This post is from my archives.
Many people do.
As a person with an extremely fragile psyche, who has a low threshold for stress, I feel like December adds another 50 percent of things to be scratched off of my “to do” list, and therefore tells my sympathetic nervous system that panic mode is appropriate, that we are aboard the Holiday Titanic and have just hit an ice-berg. There are gifts to be purchased and wrapped, cards to be designed and sent, events to attend.
The month of December is like that beautiful Spring day after a long, cold winter when everyone is out, throwing the Frisbee at the park, wearing childish grins on their faces. There is an underlying pressure to be happy, the kind that my limbic system (brain’s emotional center) resents. Because if I have a day or two where I’m fighting back tears for no logical reason, the self-flagellation begins, especially if “Jingle Bells” is playing on the radio.
However, I’m not yet a bona fide Scrooge.
I recognize the magic of the season with its fresh snow, Advent wreaths, poinsettias, carolers, and Salvation Army bells (“Doing the MOST Good”—Is it really a competition?) at every sidewalk corner. The fascination with tinsel that I developed as a young girl has not totally left me. And my heart is touched in a way I can’t really explain every time I hear “O Holy Night” sung by Josh Groban or another gifted musician.
What I love most, though, about December is its message of hope: “Believe!”
“Believe,” the backdrop you see when watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, is a response to the eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon who, in 1897, asked the editors of The (New York) Sun whether Santa Claus really existed. But it’s about much more than whether or not a man by the name Kris Kringle lived on the North Pole and ordered around short people in green outfits. Francis Pharcellus Church, a correspondent for The Sun during the Civil War, wanted to disseminate a message about hope and faith in times of suffering. He wanted to engage everyone’s imagination and encourage compassion, beauty, and love even when the world sees mere ugliness and scorn. He writes:
The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond.
His message reminds me of the one in “The Little Prince,” my very favorite book: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Perhaps people who live with chronic depression are similar to those that existed in Church’s era in that they need to hear that there is something more beyond their experience of pain. They need to know that peace—like Santa Clause—is real and is coming. In those moments of acute symptoms, when they feel trapped inside a small box–even if it’s wrapped with tinsel–unable to breathe, the here and now isn’t enough.
My depression discourages me from looking beyond the daily struggle of life, beyond the job of managing a volatile mood. My anxiety forbids me to believe in something I can’t see but must believe in, to hope despite all the disappointments of my past.
“Can we go to Five Below?” My daughter asked me yesterday morning. “I want to decorate my room for Christmas.”
I scowled. More trinkets and trash, exactly what we need.
I almost remind her of my no shopping rule between Halloween and New Years, that I do everything online because I hate crowds, and I especially hate crowds while listening to a bad remake of “Jingle Bells.”
But she’s enjoying—no, she’s creating–the wonder of the season, the same little girl who designed a sign for her room at age five that read, “Life is good if you like it.”
And that’s rubbing off on me.
Published originally on Sanity Break at EverydayHealth.com.
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