Dr. Sohail, I hate Christmas! I get so angry at this time of year. I’m tired of hearing how wonderful Christmas is. I’m running out of patience with the unending pressure to buy presents for people who need nothing, whereas people in need receive precious little financial aid to buy the necessities of life. I’m tired of being treated discourteously by rude sales clerks. It’s especially difficult to have to listen to peoples’ plans for wonderful family get-togethers. Why do I have to put on a happy face at Christmas functions, when I prefer to go home, lock the door, and forget about Christmas completely? I hate the gaudy Christmas lights and trees, the inflated snowmen with vacant smiles, and the morbidly obese Santa’s that try to convince me that Christmas is a happy, fulfilling time. This evening, my anger almost pushed me over the edge. In a fit of rage, I threw a book violently across the living room, and then savagely ripped it in four.
When my anger abated and rational thought returned, a sobering thought came to me. Is it possible that it’s not Christmas I’m really angry about? Maybe Christmas amplifies my dissatisfaction at how lonely and meaningless my life has turned out in my retirement years. I’m starting to realize that this bitterness is not serving me well. It alienates me from others and actually fuels the loneliness I’m trying to escape from. And worse still, by emphasizing what’s wrong with my life, it damages my self-esteem. It would be of greater benefit to think of ways to brighten up my life instead of railing against the shortcomings of the Christmas season. As Helen Keller so eloquently advises, maybe I could, try lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness.
Just as we were finishing this week’s Blog, we received your letter. We were so impressed by the expression of your feelings and your astute insight into their underlying dynamics that we wanted to include it.
Your letter reflects the experiences of many people at this time of year. We hope some of the suggestions in this week’s Blog will sustain you through the holiday season. Dr. Sohail mentions reaching out to those who are lonely. We are delighted you reached out to us and our Green Zone readers and hope you will consider reaching out to others in your community.
Thank you for sharing and supporting us in enhancing mental health through education!
And now here’s Dr. Sohail!
Bette Davis RN BN MN
Green Zone Blogging Team
Every family is unique and every Christmas is a unique family experience. We all know that the holiday season can be one of the most exciting as well as one of the most stressful times of the year. While some families look forward to meeting and exchanging gifts with their dear ones, there are others who dread having dinner with those relatives whose hearts are filled with anger, resentment and bitterness. There are so many who walk on egg shells during the holidays as they do not want to offend or upset their relatives.
I have tried to capture the essence of one family’s holiday dilemma in my poem:
It was a beautiful Christmas night
The snow was falling lightly, as tiny flakes of silver
The city was bathed in the glow of Christmas lights
Excited and happy, the family waited
With food and presents piled high
Waiting for him to arrive
So the celebration could begin
With a bang
The old man staggered through the door
Looked at the presents in the corner
Kicked them in anger and disgust
He looked at his family with bloodshot, tearful eyes
And poured out his anguished heart
Held back for so long
O my children !
You stay away all the year
And try to make up for it by Christmas presents
You live smug and safe while
I dwell in the depths of despair
No one comes, no one goes
I talk to myself all day long
Everybody knows here
Their families have long died
We celebrate that death
Once a year
By giving presents
How we all pretend!
I celebrated all day
Just to get myself drunk enough
To tell you people
For God’s sake
Don’t do this to me again
In our clinic we often find it necessary to offer additional appointments to those clients who need extra help to cope with the holiday stresses. We have found several effective strategies to make holidays, like Christmas, a more peaceful, Green Zone experience. We ask our clients to:
- Consider being more flexible around holiday gatherings, for example, have Christmas dinner the weekend before or after December 25th, so that everybody can join the celebration.
- Reflect on last year’s holiday experience and decide what to do and what not to do, so that you can repeat the pleasant and delete the unpleasant experiences, making this year’s holidays enjoyable, exciting and peaceful.
- Think about those who may be homeless or financially challenged. In our community we have many voluntary organization such as, St. Vincent’s Kitchen where the poor can have a Christmas Turkey Dinner. In our clinic, we have created a tradition of Green Zone Santa where we buy gifts for those who cannot buy gifts for themselves. It is amazing how many people contribute to the funds of Green Zone Santa and express the generosity of their spirit. That is how they enjoy giving as well as taking, and experience the spirit of sharing.
- Be aware of those who are alone, even in your own family or community. Holidays are especially hard for those who live alone, have been recently divorced or lost a dear one to death in the last year. We suggest that they have dinner with their circle friends, that we call Family of the Heart.
Christmas, like Easter, Thanksgiving and birthdays, is a special occasion and needs thoughtful consideration. We try to help people in making healthy and wise choices to make Christmas a peaceful Green Zone experience.
So now it is your turn! We would love to read your Christmas stories, your dilemmas and dreams, struggles and successes. Please send us your questions.