Whilst Christmas is seen as a jubilant occasion that embodies the theme of family, friends and happiness, the reality is many are feeling plunged by deep sadness, loneliness and even despair.
Christmas can bring with it painful memories and make people feel more isolated and alone. This can be very destructive for those who suffer from depression and who may feel themselves swallowed up by the shadow of depression that darkens every Christmas light.
Let's imagine some realities; the elderly that may be forgotten or with no family, the victim of domestic abuse who may be tempted to go back to abuse because it feels better than the pain of loneliness, the child whose parents cannot afford much, the homeless on the street, the one's who may have lost a loved one or experienced trauma around this time, those who have no family or who have removed themselves from toxic 'family'. The one's forever struggling, of which Christmas may feel like just a day like any other.
Many of these painful feelings can make people suicidal even around this time, especially when the pressure to be and appear happy is placed upon them, when they are seen as Scrooge's and ruining it for everyone else if they turn away from it.
In fact this can for many reasons be the month where a person who has had suicidal tendencies may feel further torment. The pain felt can feel unimaginable.
This pressure to appear happy can often lead some to smile, and so a smile can been seen but for the torment inside to be hidden.
Christmas can highlight what is lacking in people's lives, magnify it and can bring feelings of shame, inferiority, a sense of failure. Also then feeling like one is bad if you are not in the mood to celebrate, feel happy or like the very season that seems the most painful as there is no escape from this theme.
Deep emptiness along with sadness may be felt more intensively than at other times in the year.
These happy images can be painful reminders that can be torturous to those who have no contacts or family, have issues with mental health, are being abused or whose life is not the epitome of joy. Where tears are to be found instead of laughter, where the tinsel may not sparkle, where there may be nobody to pull a cracker with. Where loneliness and pain engulfs them even when surrounded by others.
Many clients may indeed feel like this and need counselling and support at a time which can be seen as the most painful as it forces so many happy images and so many images of family, security and happiness that can remind of all they may have lost, don't have.
This time can also make them feel guilty for not being happy, shame at all that they might lack in life at that moment and loneliness at the reminder of not having the happy family or close ones to share it with.
If family members are depressed or things happen at Christmas the association made will not be positive. Those who suffer from depression can enjoy Christmas but a lot about it can also lead, bring depression or intensify it depending on the situation and events.
Many hurts can be thrown in peoples faces and many expectations and pressures placed on this sense of being happy whilst the truth for many is they could be hurting inside.
It's important to realise how sensitive and painful this season and time can be for many out there that may need support, understanding and validation. Let's not forget that Christmas isn't always a happy day for everyone and that's okay.
Let someone know you care, not only at Christmas but during the rest of the calendar days. Be understanding and accept that Christmas isn't the best time of year for all out there and reach out to offer support, love and understanding. Let this be the gift you give someone at Christmas and you could even potentially be saving a life.
If you do need support over the Christmas period or at any time the Samaritans offer a safe place for you to talk. Call them free on 116 123
Antonella Zottola is a qualified integrative MBCAP counsellor. Antonella's private practise is held in Sale and is called Rising Phoenix. Antonella also has a PGCE and teaches counselling; in addition she will be giving a presentation held by the BACP on Domestic Violence next year and holding workshops to raise awareness.