“It’s the most wonderful time of the year. With the kids jingle-belling, and everyone telling you ‘be of good cheer’…” Yes indeed, Christmas is upon us. Carols fill the air of every grocery store and mall, lights are being strung in households across America, and evergreen scents permeate the air. How can we not be of good cheer?
Well, there’s the fact that everyday we’re bombarded with scandals and illegal actions by our government. We’re also overwhelmed by the media and supposed leaders fueling of the mindless mobs intent on destruction, and their pathological neglecting of the truth. The barrage of madness is often just too much, and I sometimes have to shut it all out.
However, even without the outside chaos of the world, I am facing the internal chaos of my thoughts and emotions. Which can be even more unsettling. The Christmas season ushers in an increase of stress and depressionfor some of us. I am one of those people.
I have struggled with bouts of depression over the years and at times still battle it. I’m pushin’ 40 and am unmarried and without children. To be a wife and a mom has always been a deep desire of mine, and I feel the boat is quickly sailing away. I feel there must be something inherently wrong with me, that I am not enough.
So without a man who adores me to no end, I feel I should at least have a successful career. Unfortunately my career path is a muddy, rocky, unpaved road full of potholes with no final destination in sight. My life has not turned out how I hoped it would, and ultimately I just ache to find a place where I truly matter and belong.
I’m revealing this very personal aspect of my life because I know there are others dealing with similar feelings, and perhaps long to know that they are not alone. It’s easy to believe you’re the only one if you spend any time at all on social media sites. They are wonderful in many respects, but for some can also be sources of anguish. We scroll through pictures of new babies, new homes, and family trips to lakes, campgrounds and Disneyland. Our newsfeed informs us about former co-workers continuing their successful climb up the ladder as we’re hit with the realization that we’re still in the basement. Behind a pad locked door. Without a key.
The holiday season compounds the pain as we see photos of Christmas parties and perfect families in Norman Rockwell-esque settings, reminding us that everyone is living a happy, fulfilled, enviable existence. Everyone except me. Personally I yearn for a world I have never experienced, but some may mourn over a world they have lost. The cute little apples of your eye have grown up, moved away and now show little interest in you. A bitter divorce fraught with betrayal has you questioning if he/she ever loved you in the first place, and you carry a heavy, self-loathing load of perceived failure.
Depression is a dark, confusing, lonely place. It is contradicting emotions overlapping in an unwinnable battle. It’s feeling totally alone, yet lacking the will or desire to engage with others. It’s wanting someone to ask how you’re doing, but not wanting to talk about it because once the emotional floodgates open you cannot stop the tears. It’s an endless replaying of bad choices, wrongs done to us, and conversations we wish we had but never did. It’s longing for a happy future, while almost immediately aching for the good ol’ days, quickly followed by self flagellation for all the wrong choices of the past that led to this moment of longing for the unlikely happy future. Do you see why we depressed people sleep so much? The rigorous, yet futile, exercise we put our brains through is extremely tiring.
Depression is a free-fall spiral into the empty abyss because it’s not only the hopelessness of the present, but the crushing belief that I will feel this way forever.
With these intense feelings loitering about, it’s a difficult task to find the joy of Christmas. However, it can be done. To quote my favorite radio talk-show host Dennis Prager, “Happiness is a choice.” Sometimes it may be extremely challenging to make that choice, but it is possible.
I once received a wise bit of advice from one of my pastors, “Feelings become thoughts becomes truths. Even though you’ve convinced yourself that they are true doesn’t mean they are.” Think about it this way: just because the media and mobs exploit the propaganda of “Hands up don’t shoot” doesn’t mean that it’s true. Just as I engage my mind to combat the lies of the mobs, I can engage my mind to restrain my feelings and focus on truth.
One truth is that there are people in far more dire straits than I. I was reminded of that when a friend posted on Facebook that she was participating in International Justice Mission’s Dressember (Like I said, social media does have some benefits). IJM is an organization that fights human trafficking by seeking justice through the legal system, performing rescue missions, and providing after-care for victims. When I read about little girls being sold and used as sex slaves, needless to say, my disappointment in my circumstances takes a back seat.
I am not suggesting there is an easy fix to depression. I am suggesting that taking a moment to help someone who is truly desperate can be a small step toward healing (so can Prozac, Wellbutrin or Zoloft). It can put a crack in a hurting, walled off mind that feeds off itself. Christmas, the season of giving, is a good time to start.
The crack in my wall grows when I remember the greatest gift I have ever received: the mercy, grace, love and forgiveness given to me through Jesus Christ. For those who do not believe (you might want to consider investigating it), there is joy to be found around you: a walk with a friend through a neighborhood of Christmas lights, an Irish coffee with a co-worker at the local pub, or a long overdue phone call to an estranged family member. Not to mention the joy found at the bottom of a box of Christmas cookies.
Even without hoards of friends or an enormous family, take care to relish the few, or even the one, that you have been blessed with, for you never know when this harsh world may take them from you. It will be a struggle, but it’s worth fighting through, for yourself, for those around you, and for those nameless, suffering souls you can help.
If you so choose, this season really can be the most wonderful time of the year.
Mariah Carey, who has herself received treatment for depression, appears in the following video, singing her hit “All I Want for Christmas”. Watch.