Do you remember when you found out that there was no such thing as Santa Claus? Some parents don’t even bother with that bit of chicanery any more and I say good for them. It’s exhausting to lie to your children. I got out of it as soon as I could.
I remember when it happened to me, though. I came to the realization on my own, very organically, when I recognized my mother’s artwork on a bag of gifts “from Santa”. Once I confirmed that myth had fallen, the rest fell like dominoes. “So I guess there’s no tooth fairy, either? No Easter Bunny?” I was a little sad but mostly took it in stride, as I recall.
That’s what this Christmas feels like. Depression landed like a big ominous alien ship last month, casting a weird shadow on literally everything. Have you ever experienced a full solar eclipse? Things get dim, but not truly dark. Birds and insects go quiet and it sort of feels like holding your breath in a dream – where you’re not breathing but there’s no panic. That’s my brand of depression.
My depression is a bummer, a shuffling, slouching slob. It has neither drama nor comedy. It is thoroughly stupid, and a wet blanket. It doesn’t play well for audiences. I have a complicated relationship with my depression because as bland and greige as it is, it’s heavy enough to keep out my anxiety, which is my other constant and unwelcome companion. My anxiety is hardwired into my brain, an essential component of what gets me up in the morning. If I wasn’t worried/scared/in constant survival mode, I wouldn’t do anything that normal grown ups do, like shower and go to work. Depression, when it moves into the driver’s seat, squeezes out the anxiety, and suddenly I don’t give a shit about being a normal grown up. I mean, I still behave like one but mostly out of habit. Everything is dim and breathing seems optional. On the one hand the relief from anxiety is wonderful, but I’m too tired and heavy to appreciate it. There’s typically a pain component that goes along with depression that really fucking sucks, too.
Oh, Christmas! Right. So last summer I moved to a new city, a new job, joined a new social group – just really went full bore on a new life. The holidays have been complicated for me since the break up of my marriage, so I was excited to dive back into festive cheer with a new perspective. If my depression was a sitcom, this would be where the awkward and obnoxious neighbor barges in. It’s only funny because of a trite irony trope and gets cheap laughs from people who still eat boxed macaroni and cheese with cut up hot dogs in their 40s. (Speaking of which, I think I know what’s for dinner tonight.)
I want to be really angry about depression preempting my Christmas spirit. I want to, but depression preempts anger, too. That’s sort of the point of depression – literally nothing matters. Kind of like when you find out that Santa isn’t real and wonder what’s the point of Christmas, then?
I mentioned on Facebook that I’m in a holding pattern of “fake it til you make it” and a friend pointed out that’s a valid and perhaps even preferred option. You go through the motions until you remember what the motions mean. And honestly, what’s the alternative? Lay in bed and stare at the walls? (Speaking of which, I know what’s on my calendar for every day off for the foreseeable future.)
So. On goes the Muppet Christmas album with John Denver, out come the baking supplies, up goes the garland and maybe before the twinkling lights burn out, there will be a Christmas miracle in my brain.