Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Year’s. For some people this is the most magical part of the year. They count down the days. They begin decorating their homes the day after Thanksgiving, some even as early as the 1st of November. And yes, I know, some leave their decorations up all year long. But others, however, upon the onset of the holiday season take on a decided feeling of dread. Sadness.
What are the holiday blues? Is it a real thing? It might best be described as a period of loneliness, anxiety and painful reflection. People with a prior mental health condition are even more prone to experiencing holiday depression. Christmas time for some is a period of high emotion and demands. It leaves many of us feeling stressed and exhausted. But is it an actual psychiatric condition? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), used by clinicians to diagnose mental health conditions, does not recognize it as such. Try telling that to someone going through this period of massive depression.
Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. The year I was 6, I wanted a bicycle. Badly. I didn’t understand that we were too poor for me to have something that expensive. Dad made $50 a week and we lived in company housing. But, Christmas morning, there it was! No, it wasn’t a Schwinn, it was a George Boone Special. Dad worked at Wald Bicycle Mfg. in Maysville and he made it for me … one piece at a time! Was I ashamed? Au contraire, I was proud. I rode that bike for years and everyone admired it. It was heavy as heck and hard to ride uphill, but I didn’t care. When I was 10, my dad no longer worked at the bicycle factory and bought me, for Christmas, a fancy 10-speed English racing bike. I loved it, too, even the brand name was fancy — Raleigh.
When I was 9, all I wanted was a B-B gun. Christmas morning, there it was. Wow. Dad said I had to wait until later in the day when he had time to take me outside and set up some targets. But, come on, how could I wait? It was killing me. A few hours later, I noticed a small bird sitting on a bare winter’s tree branch just outside our door. I stealthily cracked the glass storm door open just enough to get the barrel of the gun through it, and… “tunk”, I plugged that little guy and he fell lifeless to the ground. One bullet, one kill. I hadn’t noticed that dad had seen what I was up to and stood directly behind me, watching. “That poor little bird never did nothing to you,” he said and walked away. My pride of accomplishment crashed and burned. To this day the shame of that moment still burdens my soul.
When I was 11, dad bought me a really cool chemistry set and a professional grade microscope. None of that cheap plastic toy stuff for me. I was ecstatic. I got serious about the secrets of the scientific world. A year or so later I got a decent telescope. I still have that microscope sitting on a shelf somewhere.
And, of course, no Christmas could be complete without two or three or four books and a paint-by-numbers art set. Ah, yes, Christmas was an exciting time. The tree with all the lights, the smell of it. The Christmas carols. I remember one Christmas Eve I was so excited I couldn’t sleep and the carol “The Little Drummer Boy” played in my head for hours. I still can’t stand to hear that tune to this day.
The holidays for me were the absolute best times of the year. It wasn’t until adulthood and, newly divorced, I faced the holidays alone in a city 2,500 miles from home. I can’t say I experienced depression since I’m not sure exactly how that feels, but I do know I was supremely sad. Luckily, I had a new lady friend and she and her family welcomed me into their home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But it wasn’t the same. It was never the same after that until a few years later when that young lady and I had a family of three wonderful boys and the holidays once again became special. The holidays have always been a time for family. But the excitement of being a kid at Christmas was gone and could never be recaptured.
Now all the children are grown and I’m no longer married and live the life of a recluse — alone in my little cabin in the woods…. but somehow, that satisfies me. I’m not sad during the holidays, but they just aren’t special anymore. It is a time of peace, and I couldn’t ask for more. If you suffer any sadness or depression, try calling the Ohio CareLine: 800-720-9616. They are there for you 24/7. If your mental state is truly severe and you have thoughts of harming yourself, call 988, the crisis Lifeline.
Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all of you who read this.
Garry Boone is a Hillsboro resident.