Finding The True Holiday Spirit
On this site we’re often talking about many serious subjects such as severe mental illness, parenting a child (adult or minor) with severe mental illness, being a caregiver, seeking hospitalization for a loved one, understanding parents who harm their children due to an illness, abuse, neglect, pathological lying, avoidant personalities, borderline personalities, sociopaths, etc. We cover a multiplicity of subjects that often depress many of us. They are subjects we would rather never discuss or have to even face in our own personal lives. These are important topics. But I find that during this time of year many people psychologically and emotionally detach from reality and often enter into a “fantasy” of what this time of year should look like. These subjects mysteriously no longer exist, no longer matter. Many miss the essential components of this holiday by ignoring the great need among us in so many people around us. Being mindful of these people actually makes Christmas quite magical.
I decided to write this article for those who aren’t so happy about Christmas this year and are facing quite a scary and uncertain New Year. Christmas for me has always been a beautiful time of the year to reflect and show the greatest amount of gratitude for life, love, and people around you including good health and other things we take for granted. My faith is also more freely expressed during this time as well. But I’ve also noticed that there are people who do not feel this way and who would rather ignore Christmas Day and never acknowledge it. I have worked in a variety of non-profit agencies, hospitals, clinics, and schools where kids have been abandoned by their families, given over to foster care or shelter care, and are struggling with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other severe illnesses. These kids and their families would rather not be sucked into the “holiday spirit” because for many of these families, there is nothing to celebrate, nothing to look forward to, nothing to hope for. Sadly, many kids, primarily those who are receiving inpatient care (hospitals, RTF’s, or 28-30day programs) are not going home for December 25th and may not see their families until next year. Even more, many of these same kids do not hear from or receive visits from their families on December 25th. The agencies that many of these kids are living in or receiving mental health treatment from are receiving gifts from churches, nonprofit agencies, or caring individuals who donate. Many of these kids are decorating a tree that doesn’t represent something the family has done together. There is no true meaning to the holiday for kids not living at home or receiving inpatient care. The holiday is a time of stress, remorse, depression, or flashbacks of severe abuse, neglect, or some kind of suffering. For these families and kids, Christmas is a reminder of what they do not have and of what they have always wanted.
As a therapist who walks through the units of an inpatient care facility on a daily basis, the air is often thick with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. It is up to those of us who care to offer these kids and families our heart, our time, our affection. Christmas Day doesn’t have to be another day of hopelessness, helplessness, or anxiety. If we keep these kind of families and kids in the forefront of our minds this holiday season (and many more holiday seasons to come), we can add a touch of kindness, a donation, a hug, a smile, a handshake, a prayer, a pat on the back, etc. to make the lives of hurting people so much better. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
I want to leave you with a thought-provoking quote shared with me by a client who suffers depression during this time of year by sayinggoodbye.org:
Something very beautiful happens to people when their world has fallen apart. A humility, a nobility, a higher intelligence emerges at just the point when our knees hit the floor. __Marianne Williamson
I wish you a meaningful Merry Christmas