Lonely Christmas 12/22/19

On Depression and Loneliness by Richard Bleil

A photo came up on my social media page. It was my “Christmas tree” from two years ago. Typically, I don’t decorate for Christmas. For about half of my life I’ve spent Christmas alone, so, frankly, why bother decorating?

The photo was from two years ago and meant to be “tongue in cheek”. I actually had a girlfriend back then who felt that I needed to decorate. I had a few old gift decorations, so I taped them to the base of my lamp. The photo was sad when it was taken, but now it’s just a reminder that I am, once again, alone. It will be my second Christmas in a row without a significant other, but, frankly, I’ve gone far longer than that.

Still, though, it’s a reminder to me of other people who are struggling with loneliness this year. Yes, it will be difficult for me, but I know I’m not alone.

A good friend of mine tells me her sister is struggling this year, too. Apparently, her sister is not attending family functions, and my friend is worried about her.

Here’s the reality; the holiday season is difficult. We all know this. For some people, it’s worse than others. My friend’s sister seems to be one of them, and my friend has asked me how she should handle it.

People who isolate themselves from others are typically dealing with their own problems. They might come up with excuses, finding reasons to be upset with some family member or loved one so they don’t have to socialize. Sometimes these problems might be founded in real issues, but it has been my experience that it’s usually not the family that is the problem. But we also need to be forgiving of those struggling. They need our understanding.

I have been suggesting to my friend that she makes sure that her sister knows that she is welcome in the family events, loved, and that she will be missed, but at the same time giving her sister room.

It’s important to be there for the people that are struggling with depression, and to let them know that you are there for them, but without pressuring them. Maybe they’ll want to lean on you, but they probably won’t want to talk. People suffering from depression may not even know the source of their struggles. But they know they are struggling.

One of the worst feelings (in my humble opinion) is feeling like nobody cares. I know in my mind that it’s not true. I have a lot of friends who worry for me, check in on me and would enjoy if I visited. I won’t, especially at Christmas, because I know I suffer from depression and I don’t want to ruin their holiday. But my heart has a hard time believing that they actually care, even though my head tells me that they do.

Or maybe I have it backwards.

But when I have a friend reach out to check on me, frankly it often makes me cry. To know that they are thinking of me feels like more than I deserve, so it touches me deeply. If they ask me to talk about it, well, usually I won’t. Not because I’m trying to hide anything but because there is nothing new about it. I’m lonely, I’m hurt, I’m depressed, and on and on and on and on. I’ve said it thousands of times to hundreds of friends; I’m tired of hearing myself repeat my own words.

But, knowing that somebody cares means much more to me than I can express, provided that they don’t try too hard. Asking about me, letting me know they care, reassuring me that they are ready to listen if I should so desire is all that it takes.

For those with friends struggling with depression and isolating themselves, reach out to them. Let them know that you care that they will be missed but that you understand if they don’t show up. Be there for them but give them their space. If, like me, you are suffering from depression, you really are loved. Don’t do anything rash. People do love you and will be crushed if you are gone. In the Tao te Ching, the “Yin Yang” symbol is used to remind us that the world is cyclical. The dark element always overcomes the light, and the dark yields to the light in their own time. You might be struggling now, but it will get better. Seek help if you feel you need it to get out of the darkness and reach out if you plan to do harm to yourself.

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