For many, the holidays offer a sacred solace from the stressors and isolation of daily life. Designed to help us re-prioritize our promises in good faith, it is the one time of year we are permitted the chance to be with those we love, enjoy good food, and make new memories. Still, we must not forget to remember that this familial warmth can serve as an exacerbation of grief when contrasted by the looming cycles of trauma, loss, and depression. Likewise, this lack of human reflection of our inner truth in our outer world can be a catalyst for worsening an already existing condition through an inflamed sense of vacuity- and the cold dark sure doesn’t help. While in the depths of my own melancholy, it occurred to me to put it to good use by examining the distressing wedge between warm celebration and clinical mental illness.
“A suicidal depression is a kind of spiritual winter, frozen, sterile, un-moving. The richer, softer and more delectable nature becomes, the deeper that internal winter seems, and the wider and more intolerable the abyss which separates the inner world from the outer. Thus suicide becomes a natural reaction to an unnatural condition. Perhaps this is why, for the depressed, Christmas is so hard to bear. In theory it is an oasis of warmth and light in an unforgiving season, like a lighted window in a storm. For those who have to stay outside, it accentuates, like spring, the dis-junction between public warmth and festivity, and cold, private despair.” ~A. Alvarez, The Savage God
While poring over my studies during my formative years in an attempt to soothe my genuine academic fascination with suicidal ideation, it became abundantly clear that this phenomenon most often takes place in the Spring. The Spring tide, arguably one of our most vital and beautiful seasons, reports record numbers of depression and suicide across the globe. This is odd because most people would assume an unforgiving winter would be the appropriate time of year to wrestle with such impulses. What we are finding, however, is that when one settles into the grips of despairing psychological anguish our ambitions become that of molasses, hindering even our most prominent convictions. The hallmark loss-of-energy associated with depression becomes most pervasive, often leaving us unable to put our thoughts into actions. It is not until the sun returns to melt the snow that we realize that the imprisonment of winter is an unacceptable condition for any living thing, and our movement returns. Sometimes referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the four divisions of the year have been significant contributors to the episodic nature of mood disorders, and often serve as a writer’s metaphor for the condition.
“The river was opulence, radiance, sparkle, and shine, a rippling radiance dancing light’s dances; And the birds flew, soared, darted, perched, perched and whistled, dipped or ascended. Like a ballet of black flutes, an erratic and scattered metamorphosis of the villages of stillness into the variety of flying; The birds were as a transformation of trunk and branch and twig into the elation which is the energy’s celebration and consummation!
It was difficult, then, to believe -how difficult it was and how painful it was to believe in the reality of winter. Beholding so many supple somersaults of energy and deathless feats of super exuberant vitality, all self-delighting. Arising, waving, flying, glittering, and glistening as if in irresistible eagerness.
Seeking with serene belief and undivided certainty, love’s miracles, tender, or thrashing, or thrashing towards tenderness boldly. It was necessary to think of pine and fir, of holly, ivy, barberry bush and icicle, of frozen ground, and of wooden tree, white or wet and drained. And of the blackened or stiffened arms of elm, oak and maple. To remember, even a little, that existence was not forever.
May and the beginning of summer: It was only possible to forget the presence of the present’s green and gold and white flags of flowering May’s victory, summer’s ascendancy and sovereignty. By thinking of how all arise and aspire to the nature of fire, to the flame-like climbing of vine and leaf and flower, and calling to mind how all things must suffer and die in growth and birth, to be reborn, again and again and again, to be transformed all over again.”
The fact is depression is a book of lies, but when you’re in the thick of it- all you know for certain is that everything hurts and you want it to stop. Due to my own research on the topic I can understand depression in a way that allows me to separate myself from the symptoms, but it doesn’t change or reduce the intensely abrasive irritability, my inability to calculate joy, or the fluctuations of tear-filled grief and utter indifference.
Depression is free from the traditional requirements of circumstance and explanation. True sorrow is a unique monster that those without are then faced with, and often fail to fathom accurately or with genuine remorse.
Take the opportunity to gently inform and educate. Remind them that the sense of community surrounding the new year can further isolate those living with a glowing shift in temper. Check in on your friends and loved ones this holiday season. Be sure to take them in and truly take their inventory. You might be surprised by those who reveal to be talented actors.
**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!**
For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!
In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!