Alan (not his real name) and I met at a coffeehouse this past Saturday afternoon. “How are you,” I asked. “Not good,” he replied. “It is Christmas season, and I am depressed.”
Alan is in his mid-fifties and has a history of depression and suicidal thoughts. He was treated badly by his parents when he was young, so much so that he had to leave them when he was a teenager.
“I don’t have any family, except for my wife,” Alan continued, with an expression of hopelessness on his face.
I had seen that look more than thirty years earlier when Alan sat in my office as a student. He had no place to live, and he didn’t know why he kept living.
Many writers have noted that there is a higher incidence of depression in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Expectations are higher. Family is not always present. Even those who do not have a history of depression can feel sad and gloomy.
What can we do to encourage people during Christmas season? One good thing is simply to ask those we encounter how they are at a time and place at which they can answer honestly. If we have an expression on our faces that conveys the message that we want to listen, we may find ourselves listening to deep feelings. Listening to one who is depressed often helps them get through another day, and sometimes even gives them a reason to stay alive.
© 2015 by Cliff Williams All rights reserved