The “Big D” and the “Big A”
Maintaining Mental Health During the Holidays

If Depression and Anxiety are normal, though unwanted companions on the journey to parenthood for eleven months of the year, as they are for most in the fertility quest, the likelihood of the “Big D” and the “Big A” looming larger in the month of December is legendary.

How could these emotional states not follow you around like your shadow? Apart from the small percentage of the population over the history of man who chose not to have children, for the rest of us, having children is a biological imperative. Unlike other members of the animal kingdom where the instincts and the senses drive procreation, ours is a total mind/body imperative and as such, the heart is involved. For humans, there is a yearning that goes along with the capacity for sperm and eggs to join and a worry that they will not. Underneath the whole gestalt of infertility is the overwhelming fear that this nightmare will never end or that it would end badly. Therefore, it’s logical that even someone with Godzilla-type emotional strength would feel sad and nervous.

Now add Jolly Olde St. Nick. Ho, Ho, Ho. Actually,” Uh Oh” says it better. While holiday chaos and forced gaiety may be the bane of existence for some regular folks too, anyone whose dream for a family has been elusive would dread the obligations, the family craziness, etc. at this time of year even more. The presence of bellies and babies and dread of “questions” at family gatherings throws people over the edge.

Some on this journey manage to avoid going down the drain. How can you frame the holidays so that you manage better than you thought you would? Try pretending that you’re a journalist. Ask the “who, what, when, where, why and how” questions to create stability for yourself.

  • Who can you be with who “gets it”?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • When can you leave uncomfortable situations?
  • Where can you find refuge?
  • Why are you letting expectations rule?
  • How can you have a private celebration of and for each other?

“How” is the most important question. It is an action word and therefore it is empowering. It presupposes that you can be in charge. You can set limits. You can self-soothe. You can identify and then follow up with pleasant distractions. You can find a way to laugh. You can escape into what you both love. You can consider not showing up. And you can discharge your emotions with legitimate tears, making room for the good stuff. What else?

You can ask yourself how you can use the energy of depression and anxiety to create something other than a baby, but something that is important or fun nevertheless. Paint a wall red. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Rearrange the furniture. Cull through your wardrobe and eliminate the outfits from the Stone Age.

If you really feel stuck and unable to work with these questions, it would be relieving and empowering to have a session with a professional who could help you to find the place within you where your strength and resilience reside. Trust that strength and resilience are within you. You can create an opportunity to transform the “Big D” and the “Big A” and in the process find what you didn’t lose.

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Maintaining Mental Health During the Holidays

About the Author:

Helen Adrienne, LCSW general psychotherapist, clinical hypnotherapist, and practitioner of mind/body therapy with a specialty in infertility. New York City