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Blue Christmas

We’re almost a week past the Longest Night (winter solstice, Dec. 21), the night on which we acknowledge the fact that for many, Christmas is not a season full of brightness and joy.

For several years I’ve observed this practice from afar, glad (in a rather detached way) to know that those who struggle with grief, depression, loneliness, and other sorrows were being recognized and supported. This year, though, my perspective shifted. Longest night began to hit home.

There’s my severely, long-term mentally ill sister, who this year wanted to “reconcile” with me (I had to cut her out of my life several years ago to preserve my own mental health). Couldn’t go there; had to say no. Consequently felt cruel and guilty.

Even worse, a 40-year-long situation with my step mother grew exponentially worse this fall, so that I didn’t feel able to spend any time with my father this year for Christmas. That situation was compounded last night, as I started receiving abusive phone calls and emails, and one of our children was even dragged into the ugliness with a voice mail left on her phone. Where before I was stressed and upset, now I’m angry.

On the whole, I’ve been able to focus on the joy of my own nuclear family being together, and the fun of being with other members of the extended family who are safe, comfortable, and supportive. But ugly, hurtful feelings tied up with other family members are always lurking in the background, ready at any moment to jump out and bite me in the ass.

This saying may be a little trite, but it’s true. Let’s all try to remember it, beyond the Longest Night.


What If?


What if when you have been used to dealing with depression in someone you love and suddenly the depression is gone? What if you anticipate all kinds of things happening on a trip, things you don’t need or like, and they don’t come to pass? In short, what if suddenly depression is missing and you need to start the trip all over from a different point of view?

Right now my husband and I are in Vienna, Austria, visiting our daughter and her husband. We had flown in from two weeks with our son and his wife in Washington D.C.  And everything that I feared would happen on this trip has not come to pass.

My husband played with his grandchildren in D.C. He had good times with his son and he entered into games and family meals with a gusto I had not seen in quite awhile.  Here in Vienna, he is eager to go sightseeing, take in the Christmas markets, and is even talking about doing more traveling. And the man who didn’t like Christmas carols for each Christmas that I’ve known him, is actually listening to carols and enjoying them.  In short, I am dealing with a totally different person than who I left Kansas with.

And I don’t know how to deal with it.

It has been so long since I dealt with him as a person without depression, I keep finding myself falling back into old behavior that is not needed or appreciated on this trip. I’m finding that I need to curb what I am about to say and think it over before I open my mouth.  I’m finding that I am jealous that people around us are enjoying him. And I’m finding that I have to re-discover who I am with a partner who doesn’t have depression.

This miracle of Christmas might not last, but I have to get in gear and respond appropriately and enjoy it while I can. Perhaps it will last and perhaps not but I do have NOW and that is most important.

Whether you are dealing with depression in a loved one or having to cope with the absence of it, be sure to take time for yourself and those you love. You only have NOW.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

– Bernadette