Alone for the Holidays. Alone with Depression.

Joel Eisenberg

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Introduction

This past Friday, I posted a rave review of the season finale of "The Mandalorian" to my Facebook page. Amidst a sea of equally enthusiastic reviews, one of the talkbackers said the following: "I wish I could have shared this with my dad. I felt I was a kid again like when 'Return of the Jedi' was released in 1983. At least I can share my enthusiasm with everyone here before I go back to my misery."

Her dad had passed away nearly 10 years prior, and she presently has no significant other in her life.

Compounding her loneliness, she has long been medically treated with depression issues. I am sensitive to her sufffering, as though I am not prone myself several important relationships in my life have been impacted by both clinical and chemical depression.

It is worth a reminder that nobody can understand the severity of anyone's else's personal pain, sometimes despite best intentions. Those of us fortunate to not suffer know only that there is a tomorrow if we claim it, while many of those who deal with depression on a regular basis may not feel the concept of tomorrow at all.

It is our job, in part, to be sympathetic whenever possible. To everyone. Many who suffer from depression or depression-related issues, such as a Robin Williams for example, laugh in public and mask their pain. We have learned from the nature of his untimely passing never to assume anyone's frame of mind.

Making assumptions about the mindset of one who openly admits they suffer from depression is an equivalent risk. And, it is all too easy to inadvertently stigmatize the sufferer once that brave admission is shared. They have frequently wrestled with their issue in silence, often deflecting unbearable levels of pain that would be near-impossible for an outsider to notice. For many sufferers, the winter holidays tend to most contend for their peace of mind, a two-month slog when feelings of loneliness and despair are at their zenith.

Why then are so many of us surprised when a person we know, even peripherally, grapples with thoughts of suicide during these winter months?

The signs have likely been there all along.

For Those Who May Be Able to Help

I will preface what follows with a few acknowledgements:

  • I was a special education teacher for ten years. My B.A. Degree is in Special Education, and my primary prerequisite course load was in Abnormal Psychology. My student population included autistic children and adults across the spectrum, gang kids, substance abusers and S.E.D. (classified as Severely Emotionally Disturbed).
  • I have lost one relative and three students to suicide, and three friends to suicide or drug-related overdoses in which suicidal ideology was suspect.
  • I have engaged in two interpersonal relationships where the other person was diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder.

It is also important to note, aside from my practical experience as listed above, I do not consider myself an “expert” in this issue under any circumstances, nor do I hold an advanced degree in either Psychiatry or Psychology.

Again, however, those of us who do not suffer should always strive to understand those who do.

  • Regardless of your profession, or area of expertise, walk a fine line when it comes to giving advice to someone suffering from either chemical or clinical depression. Sometimes our most well-meaning words can do far more harm than good. We cannot understand the depressed mind if we ourselves are not depressed, but we can offer sensitivity and tools to help, such as links to relative stories or, in tougher circumstances, the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is incorporated at the end of this article.
  • Use your skills to do good, however, be prepared to walk away if asked. Avoid struggles.
  • Never tell a sufferer to “snap out of it.” Most are incapable.
  • If you know a sufferer who truly appears to be facing an endpoint, immediately contact a professional interventionist. Do not attempt to handle the circumstance alone, most especially if you have had no training in the matter.

How to Pass the Time During the Holidays if You Are Alone or Depressed

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One does not have to be depressed to be alone. Nor does one have to be alone to be depressed.

In all instances, if capable, inform others what they can do to help.

Here, in descending order, are 10 of my favorite distractions that have helped me pass the time, plus one option that I wish had existed, when I was single and alone. As many of us know, the holidays can be quite the rough haul regardless of medical diagnosis.

10. Read a book, or watch a film.

Leaving the present world and heading into another, if even for a night, can be a substantial and much-welcomed escape.

9. Create a piece of art.

Write an article, poem, or something more. Draw. Make music, paint ... whatever works for you.

8. Visit and post on social media.

Hence, the “one option I wish existed when I was single.” Facebook, Twitter and the like are as heavily-trafficked during the winter holiday season as they are year-round. Many who post state they are doing so to pass the time, or because they are simply “reaching out.” Knocking social media as a personal outreach is a mistake. It certainly has its value when one feels particularly lonely.

7. Create a list of New Year’s resolutions.

Yes, many if not most of us (I have no scientific data either way) will break those resolutions before they begin. Does it matter? No, as in the moment you may unintentionally create a dose of inspiration for yourself that may carry you throughout the next few months or years. This is what I would call a “no-risk opportunity.” If it’s a time-waster, then it’s a time-waster. If your list becomes something more, however, this effort may prove among the most constructive of all holiday activities.

6. Work out.

Stretch, lift weights, go jogging. Release those endorphins, and nudge those negative thoughts out of your system. A little physical exertion can go a long way.

5. Write down the qualities of the person you would like to meet. Or, if you prefer to be alone, write down why.

Either option is a “me-time” moment to consider what it is you want for your future. You may be surprised at your responses.

4. Write down short-term and long-term goals, both personal and professional. Then, write down a list of actions to attain those goals.

Once again, as with #5 above, personal moments in this regard can prove highly-motivating, and invaluable over time.

3. Take your first actions from the above list (#3).

Nothing happens in a vacuum. Take those first actions the very night you jot them. If you were honest with those goals, and you want them badly enough, other actions on that list may follow. Here’s to meeting your dreams in the new year, and beyond.

2. Reach out, if you can, to someone long-distance. A friend, a relative …

Remember the phone? As in, for calling as opposed to texting? If you don’t, give it a shot. Reach out and touch some — you get the picture. (And, of course, if you must text, go for it. Whatever it takes if you desire even a modicum of human interaction.)

1. Go to sleep early.

It is what it is. Go to sleep early. I used to do exactly that every Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve at about 8AM. I had no one to celebrate with, and I elected to spare my sanity by avoiding the televised hugs and kisses from the sanctity of my studio apartment (at the time). I hit the sack, in preparation for a promising new start.

To be clear, the above advice is shared solely from a personal perspective. When I was alone, my own feelings of despair were at times overwhelming. Only from this perspective, as one not diagnosed with depression-related issues though sensitive to those who are, am I able to empathize with the plight of anyone who fights every day for a smile.

If We Did Not Choose to be Alone, Why the Loneliness?

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We are alone, or we feel alone, for different reasons. The death of a loved one. Geographic undesirability or difficulty. Being single.

A bad marriage.

Whatever the reason, taking stock of an upcoming new year and with it new possibilities and opportunities can be a plus.

Do what you must to pass the time, but try to proactively and constuctively create tomorrows, if at all possible, by doing something positive for yourself.

What Happens After The Holidays?

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What typically happens after the holidays, for those alone or depressed, is a temporary relief from the blues. We have come through the worst of it.

What now?

We all must remain diligent throughout the year, and look out for each other both before and after the winter months.

The holidays tend to punctuate thoughts and emotions related to being alone. But those thoughts are, most especially for one diagnosed with depression, already there and confronted on a daily basis.

By presenting these points in this forum, I hope I have reached readers on both sides of the issue: those who may need help, and those who may be able to give help.

Of course, if we are able to effectively communicate and meet tomorrow together … we can help each other that much more effectively.

If you are among those who are alone during this season, I wish you well, and happier days to come.

If you believe your issues require immediate help, or you just need someone to talk to, the following line is available 24-7:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

1–800–273–8255

Photo Credits: (From top) stock image, stock image, Warren Wong from Unsplash, Sincerely Media from Unsplash

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA
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