But the last few Christmases haven't been that way, and in the spirit of the day I think it's important to remember what the 25th of December can be like for people suffering with mental illness. Regardless of your personal beliefs (I'm agnostic, so Christmas is about family for me), I think Christmas offers a time for reflection regarding those less fortunate than yourself. Lots of groups of people are covered by this idea, but I'm often surprised by how few people consider the mentally ill on Christmas day.
Imagine waking up on Christmas morning only to resent the fact that you're alive. Imagine spending most of Christmas day in tears, not able to express exactly why. Imagine looking at a large spread of food with nothing but fear over how to eat as little as possible, conscious of making it easier to purge later. Or, put yourself in the shoes of someone who spends Christmas day hearing voices telling them to commit suicide.
Unfortunately we can't help everyone at Christmas, no matter how thinly we spread ourselves or how hard we try. But, this Christmas, you can make a difference by looking out for those for who might feel anything but Merry. 1 in 4 people will wake up anxious or depressed or hopeless, overwhelmed by their own thoughts. It might be someone you know from uni, it might be someone in your family, it might be a Facebook friend you barely talk to. But without being invasive or intrusive, you have the ability to help someone this Christmas by simply reminding them that they matter and that people do care about them. A simple message on Christmas day could make the difference between a miserable Christmas and a merry one.
To any of you struggling to enjoy this holiday season: people do care about you and I promise you're not alone. Things can and do get better, no matter how hopeless and dark life seems. Hang in there – you can and will get through this, and you'll emerge stronger and happier.
And with that, I'll end by saying Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year :)