NOTE: The works in this series will always be the opinion of the writer (me, Rebecca). Therapy and healing is not a one-size-fits-all box, so keep that in mind when reading. Everything in this series will come from my experiences both as a therapist and patient. I hope it gives you insight into different perspectives, and gives me a place to share thoughts on topics I feel are important. Enjoy!
TRIGGER WARNING NOTE: This post mentions and briefly talks about suicide, self harm substance abuse, and trauma. Although it doesn’t go into very much detail and is overall positive, these topics can still be difficult or triggering, so don’t read it if that feels like too much for you.
Now that it is December it feels like a good time to discuss the darker side of mental health: self harm, suicide and substance use. We’ll start with reviewing some of why this time of year is so hard. Then move on to hope and how to find it in your surroundings. We also include some resources to take with you and to also share with others that may need them.
This time of year is typically known for celebrations and gatherings. Many see this as a time of hope and merriment, but it can also be very difficult for some. Whether it be because of family dynamics, travel for work, or some other stressors in life, many people feel loneliness even more so during the holiday season.
Some facts that we find during this time of year are that suicides and attempted suicides increase, self harm happens at a higher frequency and intensity and substance use issues are more prevalent and more relapses happen leading to accidental overdoses. I know some believe this to be a myth but I know from my experience as a therapist these are facts. These are scary situations that stem from individuals tending to feel more lonely and less hopeful this time of year.
First let’s talk about why it can feel so lonely during the holidays. For many this is a time to spend time with their families or to travel to visit their loved ones. Those who do not have a good relationship with their families or have been disregarded by their family this time of year can feel exceptionally lonely. Or if you do not have the funds to travel to see family it can feel just as isolating. Add to this mix the fact that we have been dealing with COVID19 now for 18 months, has further isolated people from their friends and families. When we feel alone we often start to believe that there is no hope and no positive way to move forward. This makes it extra difficult to be able to see that things do get better.
Then another big issue is trauma. This time of year for so many of us brings up numerous traumas from forced family time. Many individuals are flooded with memories, nightmares, and flashbacks from the traumas they suffered throughout their lives due to family and/or friends during gatherings. The traumatic memories and feelings leave us feeling hopeless wishing for this specific pain to just end.
I want to point out that for members of the LGBTQIA+ community this time of year often has all of the above mentioned struggles as well as the additional traumas they suffer just because of who they are. This time of year can be especially lonely for them and remembering how their families kicked them out or disowned them hurts in a very deep way.
Hope! It is such a small word yet so important. Hope helps us remember that things do get better. Hope allows us to plan for our futures. Hope gives us motivation to be inspired and to inspire other people. Hope can seem nonexistent when we are struggling though.
So how do we find hope? There are many ways and I will discuss a few here. Remember there is no right or wrong way to find hope as long as you do it safely.
Take a minute to look around wherever you are right now. What do you see? What are things in your environment right now that inspire hope in you? For me at this moment it is my books and my little holiday tree that looks like a rainbow flag in my office. These things do not have to be big, just something that makes you feel comforted and hopefully not so alone.
Next you can take out your phone and see who you’ve talked to recently. Those people who you have been chatting with via phone call, text, messaging or email care about you. Reach out to them and ask them what inspires hope in them.
If the weather is appropriate for you, take a walk. Look around at nature and see all it has to offer. There is so much beauty there if only we take the time to see it. Take a few minutes to watch the animals interact with each other in nature; it always amazes me to watch them play.
Ask yourself what you want for your future. Believe that you can achieve it because remember anything is possible and the only limits are the ones you set for yourself. And here is one of my favorite quotes “You have survived 100% of your worst days so far” (I don’t know the author sorry).
Finally, I want to say that you are amazing. Although things are hard right now and possibly really suck it will get better! And as you heal on your journey not only do things get better but you do better and feel better. There are no limits to the amazing things you can achieve. I believe in you.
Here is a list of resources for you to have handy on the days that you feel exceptionally bad. Remember you are never truly alone. There are people out there who love you and care about you. Even if you haven’t met these people yet I promise you they are there.
I feel as a therapist it is important for me to say your therapist is a great resource who will be there for you. And they can help you develop a safety plan that includes safe places to go and people you can talk to.
Here is a list of wonderful places that you can reach out to and they will remind you that you are not alone. These places are available all year round and 24 hours a day. Some of them also have great Instagram pages that are inspiring that you can follow; I do!
The Trevor Project 1 866-488-7386 https://www.thetrevorproject.org/ @trevorproject on Instagram
Trans Lifeline 1 877-565-8860 https://translifeline.org/ @translifeline on Instagram
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1 800-273-8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Teen Line 310-855-4673
LGBT National Youth Talkline 1 800-246-7743
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
It Gets Better Project https://itgetsbetter.org @itgetsbetter on Instagram
SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline @samhsagov on Instagram
Born This way Foundation https://bornthisway.foundation/ @btwfoundation on Instagram
Do you have questions about resources or anything I said in the post? Other thoughts to share? What are some of your go to resources? What brings you hope? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know by leaving a comment below or tagging us on social media (@llctherapeutic on Twitter and @therapeutichealingjourney on Instagram).