It struck me during Finals Week of my senior year in college. The end of exams meant driving back to my parents’ house in Northwest Indiana. My girlfriend was five months pregnant with twins and we had just lost one of them. It had been several weeks since I spoke with my mom; I suppose the disappointment of becoming an unwed father was too much. It was going to be the first Christmas without my grandfather. They were cutting hours at work; despite having a car, I was slushing through dirty snow to the bus stop because it was cheaper. It was the first time Christmas didn’t feel like Christmas anymore.
Family tension, financial challenges, academic pressure, adapting to life without my (very large) family’s patriarch… sent me spiraling into holiday depression (HD).
The next 10 years were spent wearing the smile for the sake of the kids. Money came and went. More family members passed away. I pacified my wounds with relocations, pseudo-serious relationships (while sabotaging real ones) and career aspirations. I had kept HD at bay until I my first year of marriage. My decision to wed was so abhorred that my parents declined our invitation to attend. I went from company cars and expense accounts as a corporate executive to unemployment and sporadic freelance work. Money got smaller while the kids’ Christmas list grew bigger. It was going to be the first Christmas without my grandmother. I locked myself in a room and stared into the darkness.
Family estrangement, financial turmoil, blending a dysfunctional family… sent me further down the gravely road of holiday depression. This time, I didn’t care.
It got worse before it got better: separation came, divorce followed, losing lucrative contracts and more relocations continued to wear on my body and spirit. But I thank God for rescuing me from a mental breakdown and spiritual catastrophe.
I endured the symptoms that many share during the holidays (and beyond): grieving dead loved ones, dealing with money problems, the isolation of family conflict and other life events seem amplified during the holidays… driving some precious people to question the validity of their existence and others to attempt to end theirs.
It’s hard to hear their yells in the midst of “jingle bells.”
God’s grace is the only reason holiday depression did not swallow me. This is a magical time of year; yet, my heart remains tuned towards those whose spirits are low during the holidays. While others enjoy the holiday feasts, laughter, classic films and time off… I’m compelled to pray for those who can’t wait until the first week of January, when all this will be over. I’m praying for those who are skipping through the store with the false satisfaction of knowing that they have their suicide planned out and the pain will be over soon.
I’m praying for grown orphans. I’m interceding for those who thinks no one cares (like I once did). If it’s nothing but a silent prayer, quick tweet, engaging Facebook message, clever Instagram post, sincere text or unexpected phone call… I want us all to make it to 2017 while leaving HD empty handed from an unsuccessful grasp at our souls.
In the interim, we can implement our own anti-HD strategy through increased exercise, adequate sleep, sun exposure, abstaining from alcohol and gluttony (IKR!), avoiding family conflict and getting help. Getting Help. GETTING HELP.
You can also talk to God 24/7. No phone required.