This is not my first Christmas message. I’ve written several through the years. I always want to start with some warm and witty anecdote from my childhood as a way to engage you and perhaps share such memories between us.
So, it’s difficult for me to explain that I don’t have any such memories without sounding sad and needy. I am actually prone to the holiday blues, but Lord knows I do everything possible to combat that condition, and I avoid “sad and needy” like a plague.
I wonder how many other people are out there in the world thinking similar thoughts. How many of you have experienced the holiday blues? You may be surprised to discover you are experiencing depression, after all, you probably don’t feel suicidal, just stressed! Depression may appear in many forms and many ranges from mild to severe. Holiday depression is sly! It can appear as:
Feeling sad most of the day everyday
Lack of appetite or overeating
Sleeping too much or too little
Loss of concentration
If you are feeling the first symptom on the list; “Feeling sad nearly all the time”, you may realize you are suffering from depression. If you experience the remaining four symptoms on the list, you probably think that is normal. That list is by no means complete. There are many more symptoms that may manifest. If you suffer from chronic depression you may scarcely notice an uptick in the severity of your feelings around the holidays.
True depression is not something you can ignore or forget, nor can you just “snap out of it!” That kind of emotional instability is best treated by a professional and may include medication to help relieve your miseries. Many of us resort to self-diagnosis and self-treatment.
For most of my adult life, I have decorated anything that stands still. Garland is strung from any available step, wall, rail or counter. My trees and ornaments are color coordinated and labeled when put away so I know what color to use next year and avoid the dreaded “repeat syndrome” of the exact same thing in the exact same place, year after year. (Most people call that tradition!)
This year, I have finally realized that my annual, three week long decorating spree is something I use to divert depression. I’ve thrown myself into a nearly euphoric experience to avoid those sad feelings that lurk under the surface of a “not so happy” childhood, recalled most vividly during the holidays.
That revelation has made it so much easier for me to manage the blues. I am truly a resilient creature. My own fortunate, innate optimism wages nearly all my battles for me, but often, it’s some simple notion that I encounter that turns my head like a light switch illuminates a room.
I was feeling unutterably sad after the terrible slayings in Newtown. All I could think was what a terrible Christmas for this town and all the families. I saw the efforts others were making to help the grieving survivors and felt helpless.
Then I read a post by Shelley Tibbs on the Volunteer Prince William Facebook page. Shelley wrote that the Untrim a tree program was nearly a thousand gifts short of their goal to provide 7,500 families a modest Christmas. That was on Dec 14. On Dec.15, I wrote a post for Patch and included some photos of a nearly empty room.
In the next week, some dear friends bought gifts and brought to me to deliver. Other folks wrote on Facebook they, too, would deliver some toys to VPW in Manassas.
Volunteer Prince William could have completed their efforts without us, but I am so thrilled to have been a small part of a huge effort to make happy memories for some child at Christmas who may not have had the joy of presents under the tree. To all of you who contributed to this or any program devoted to making Christmas better for someone less fortunate, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You may never know what your small kindness means, but please believe me…it does matter to someone and you have created a memory that will last a lifetime.