It’s the Most Difficult Time of the Year

By Eliza Ryder

I was born nine days before Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. But it’s been far from wonderful for me the last eight years. My birthday has not been happy. Christmas has not been merry. And New Year’s has not been a celebratory “do-over.”

I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. When summer leaves and the season changes to autumn, I grow severely depressed. From about September to January, I tend to get terribly sick—my mind a dark, anxious mess.

I’ve dreaded the holidays for this reason because pretending to happy and merry when you can barely find the energy to leave your bed is utterly exhausting.  I was supposed to feel this radiant light and joy, but instead, I was surrounded by a suffocating and bleak darkness. I was supposed to be celebrating another year of life, but I didn’t feel like living.

Merry and happy are the hope for these days but they also become the expectation. But it’s not something everyone is capable of meeting. I’m not implying that we should put a stop to wishing people happy and merry days—but rather that we should consider those lighthearted, and usually well-intended, wishes might be a crushing expectation.

Our loved ones might be fighting a war we can’t see. A war we might not be aware of because they’re trying so very hard for us to not notice. They’re trying to hide their illness to keep us from worrying about them on the days we’re told to be joyful. Because they want us to be happy even when they can’t be.

The holidays are hard. Those wishes and expectations for celebratory days filled with happiness and love don’t always translate to reality.

My most recent holidays have not been jolly, but they have been blessed. It was on my birthday last year that it was made abundantly clear that I was not alone. Right after eating, I retreated to the couch to sleep, unable to find the energy to have conversations where I pretended I was OK. But before I fell asleep, my grandfather came over. He said it broke his heart to see me sick again and he wished more than anything that he could do something to take away the pain. He told me he was there for me. He told me he loved me. That quiet exchange meant everything.

So to my fellow humans who go dark on the days where the world expects different: you are not alone. When you feel trapped in a house full of happy people, I promise you are not the only one feeling the pressure. The holidays do not need to be happy or merry to be beautiful and valuable and worthy of life. The people who love you don’t need you to fake a smile or a laugh, they just need you.

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Comments (11)

  1. Darlene

    Thank you. I needed this.

    Reply  |  
  2. Lindsey

    Thank you for this, I couldn’t put into words what I’ve been feeling these past few weeks. You did it beautifully.

    Reply  |  
  3. T

    What about when there’s no one in the house. No one calling to see if I’m ok. Just the “merry Christmas” texts I ignored all day.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA


      We understand your struggles. It’s sometimes hard to respond to messages from people, it’s sometimes hard to reach out when we need help. But we promise that you are not alone. You can reach out to us at whenever you want to talk, need someone to listen, and are looking for help. We are here.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
  4. Erica W

    all i really wanted for christmas is to feel better, but i don’t think that’s ever going to happen. i really want to make it through this upcoming and last semester of high school, but i don’t know if i can do it for much longer. thank you for posting these blogs though, it helps me a little to read through them when i feel really sad.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hi Erica,

      We’re so sorry to hear that you’ve been struggling with heavy thoughts and sadness. We are truly grateful that the blog posts are giving you a space to feel understood and more hopeful. We share them with you in mind.

      Would you reach out to our team at and tell us more about yourself? It would really be an honor for us to offer you some support. High school is hard, but we think you are capable of continuing and even finding relief from the darkness you’re facing.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
  5. Deborah C.

    I have experienced the same thing. I spent a good amount of money on this big rectangular light. In October as the days shorten there comes a day when a switch flips in my head and I feel ‘it’ happening. I know to use the light in the evening to lengthen my day. Overcast days and photogrey lenses in my glasses caused the same symptoms for years. I appreciate your heartfelt post, and I appreciate you taking the time to post your experience.

    Reply  |  
  6. Me


    Reply  |  
  7. Leonie Janssen

    I was calling with my doctor last month and when we ended our talk, she wished me a happy holiday. I went a bit angry; how can she – of all people – wish me something like that, when she knows that it will become terrifying, exhausting and probably painful for me.
    I believe she did understand me, still she still wished me a happy holiday. She does also believe that I will get better.

    Reply  |  
  8. Tis

    Hey, Thank you for sharing this. My grandfather was like your too. He cared so much about me. He passed away in 2015. Since then, I’ve been hating life more, hating school and everyone around me too. It’s not just because he’s gone. I realized that he was the only one who made me feel like I belong and now that he’s gone I feel like I’m homeless. I’ve been depressed and sad for so many years now. I mentioned to my mom about suicide and gave hints that I wanted to see a therapist. My mom just then said to my sister, ‘ she just wants to move our money’. The country I live in doesn’t like to accept depression, they think it’s a weakness. When I told my mom I didn’t want to go to school, because it crushed my spirit, she was like ‘it’s all in your head and something is wrong with you’. It’s so hard to be alive but I just have to live, because I know there’s good in the world. I just know. Thank you for this article again 🙂

    Reply  |  
  9. Kay

    “Our loved ones might be fighting a war we can’t see. A war we might not be aware of because they’re trying so very hard for us to not notice. They’re trying to hide their illness to keep us from worrying about them on the days we’re told to be joyful. Because they want us to be happy even when they can’t be.” Wow. That really got me. This was beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply  |  
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