Feeling low after a festival or holiday? The depression is real

Gloom hits home once adolescents realise things aren’t the same and the monotony of life is back.

 |  4-minute read |   16-11-2015
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After a week-full of blazing crackers and loud, lighted nights, when I resume work and enter my clinic today, I find M sitting there, outside in the lobby. With one hand she is holding a can of coca-cola, and with the other, covering her eyes - her head resting against the white wall and staring into the ceiling. She doesn’t see me entering my chamber and has to be asked by the receptionist to go in. After a few minutes of silence, M tells me that her depression is "back" and breaks down on my table. She would come to me almost ten months back, during the time of New Year celebrations. Her parents had left a month before and for the first time, she had to spend her "New Year" alone in Delhi.

The sadness and the desperation was so much that she couldn’t go for her classes, couldn’t talk to people, couldn’t do her daily chores - everything lay scattered and in a state of disarray all around her house. She had begun to hate herself for who she had become - she would forget to take shower, forget to comb her hair, and even to eat. She would cry all day long and stare into the ceiling without the knowledge of time passing by. She was then brought to me by a friend, who suggested if therapy could help her get her out of this. M agreed. By the third session, we had arrived at the diagnosis - most likely the strong possibility of something known as the Post Festival Withdrawal Syndrome (PFWS).

Here in Delhi, Diwali begins three to four days before the "real festival". People start inviting each other to their houses and almost all of us indulge in binge drinking, eating and card playing. Even after the festival of lights is over, there’s Govardhan Pooja and Bhai Dooj to contribute to the extension and keep the fairy lights burning. Most of the time, the anticipation and the grand-planning for the celebrations is so large that it extends till the festivals are over and one doesn’t at all realise that it has finally ended.

People still want to come back home early, keep the lamps on; they still want to have their friends over, drink, make merry and have fun. But it hits them once they finally realise that things aren’t the same and the monotony of life is back - in the form of gloomy mornings, office routines, infernal traffic, papers, presentations and programmes. Once the festivities are over, one is sucked into the boredom of life. It’s been observed commonly in Delhi that people face this immense disappointment, depression and a sense of loss within themselves, with the ending of the festival. This sudden realisation of the mundane that sets in is often called the Post Festival Withdrawal Syndrome.

What M went through when she broke down that evening was triggered largely by the ending of the festival. The last time she said she felt so alone was after the New Year parties got over and January came to an end. It has been seen mostly among adolescents (who live alone here) the inability to get over their euphoria during celebrations and festivals, and return to the humdrum of life. However, some people like M show extreme disinterestedness towards almost everything as the depression eats into their loneliness - making them long for something they do not know. Perhaps the advent of the next festival.

In the west, this is mostly known as "Holiday Blues". People going out for a weekend to the seas or the mountains at times face immense difficulty in coping with their day to day life once they return. The sense of loss is so overpowering that at times, most of them are unwilling to accept the "flatness" of life. One is unable to accept that he or she has the option to wait for the next round of weekends, holidays or in our case, festivals. In such situations, what people can do is - take it easy and take it slow!

They do have the option of coming back home and talking to one of the friends they’d spend the last few days with. One doesn’t need to sink into depression - if he or she comes to the understanding that they can choose to wait. It is understandable that life can be harsh and can be really boring. But at the same time, PFSW is nothing but an extended form of what we call as "Monday Blues". However, when things go out of hands, like in M’s case, one should always consider seeing a therapist and talk it out in a session or two. Acknowledging the issue, followed by catharsis - always helps.

Writer

Gaurav Deka Gaurav Deka @drgauravdeka

Gaurav Deka is a general physician and a clinical psychotherapist practising in Delhi.

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