Linda Friend, MA, MFT
P.O. Box 1228
Healdsburg, CA 95448
The Wintertime Blues:
by Barry W. Dugan, Healdsburg Tribune 1/14/2004
post-holiday letdown can be difficult - and it holds meaning
The winter holidays have passed, the Christmas tree is
compost. the wrapping
paper has been recycled
and the so-called "happiest
time of the year" really didn't turn out to be. The twinkling holiday lights
been replaced with the cold,
dank days of January.
Christmas decorations have
been replaced with the
crass decorations for the
celebration, and the mildew
is forming again in the corners of the closet.
Is it any wonder so
many of us are feeling
If the post-holiday lull is
a time of emptiness and
confusion or the winter
darkness brings on feelings
of depression and sadness, take solace in the fact
that you are not alone.
My experience is that people in general get
more depressed during this time of the year," said
Linda Friend, a psychotherapist in Healdsburg.
"Some of it is the letdown from the holidays. And
also, if you look at the ancient traditions,
it is a time to be more introspective and go inward... if people
have lost their way to being reflective and introspective,
they don't have the tools to mine
that depression and darkness. There is not a way
to find meaning in it, to make sense about it and
see it as a healing experience."
Friend believes that the takeover of
Christmas leads to a sense of emptiness. "A lot of
why people get so depressed is partly because of
the secular way the holiday is celebrated, and its
lost connection with the deeper meaning of the
solstice and with Christianity," she said. The solstice
is about the returning of the sun and finding
the light in the darkness and the Christ child represents
the light in the darkness and the birth of
the divine child."
Add to this somber mix a dose of isolation and the sadness
and depression can be a cause for concern.
"The biggest thing that happens after the holiday season is not only this
but that sense of aloneness that you are the only person feeling this way,"
said Jean Shaw, an ordained Presbyterian minister who lives in Windsor."In our
lifetime, the sacred holidays
have become secular madness... people have such
extraordinarily high expectations that when they are over they feel like they
are feastingon sawdust and it's all shadows and light. If you look at
these holidays for what they are, they are the
sacred markings of a bigger journey than just one
day... Christmas is one marking in an ongoing
liturgy about the incarnation of God."
When people come to Shaw for guidance, she
finds they are seeking answers that can't be found
in the secular celebrations that have taken over
"When people come to me as a pastor and
share their sense of alonenessor depression, it is usually because they are
asking questions that the secular world cannot
answer: "What is my life
about? How do I matter?"
That is the importance of
a religious life. You are
embraced by a community that gives meaning to
the whole journey, not
just a single day."
Health care professionals believe that clinical depression is a serious
requires professional care
(see sidebar below for
signs of depression and
other information), but
they point out that it
should not be feared.
"Depression is not
something that people need to be afraid of," said
Larry Robinson, a Sebastopol marriage and
family therapist. "It is often an indication of
something that needs
attention. It we are too
quick to medicate the symptoms, the soul is
deprived of an opportunity... the old understanding of depression, which I
happen to agree with, is
really a loss of soul. It is an invitation to do an
inner journey and find what is lost.
"That is not to romanticize it, because depression has serious hazards. But
there is a new
understading thatthe human being is a
complex machine and that the biochemistry goes
awry and needs to be chemically tweaked and
everything will be fine... but it's more of a spiritual crisis. Which is not to
say that some people
don't need medication. For some people I strongly
recommend that they do that so they are functioning highly enough to do the
Robinson and others describe the stress and
disappointment of the holidays as a complex
serioes of false expectations. There is financial
pressure, stress of seeing one's family, and the
pressure and expectations to have a happy holiday filled with love and giving.
And there, for
many, the unconscious expectation of spiritual
rebirth. For most of us, it is a disappointing combination.
"These are supposed to be celebrations of joy,"
can manifest itself as depression or frustration or anger."
For those who follow a liturgical calendar and ignore the secular extravaganza,
the holidays can be a more fulfilling spiritual experience.
"I think it is more of a problem with non-religious people than religious
people,", said Father Marvin Bowers, pastor at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in
Healdsburg. Most serious Christian people pretty much ignore the secular part
of Christmas. For me, I'm thinking about Advent. I pretty much just shine it
Bowers said the "psychology of the church year is opposed to that of the
secular year, where you start this manic thing that builds and builds and there
is the inevitable letdown and disappointment on about noon on Dec. 25 when the
wrapping paper is strewn about and the kids start fighting. But in the
liturgical year the great celebrations are preceded by a period of
self-examination and self-denial. The psychology of the church is preparation
not through indulgence and purchase, but through self-denial and
examination. And when you have purified yourself, you have an extended
celebration that is spread out over a number of days (the 12 days of Christmas
stretch from the birth of Christ through the Epiphany on Jan. 5)."
He said the pressure of families being together and expecting to be happy
during a single day is just unrealistic. "No period of time that is that short
(Christmas day) can bear the emotional burden that is heaped upon it," said
Symptoms of Depression and Mania
(National Institute of Mental Health:
Not everyone who is depressed or manic experiences every symptom. Some people
experience a few symptoms, some many. Severity of symptoms varies with
individuals and also varies over time. The symptoms include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once
enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight low or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistant physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as
headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
- Abnormal or excessive elation
- Unusual irritability
- Decreased need for sleep
- Grandiose notions
- Increased talking
- Racing thoughts
- Increased sexual desire
- Markedly increased energy
- Poor judgment
- Inappropriate social behavior
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Mental Health Association