Are you ready for another round of Frosty the Snowman? Gingerbread lattes roasting by an open fire? Jack Frost nipping at your winter wonderland? Huh? Are you? Well, buckle up your sleighbells, kiddies. It’s almost time.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. That’s what they say, right? The holidays invade everything from Target stores to TV shows. For one special moment in time, we embrace ugly sweaters and mugs of egg noggy goop. There’s tales of joy, miracles, and love. God bless us. Everyone.
Of course, there’s also a chance you want to slam your head into the wall at the mere thought. You might struggle just to get out of bed to face it. The sun goes down early while the darkness shows up earlier. It creeps into your chimney and it seeps into your soul. You can be facing more than than just a blue, blue Christmas. You could be anticipating a whole season of depression.
That’s Depression with a capital D. It’s the type of depression that transcends a ho, ho, hum over lack of affordable gifts. It’s more than stress over holiday seating and trimming the tree. It’s real, it’s deep, and it hurts to the bone. It’s the type of thing that most of us might be afraid to talk about – myself included. But that’s what we’re here for. So let’s talk about it.
This has been a recurring theme throughout my life and, play on words unintended, I’m sad to say that it’s not limited to December. I’ve had bouts of miserable emotions and, at different times, it’s been worse than others. Some with diplomas far above mine have called it being depressed, among other things.
I’m supposed to be afraid to talk about this, even though it’s healthy to. We’re encouraged to say these things out loud because many, especially from my generation, are afraid of the reactions. What would our friends and neighbors think? They’ll judge us from their happy gingerbread houses. We’d be the outcasts and they, the normal ones, would feel oh-so normal in comparison.
Yet, whenever you do talk about it out loud, what happens? For me, it’s a sudden realization that it’s not all that uncommon after all. Most people can, in the very least, relate.
That’s not to say that everyone has dealt with depressing lows, manic highs, or internal struggles on the same level that you or I may have. They have, however, dealt with those things on their own levels. So, saying it to them doesn’t elicit that sense of judgment that we usually assume will follow. In many cases, it only brings forth feelings of understanding. In fact, they respect you for your honesty. Many times, those reactions can help you feel less alone. I know it does for me.
Traumatic memories can also bring with it numb reactions. It has in my case and I can admit that too. I’ve been drained of my own feelings during many trying times. It helps me deal and move forward. I am able to remain happy when it seems almost unimaginable; whistling through catastrophe. I see it as a near superpower, but it also feels like a rickety crutch. I worry that too much pressure might cause it to snap in two. The wood would splinter everywhere and I’d be broken on the floor. It could happen. It hasn’t yet, but I know it’s always possible.
The holidays reserve crutches for Tiny Tim and remove mine so that these feelings of sadness seem more pronounced. We view our lives through the festive filters of memorable moments; recalling the happiest of times but also deeply feeling their hardest counterpoints. Whether it’s family and friends we’ve lost through death, choice, or unexplained abandonment, we’ve all dealt with trauma at one time or another. The end of the year, as we reflect back on endings and beginnings, remind us of all that. How could that not make even the happiest of happies at least a little bit sad?
You’re forced to face the realities that you may have swept under the Christmas rug. I know I often do. I see the stockings hung and remember the stockings that were there last year and the year before. I remember where I was five, ten, or twenty years ago. I remember lots of events and faces that I would much rather put away. It all comes bubbling to the surface like that boiling cup of hot chocolate that the TV specials like to over-inflate the importance of. It burns just the same.
Even stranger, the sadness is sometimes caused by none of those reasons. Sometimes, it’s nothing. It’s just a feeling. The sun is gone by five in the afternoon and the misery is so thick you can cut it with a sharpened candy cane. I get it. It’s not just you. If you’re reading this and think it is, it’s not. I understand where you’re coming from. Many other people do too.
The one thing I have learned is that maybe that’s why it’s important to stay “festive” at this time of year. We preach giving instead of receiving as we send each other well wishes. It comes off like a marketing ploy and, for many peddling it, it might be. But for me, it’s a chance to lift the spirits of those who might find this time of year to be too much to take. It’s the hope that others might do the same for me at a time when we all need it the most.
So, yeah. Happy Holidays. Chin up. Full steam ahead. We can do this. Don’t let the winter get you down. If you do, don’t be afraid to tell someone about it. That’s what we’re all here for. If we can’t do it at any other time of the year, we should at least do it now. After all, that’s what they say the holidays are really all about.