“There is no fucking ice cream
in your fucking future.”
Otis, “The Devils Rejects”
“Despite a commonly held myth that the Christmas season has the highest suicide rate of all the seasons, studies have proven that across North America, suicide rates are actually lower at that time of year. Studies suggest that while the holidays can bring up some very difficult emotions, they also tend to evoke feelings of familial bonds and these feelings may act as a buffer against suicide.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association
“You want some nightstick?!?”
Two Star Cop,
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.
Maybe it’s the added emphasis the people in our lives place on making sure we Manic Depressives are not alone over the holidays, or maybe it’s because we search out people because we feel as though the holidays are a danger to us, but there are no spikes in North America for suicides over the Christmas Season. In fact this time of year is one of the safer periods for Manic Depressives.
This particular season, however, remains one of the worst times for common depression. The daylight is mostly gone; there are happy people all around us who appear to be having a much easier time coping with their lives than we are, and; every hour of every day advertising reminds us we are all too broke to properly show our love to our family and friends.
While our disease creates depressions which are absolutely random, Manic Depressives are not immune to the Christmas Blues. It’s just very difficult for us to distinguish the difference between real emotion and the disease. It’s even harder to guage what our response to a real emotional depression should be. Because we get hit so often by the same hard emotions over time our responses become almost automatic (“I can feel the wave coming on, I should just stay in bed and not move”). Then when we experience a common depression we completely surrender before we realize we only feel depressed because NBC has pre-empted The Office. If Pavlov wanted to observe conditioned behaviour he could have used Manic Depressives.
It takes a certain amount of introspection sometimes to figure out the difference, but as you learn to distinguish between your self and the disease you’ll learn that the common depressions far out number the disease-induded ones. It was a revelation to me when I figured out that most of the time I was depressed I could actually get over it rather easily… or at least a lot easier than ones caused by the ‘chemical hot-shot overdoses’ served up by my brain.
I’ve found that most Christmas depressions can be pushed away simply by finding people. It’s not the season, it’s not the religion, it’s the traditions which I’ve found are the most important thing about this time of year. And traditions are where you find people. I grew up in a house full of Revolutionary-wannabe’s, so we didn’t have many holidays when I was a kid (no one takes a break when they’re on Uncle Mao’s payroll). But we’ve had them every year since my mother took myself and my brother and ran. After leaving my mother made it a point to immediately start creating new traditions for us.
The first one was Summer Camp. Somehow mom found out about a camp in the Eastern Townships of Quebec right across a lake from Vermont. Mom needed sometime to settle in our new mini-city so her parents paid for the first year, but after that my brother and I talked about it constantly so mom sent us back for another four years or so. It really was one of the things I enjoyed most while growing up.
So. Away from home for the first time, I was nine-years old and surrounded by complete strangers for two weeks. When we left The Revolution we didn’t have much. When I got to camp that first year I had a change of clothes, a pair of rubber-boots and a bathing suit. Still, it was a lot of fun and kids that age never seem to notice smell. There were sports, canoing, swimming, and arts & crafts. I suddenly had a lot of people my own age around. Everyone seemed to have a great time making new friends and so did I. And there was this one special person at camp, who everyone already seemed to know, but I had no idea who he was. His name was Jesus Christ. As in: “would you like to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?”
Every morning there were two bible study’s, one in our cabins, then a group teaching for thirty minutes in the Rec Hall after breakfast. Before every meal there was prayer, and every night before bed there was a group prayer around the fire then another one in the cabin.
From Mao to Evangelical Jesus in three weeks. The first time I accepted God into my life I was nine-years old. It was after supper and I was sitting on the Rec Hall Stairs looking out to the lake. There was some prayer of acceptance involved. I did it again every year I went back as a camper. At no point have I ever understood Christianity as anything other than another philosophy I am inadequately educated in. I understand the human need for religion, and I understand the human need for belief and I generally respect people who have both. My grandfather used to bring my brother and I to his Catholic church almost every Sunday. But the service was always entirely in French, so were the handouts and my grandfather never discussed religion. To me Sunday was always hotdog day, because he would take us out for lunch afterwards.
I have accepted God into my life on numerous occasions, but he was a poor substitute for a Father. To me Christmas is something which can, and probably should, be celebrated by all faiths. Like Martin Luthor King jr. Day, or the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Our latest Christmas Tradition is a pick-up hockey game on Christmas Day. There’s a Co-Op (farmer feed & seed cooperative) on our street (it’s a village, back off) and every year the neighbourhood kids and parents get together with our family and we play street-hockey in the Co-Op parking lot from lunch until supper. We’ve been playing every year since 1990 and, yes, we have a trophy. It’s called “The Co-Op Cup.” One year my youngest brother wanted to be the goalie, so I gave him the equipment and played forward. He forgot to wear his cup. That was the year he became a man.
Being depressed around this time of year, until very recently, was my personal tradition. But with the medication has come clarity, and with clarity I have learned about the sacrifices my family have made over the years. We are part of a larger whole, even when we think we’re not. So cheer the fuck up it’s only three weeks out of the year.
Besides, it’s July and August we really have to worry about. So have a Happy Whatever and a Something New Year. Take your pills.