If you conducted a survey asking people how they feel about the holidays, some are going to report they wholeheartedly love them while others find holidays about as enjoyable as getting a root canal.
In an ideal world, we would all cherish and embrace the holidays but our dark side often gets in the way. Depression loves to rear its ugly head this time of year.
Jingle Bells, Depression Sucks
Baby Boomers do not have the monopoly on depression but this condition has become the bane of those born between 1946 and 1964. Holidays make the blues even more apparent among this age group.
Donald A. Malone, Jr., M.D., director of the Mood and Anxiety Clinic at Cleveland Clinic says Boomers have a decidedly higher rate of depression than the previous generation. No one knows specifically why this is so but it is thought stress triggers depression in this cluster of people. But why are Boomers more stressed out than their parents were?
If the answer to this were simple, we would wave a magic wand and everyone would be depression-free, embracing life like nobody’s business. However, that is not the case for many. Depression often goes undiagnosed and people can live a lifetime in the throes of its wicked embrace.
Boomers do have a situation that is unlike their parents’ world. There are much higher rates of divorce among this group, as well as alcoholism, drug abuse, mental disorders and obesity than in the previous generation.
Boomers are working well into their sixties and seventies, long after their parents had retired, and may be caring for elderly and infirmed parents as well as supporting adult children who have failed to launch, which is stressful and takes a financial toll.
When depression is unbearable, people sometimes resort to suicide, which is happening all too often among Boomers. Isn’t this supposed to be the ‘best time’ of our lives?
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Many have lost their life partners to suicide or natural death, which is the perfect recipe for stress, anxiety and loneliness, particularly during the holidays.
Carol’s husband committed suicide several years ago and the holidays have been exceptionally difficult for her since:
“I love the holidays but they also depress/stress me due to the fact that all my kids are on their own with families now. I have always had them Christmas Eve from the first year their dad and I divorced but this year one of them wants to start her own family tradition of having Christmas Eve at her own home....which I understand. The boys and their families will be here so I am still going have my traditional Christmas Eve.
“I guess when you are single and the kids are grown there comes a time to finally let go but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I miss my hubby at holidays because he was a big kid at heart. He loved all holidays, the decorating, the music, the cooking, you name it. He went all out. I really miss that part of it. But life goes on.”
It may be we have impractical expectations about holidays. Boomers were weaned on TV shows and movies (now you can blame it on the Lifetime channel) portraying Ozzie and Harriet style families, Grandpa lovingly telling stories by a roaring fire; abundant food, presents and fabulous decorations in a dwelling so big and comfortable no one ever wants to leave it.
The food, decorations and presents have mysteriously and effortlessly appeared on the scene, with no one so much as breaking a sweat let alone a vase over someone’s head. Grandma doesn’t have a hair out of place, never stops smiling, and accomplishes it all while wearing high heels (ALA Donna Reed.)
We think this is what everyone does and we should be doing it, too, even though we may not have the money, the resources or anyone to come to our holiday gathering.
Your children and grandchildren may live thousands of miles away and can’t get home for the holidays. Divorce is a factor. The grandkids are spending time with the other parent over the holidays, which means you don’t get to see them at all. That is truly depressing.
What to Do
When a Boomer is battling depression year-round it may become exacerbated during the holidays. Be aware of this in advance. Don’t sit idly by and let it take over. Wage war against it.
Take care of yourself, eat properly, get enough sleep and take your meds. Get out, go to church, volunteer, take a walk, get a pet, do something!
If you need to, make an appointment to see your physician and tell him what’s going on. Maybe your medication needs increased or changed altogether.
If you are comfortable doing so, share with understanding friends or family members that you are struggling. Find a support group. Talking about it may help.
Figure out what your triggers are. If you get depressed in the evening, put on your coat, get in your car and go do something in the evening hours that distracts you.
Watch your alcohol consumption. Drinking is a temporarily stop-gap measure but can ultimately backfire and make you even more distraught.
Instead of succumbing to the black hole of depression, fight back. You are most assuredly not alone in this battle.
Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism back in the dark ages (aka before computers, the Internet and cell phones. Heck, before electric typewriters!) A former newspaper writer/columnist and photographer, her fiction and non-fiction work has been published in national magazines. A full-time freelance writer, as well as an avid gardener, an artist and yoga aficionado, Cindi is a Baby Boomer and proud of it. She has survived the gnarly challenges of the sandwich generation and lived to tell the tale. Cindi has somehow managed to stay married to her first and only husband for nearly 35 years. They are the parents of three grown children and the grandparents of one. She has five large, raucous dogs, five acres to mow on her beloved zero turn mower, and gets the biggest kick out of making people laugh on Facebook. (P.S. She refuses to cut her hair short.)