Tis the season for the reason

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“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

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“Dear George; Remember: No man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings! Love, Clarence.”
It’s A Wonderful Life (b/w 1946)

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In a few hours I will wake up, drink a lot of orange juice, take my medications, turn on the TV, sit down and start to wrap the presents I bought yesterday.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so uninterested in Christmas. Maybe it’s age. Honestly, at the moment, I just want anyone interested in giving me a gift this year to just mail me a cheque.

This evening my girlfriend and I finalized the plans for the next four days. Her oldest son will be with his father for the afternoon of the 24th, plus one hour in the evening. In between those visits he’ll be with us for Christmas dinner.

Christmas morning we all have breakfast together and open gifts, then it’s off to my girlfriend’s parents for lunch and gifts for the kids. Christmas Eve the ex-husband takes his son for their dinner, while me, my girlfriend and our son, go to my parents for dinner.

Which will be the first time in almost two years that my son and my grandmother will be in the same room — it’s a long story, basically she’s evil and I don’t want her stink on my son.

There’s a big part of me that feels as though I’m caving in, that I’m going to allow my grandmother off the hook for the stupid, ignorant and malicious things she said — and still believes.

But, even if it was the right thing to do, boycotting last years Christmas, staying away from my family altogether, felt like a kick to the stomach.

I’m still not sure we’ll be going to dinner with my parents. I’ve told everyone “maybe”.

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YouTube Alert.

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I don’t know. My grandmother is sick and getting sicker. She’ll be ninety in a few weeks. She’s been abusive her entire life, and gotten away with it because no one was willing to stand up to her. At least not for long. My mother, after she found out my grandmother hit me, kept my brother and I away from her for a entire year.

My grandfather has spent years trying to distance himself from her. Finally, after 60+ years of marriage, he managed to convince her it’d be better to have separate rooms in the retirement home they live in.

Anyway. My grandmother was never very interested in Christmas either. When I was a kid, my father, who was a true believer in communism… it’s not that Christmas wasn’t allowed, or that he didn’t allow us all to celebrate Christmas, it’s that it wasn’t even considered.

After my mother escaped with us, Christmas — as a gift receiving experience — became a reality for my brother and I when I was eight-ish. But my grandmother — who grew up during, and in the middle of, the absolute worst parts of The Depression — never seemed to take it seriously.

It was always a family joke, my grandmother would wrap he gifts in a plastic bag with some masking tape, then make sure the price tag or receipt was in the bag.

I’m not, in any way, saying that was abusive. Just that it was like a constant drip from a tap you can’t fix. Everyone else taking the moment so seriously, wrapping everything, handing a gift solemnly to a loved one, and there’s someone in the back, smiling because they know it’s just bullshit. And here’s your socks wrapped in a grocery bag.

So I’m not sure how whatever Christmas spirit I’ve had has lasted this long.

A few years after we left him, my father settled down again and had two girls. With them Christmas was a reality. Christmas and birthdays, something else we missed out on, were always celebrated. Maybe not as a religious event, his common-law wife was one of the original Earth Momma’s, but they did all of the secular traditions — a tree, decorations, a supper, the gifts, the cards.

When we were finally on our own, my mother went through hoops like an acrobat (no alimony, no child support) to make sure my brother and I had presents under the tree. We usually spent Christmas with her parents, on my grandfathers hobby farm or, later at his cottage. But we usually had a little “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree in the living room, with some decorations and lights, in our home.

When I was eighteen we moved in with my mothers boyfriend, and his two young children. He has always been a Christmas maniac. Lots of gifts for everyone, a massive tree, games, lots of lights and decorations inside and out, huge meals and an annual street-hockey game with kids from around the neighbourhood.

It was pure culture shock. And I was right at that perfect age where anything new, everything better, was a reason to start a revolution. Christmas at home became something to resist.

…which is a common theme running through all of my Christmases. Resistance. I’ve always resisted the ‘group hug’ aspect to Christmas. I’ve always felt drawn to it all, but disappointed when I finally got there. Or something.

Thankfully this shit only happens once a year.

Now I get to have a few hours sleep before I help perpetuate the illusion that there are supernatural beings who watch our every move and judge us to be good or bad and worthy or unworthy of grocery bags full of socks, to a six-year old.

…speaking of which, I do use wrapping paper now. I went a long time wrapping gifts in newspapers, but after a few years I started to notice similarities between newspaper as a wrapping tool, and plastic bags. Kind of like I had become the person in the back of the room trying to show everyone it was a waste of time. Or something.

So… Merry Christmas. I hope you’ve got a reason for the season. Really.

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YouTube Alert.

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...thanks.

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About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression in 1989, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. I have an 8-year old son, and a 4-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Christmas, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health, Poverty, YouTube. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Tis the season for the reason

  1. bromac says:

    I bet watching Victor enjoying it will rub off on you. Have a wonderful Christmas!

    • Gabriel... says:

      Thanks bromac… Victor was great. His older brother, however spent three hours this afternoon with his father, who fed him a bucketful of sugar. About ten minutes after getting home he crashed and was miserable through supper. I took him out for a long walk after dinner and he mostly calmed right down. He’s in bed now, trying to stay awake so he can meet Santa.

      Have a great Christmas bromac.

  2. markps2 says:

    regarding “who watch our every move and judge us to be good or bad and worthy or unworthy ”
    its a metaphor for our (sub)conscious mind that is always watching.
    Psychopaths don’t have any doubt about their actions being “good”. AlsoKnownAs Evil.
    The TV show “My Name is Earl” has a character that remembered all the wrong things he had done. His karma was messed up until he made amends.

    • Gabriel... says:

      I liked the first couple of seasons of “My Name Is Earl”, but then it just seemed to stop being funny. Fun fact: the guy who played ‘Earl’, Jason Lee, is a disciple of L. Ron Hubbard.

      I don’t think psychopaths have the ability to differentiate between good and evil. I’m not sure they are able to give the philosophy of either any notice.

      Merry Christmas Mark, hope you like your new bubble.

      • markps2 says:

        regarding mynameisearl . Yeah it stopped being funny. maybe it was the formula, as he always successfully made amends/ never lost.
        Regarding “new bubble” Thanks! Merry Christmas Gabriel.

  3. Detached99 says:

    Reading this post is like a weight has been lifted. Okay, maybe not THAT dramatic, but its weirdly nice to see that it isn’t just me. It has been all I can do to acknowledge it is Christmas, never mind getting in the “spirit”. The only Christmas-y things in the apartment are two gifts for my children and a card, and spending time with my extended family makes me want to take my own life. And theirs.

    So, from one unenthusiastic-about-the-holidays person to another, I wish you a Merry Christmas! May your gatherings be better than other years, and may the checks be plentiful and fill your mailbox with joy.

  4. Finola says:

    I don’t usually enjoy Christmas either anymore Gabriel, and I think I understand how you feel.
    I do the whole thing for my kids because I do not want them to be the same way when they get older. I hope they will always embrace the season.
    And I love that you don’t use newspaper anymore to wrap presents…that is pretty awesome.

    • Gabriel... says:

      Hi Finola, and Merry Christmas and such things to you.

      I spent most of the past few days just watching people interact with my son. He’s an incredible kid. There was one moment when he threw a fork across the table and hit my (soon to be) sister-in-law in the shoulder, but even that produced “oohs and wows” over his throwing ability.

      We had a great time with my parents on Christmas Eve. My girlfriend and I knew my grandmother would be there, but we agreed we wouldn’t hand Victor over to her. If Victor wanted to visit with her, so be it. Thankfully, he didn’t want to have anything to do with her. She’s a total stranger to him now.

      We did the whole Santa thing for my girlfriend’s oldest son: we made sure the cookies and milk were gone in the morning, and we made Santa and reindeer footprints in the front yard as well. He also left carrots for the reindeer, which I thought was adorable.

      It was nice to spend time with the whole family, which is something I missed last year. But every time someone mentioned Santa in front of the kids all I could think of was the conversation I’ll be having with them in a few years.

  5. nursemyra says:

    i had a very quiet Xmas, just with my eldest son. Coincidentally, my youngest came to visit tonight – first time I’ve seen him since November so it was very exciting – especially since his xmas presents had been wrapped and waiting for him to come and open them for almost a month

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