inexplicable happiness between a newly married couple. Husband and wife are no longer solitary, lonely individuals: they are bonded and ready to face whatever life throws at them together. That must be a wonderful feeling.
While I was at home, my Mom made a few offhand comments about wanting grandchildren. I can’t say I blame her. She’s 65, and her brother has seen two of his three children marry, one of which has already had two children. Things are even more advanced on my Dad’s side of the family: my cousins are all married, each with at least three children. My Mom does have my brother’s pseudo-stepchild to buy gifts for and fuss over, but not a single biological grandchild to call her own. Honestly, I don’t see myself being a father for at least another four or five years, and that’s predicated on the fact that I actually get married first in the near future. My two younger brothers are still in their twenties and sorting post-college life out. They’re not quite ready to settle down.
In addition to the loneliness, I also experience all sorts of self-pity. Why did I make the decisions I made? Why am I cursed with BPD and Type 1 Diabetes? Why I am so socially inept and helpless? Will things really get better, or do I simply have to rollover for life, accepting that I won’t really achieve anything great? The comfortable, goal oriented feelings I had in High School and College are long gone. Now, life is about survival and creating an existence that is not dependent on good grades, sports, or excelling at music. I find this task difficult and exhausting, and very upsetting. I thought I did the right thing focusing on my studies in my younger years. Unfortunately, the trade-off was not learning how to socially connect with people and have productive relationships, which seems to be the impetus of a happy adult life.
When you’re over 30, you are truly “on your own”, even more than when you were 20. While I was at home, my parents and I had some vague discussions about rewriting their will, organizing their assets, and planning for the end of their lives. The thought of losing a parent scares me to death, even though I’ve written extensively in my blog about the conflict I’ve had with them. I almost wish I could start all over again, knowing everything that I do now. That’s the cruel reality of life. You can’t go back. It’s all moving forward around you, no matter how hard you try to keep up.
I’m sure this depression will break by the Super Bowl, when my business picks up and I stand to make money. I might as well have a few bucks in my pocket if I’m going to walk this Earth alone. It’s a small comfort that will never equal that of Christmastime, but it’s better than nothing.
Here’s to a Happy 2011. Happiness is what really counts, whether you have BPD or not.