Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, but for those who suffer from mental struggles, the holidays can be unbearable. There are a couple ways to cope with this type of stress. In episode 10 from March Comes in like a Lion, Rei makes a few mistakes that throw his mood into a state of despair. Much of it wasn’t his fault, but was caused by terrible circumstances. Still, I would like to give you examples of how to survive this holiday season by pointing out some key mistakes Rei made.
Disclaimer: I , Teresa Christina am NOT a real Therapist. While I am open to talking about emotions and stress, I have NO professional training in psychology or counseling.
For Rei, Christmas is symbolic of his shortcomings. At the beginning of this episode, his foster sister, Kyouko, begs him to return her watch she left on her last visit. During their meeting, Kyouko shows her hand at emotional manipulation. She deliberately brings up harsh memories from their childhood in order to make Rei feel guilty.
Rei enters a world of self-consciousness as he remembers the shogi board he was gifted on Christmas. As soon as he opened the present, all the fears Kyouko and her biological brother had about their father came true. The shogi board symbolized that their father loved Rei more then them. The resentment they hold against him carves deep into Rei, and is the main reason he has such a drive to support himself with shogi both economically AND emotionally. The guilt Rei feels on top of the psychological trauma of losing his biological family in a car accident throws Rei into a deep depression. How will Rei survive the Christmas season?
“TC’s Therapist’s” Tip for the Holidays…
Identify emotional manipulation. If you’re at a Christmas party, or an awkward family gathering, be aware of people who are speaking to you in such a way that is trying to get you to feel a particular way in their favor, or make you feel guilty. If you think that someone is speaking over you in this manner, take a moment to put up a boundary. YOU are in control of your emotions. No one has the right to tell you how to feel.
Rei has to struggle through the emotion that comes with seeing his angry and bitter sister and past Christmas memories as well. The sister takes the moment a step further by showing Rei how hopeless this Christmas will be for him. Rei’s next shogi opponent, Mr. Yasui, is getting a divorce, and this Christmas is the last one he will get to spend with his daughter. Kyouko puts the idea in Rei’s head that if Rei wins this match, the man will fall back into his drinking habit and ruin everything for his family’s Christmas. Now Rei’s depression is aggravated by a sense of doom, and misplaces responsibility.
“TC’s Therapist’s” Tip for the Holidays…
It can be easy to think that if something goes wrong, it’s your fault. Especially if you are depressed, you are already hyper worried that your mood might be off putting during the artificial joy of the holidays. Don’t emotionally take the blame even if it is put on you. Take a couple seconds and think if there is a deeper issue in the accuser’s life that is causing them to act the way they are. People that are hurting don’t want to take responsibility for their actions. They want to blame everyone else for their problems.
Even if the episode doesn’t have a terribly great sense of the Christmas joy, Rei portrays the spirit of Christmas beautifully in how he tries to help Mr. Yasui. Even after all the psychological pain of going into the shogi match, Rei knows that logically, he can’t just lose the game for the sake of this man and his family. Shogi is his livelihood. His desire to support himself is stronger then his sister’s manipulation. But Rei is connected to this man deeply. They share the bond of shogi and a bond of being in pain. Rei can identify depression in others easily since it lives so strongly inside him.
Even though he’s depressed, he wanted to prove his sister wrong and help this man in some way. After Rei won the match he ran after Mr. Yasui. Holding the Christmas present, Mr. Yasui left in an angry huff. That Christmas present was Rei’s way of overcoming his fate of destroying Mr. Yasui’s Christmas.
Mr. Yasui left feeling ungrateful. Rei feels like he’s failed. His sister was right. He’s defeated.
“TC’s Therapist’s” Tip for the Holidays
Not everyone is open to talking about their feelings. If you are like me and want to fix everyone’s problems, you have to be careful of taking bad encounters personally. Upset people are hurting you because they themselves are hurt. Your priority is to protect your emotional state during the holidays, but that doesn’t have to be done in a selfish way. Help where you are wanted, and take a step back when conflict arises. Remember, you can’t solve years of built up relationship strain in one holiday season.
Through my struggles with depression and anxiety, I’ve learned one very important thing. 2 Corinthians 10:5 has been quite helpful to me when I faced circumstances like Rei.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
Paul is making a point many mentors in my life have tried to explain to me. When I was in the depths of despair and not even Christmas could make things better, I went to the only thing I knew that could help: the truth. I take my thoughts captive by asking myself what the bible says and how that can apply to my fears and insecurities. Is what I am feeling accurate with reality?
Rei could have asked himself if the events of the Christmas season were really his fault. If he could have based his emotions off of truth, not his sister’s lies, the episode may have ended differently.
The greatest Christmas gift you can give to yourself is permission to feel upset about the stresses of the holiday season, and to put up boundaries to keep yourself emotionally safe. Once, I messaged a friend and asked her how many emotional breakdowns I was allowed to have per semester (let me give you a hint, only you can decide that number). Sometimes we need to cry like Rei, and sometimes, we need to go to what we know holds the truth about ourselves. For me, that’s my bible. Only you can decide what you need this Christmas season, and I wish you all happiness as you go out and enjoy what the end of 2017 has to offer!