The holidays are marketed as a season of gifting and selflessness. We see the message pushed in commercials, hear it in songs, watch it in movies and TV shows, and read it in children's books. Once you strip the consumerism away, it's a great message. Spreading love, kindness, and cheer by celebrating the people you love is something we should do year-round; but only so long as we make time to treat ourselves with the same dignity and respect.
In an essay for TIME, Kesha recognized that this can be especially trying for those of us who live with mental illnesses because "the holidays break our routine."
"When you have a routine, it's easier to manage whatever mental struggles you may be faced with, and when that routine is broken, it can trigger things you may not be ready to face," Kesha writes. "I know it has for me. It was during the holidays when I hit a low moment and with the help of my mother decided to seek help for my eating disorder."
I can absolutely relate to Kesha here. When my eating disorder was particularly bad, I remember spending every therapy session between November and January talking about healthy coping mechanisms (there is no such thing as "bad" food, and yes, it's perfectly OK to tell someone you're uncomfortable talking about your weight/plate/appearance). But the biggest piece of advice I carried was exactly what Kesha put on paper for TIME: "It's not selfish to take time for yourself."
Slate advice columnist Mallory Ortberg offers some great words of wisdom nearly every time a birthday or national holiday rolls around that essentially boils down to "you are not obligated to attend should you not feel comfortable." If you don't want to go that far, Kesha suggests you "take a walk," "talk to a friend you trust," or "download one of the many meditation apps for your phone."
"It's not your responsibility to try to make the whole world happy. Especially since sometimes it's not that easy to make yourself happy, either — even with all the celebrations and gifts and seasonal decorations, foods and drinks, which can only do so much," Kesha wrote. "So don't ask yourself things like 'It's almost Christmas, why am I not happy?' That can turn into a shame cycle. It's just another day — don't put unrealistic expectations on it, and don’t beat yourself up."
At the end of the day, your health — physical, emotional, mental — is of utmost importance.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder (or suspect you may be) and are in need of support, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.
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