For some North Country residents it’s a dark trek from late fall to early spring. The warmer weather and longer days of springtime make the unhappy holiday memories of last December fade away.
But isn’t Christmas a time of good cheer?
Not for everyone. Take “Leon,” a victim each year of the blue Christmas syndrome. In the dead of winter with its long black nights and gray days, the holidays mean pain, not pleasure.
SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder accounts for part of the problem. Christmas is supposed to fight the wintry gloom but bright decorations and upbeat seasonal music has the opposite effect on Leon.
As a child he thought Christmas never lived up to its hype. “Who are these people?” he stated in an email interview. “Didn’t they learn anything from last year? Daylight is disappearing day by day and it gets colder.” His depression starts at Thanksgiving and can end by mid-January.
Leon has to deal with a dilemma. “After a time,” he explains, “I don’t want to be part of the festivities and I don’t want to bring down the crazy, happy Christmas people so I feel guilty.”
Leon experiences headaches and anger, loss of energy. He tired when he’s supposed to be energetic, ready to participate in the holiday activities.
At first blue Christmas was easier to deal with when he was working. He could channel some of his anger by taking on extra work and burning energy. But this didn’t help because it made the problem worse: it increased his fatigue and stress; he became more inflexible in any negotiations.
Leon was asked how others should respond to his state during the holidays.
“Leave me alone,” he responded. “I’ll get over it – if not this year maybe sometime in the next ten years or so.”
“I don’t conform well,” he added. “I do things to be part of a community and I continue to take part till it becomes lunacy or causes pain.”
And what about all those newspaper and magazine articles that explain how to deal with seasonal stress and depression?
“They just add to the clutter and make people more determined to make it a wonderful holiday for everyone,” said Leon. “They, people who give that advice, are some of the people who should be beaten with a pine tree till they shut up.”