You know we all want to do it. The Christmas letter with all the dark details. Cynicism and reality to shock the goodie-goodie out of all of us.
Today, I looked up a student I taught in the mid nineties. I had taught difficult students but not one in this category. I worked with a man whose ego would not allow him to say he had a problem. He had a problem. I worked with a guidance counselor who had an attachment to the child from elementary school. There was nothing wrong with her affection. Not dealing with the problem was wrong.
Home life was weird. Mom had mental health issues in addition to multiple schlerosis. One time she walked down a road buck naked. Dad was stable. Older sister was stable. Dad had a modest, functioning business. When a child has a problem, it can be dealt with much earlier more easily. You let the situation stand until it gets out of hand, it is usually too late to do much. This was a train wreck.
I did come across an arrest in 2005. He would have been about 23. So I tried the Inmate Search for the state of Georgia. I found him. He is scheduled for release in 2019. I looked at the face, another mentally ill prisoner maybe. Such a disappointment to learn. I was worried he was dead. I had thought he might have been working for his dad doing quite well. You need not be a good student to turn into a well functioning adult. But it does help.
I had heard he had dropped out of school and was involved with some drug use. What I imagined was a little pot smoking.
For those of us with schizophrenia in our families, a little pot smoking is not good. It can cause someone with the disposition for schizophrenia to have a full blown psychosis. Schizophrenia has a hereditary component but like Lou Gehrig's disease, the bulk of sufferers have a sudden manifestation in the family.
Schizophrenia has been associated with the Irish as a hereditary problem much like Cystic Fibrosis in people of Northern European ancestry or Sickle Cell for those with ancestors from the world's Malarial Belt. More research reveals that the disease is more evenly distributed world wide.
I was reading an Asian American's angry response to The Forest in Japan's story being whitewashed by Hollywood. What was relevant for me is that The Forest is known for the incredibly high rate of suicides that occur there. Japan does a poor job culturally of allowing people to get treatment for depression.
So, I don't know what sort of Christmas everyone is having out there. But I do know that Christmas can be disappointing. We think of Christmas with a healthy family, big plump turkeys on the table, tasty Christmas cookies, and presents under the tree.
Mine will be getting up early taking care of my dogs. We will probably make Chicken and Dressing. I have thought of making a cake. Being diabetics, maybe I will not make the cake. We don't exchange presents. We have enough things as it is. It would seem like a sad holiday but it is not. We have a comfortable home. We have so much love. Anyone who owns a dog would understand. We are all doing well. It's not Norman Rockwell but it is real.
So I hope everyone enjoys their Christmas. Write down what you have to be thankful for. A lottery ticket costs a dollar. The dream of what you would do is almost worth the dollar. I don't buy lottery tickets very often but I remember when I have for large jackpots.
If Christmas gets tough, reach out for help. You should not tough it out. Get help. Help is not always medical but sometimes it is. For me, I won the genetic lottery and do not have a problem with depression and other mental illnesses.
I do have situational depression. Sometimes I don't have an answer for what life throws my way. I have to stand back and wait for the situation to resolve itself and accept what I cannot change. This is a hard place to get to at times. Faced with divorce, job loss, death, you may need to talk this out with a pastor, counselor, attorney, friend or relative. Getting plenty of rest and occupying your mind with something you enjoy helps. Smoking, drinking, drugging or binge eating do not help.
I write because it allows me to have a dream much like winning the lottery. I see an elderly man who picks up trash on the side of the highway. I think about keeping a trash can maintained near the boat ramp of the Flint River. I may tie a trash can to a tree and keep a black trash liner in it. I could stop once a week and collect the garbage and put a new bag in.
We all have to step back and look at our situation. It is not what we have that determines our happiness. It is how we look at the world. If you are unable to have hope or be satisfied, you may need medical intervention. Depression was seen as a weakness when there was no treatment. There is treatment today.
I have a friend who sends a cheery Christmas letter every year that I thoroughly enjoy. So much good comes into her life year after year. She was a co-worker of mine and was such a great teacher. I would be jealous, but she is such a great friend. She battles clinical depression and takes medication. Now is a good time in her life. She has found a medication that works.
This Christmas, I hope you are so busy cooking, unwrapping presents, watching sentimental movies and whooping it up during the day. But if you eat a can of sardines with your cat and never get dressed, I know your Christmas can feel as bright.
As Christmas Day approaches, it is important to remember the reason for the season. Christmas is about the "good news" brought to man with the birth of Jesus Christ. For friends of mine who are not Christians, I wish you happiness during the holidays. I believe in a God of love and understanding.
And yeah, I'm working on a hellacious Year in Review for a character of mine. If it turns out well, I'll post it close to the New Years.
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