Community View | Fighting off the demon of isolation, depression

Experts say that this time of year can be overwhelmingly depressing. Depression, in turn, can lead to suicide. Those same experts say just talking about suicide will not make others suicidal.

Let’s explore this. The December holidays were never meant to revolve around what comes from Sears, Macy’s or any other department store. I am not going to delve into how and why Christmas has become what it is, rather I am going to look at why experts in psychology think that the holidays are so depressing for some.

Suicide is the end result of someone not wanting to exist in the world. The person can’t stand being in physical or emotional pain. They feel trapped or they start to feel hopeless. Regardless, that person is selfish. It may sound cruel in the beginning, but hear me out.

Let’s call my case study Amanda. Amanda has been through a lot and she sees no end to her discomfort in sight. She is in pain that can’t be stopped or controlled anymore. She makes it through each task by promising her body that at the end of the task, she will sit and rest. She is standing to wash a dozen dishes or load them in the dishwasher. Her hands ache. Her back hurts and her legs burn. She looks at the bottle of whiskey, a slow death.

Drinking two fifths or more a day will cause more pain by destroying vital organs. She looks at her pills. She could take them and simply drift off and die whilst sleeping. She thinks of her ex-boyfriend’s gun. Quick but messy. She thinks of the knife she is rinsing, equally messy. A small tear seeps from her eye.

Amanda is only thinking of herself and her pain. She is not thinking of who will take care of her pets, or how will the policeman feel when he finds her body. She is not thinking of all the lives she would have impacted. Amanda doesn’t care who else is hurt, the ex that tried to love her, the neighbor that will miss their short chats, or the person she will never give a kind word or a helping hand to.

Amanda doesn’t think she matters to anyone or anything. So the young child who falls on an icy sidewalk and breaks his ankle in January won’t have her to comfort him and call for help, to reunite him with his family. The child will sit there alone until noticed by someone in traffic passing by the quiet street until he’s nearly hypothermic, and he will learn no one will be there to help and the demon isolation will start to grow in his life.

I have painted a pretty bleak and depressing picture. The isolation of a person, the failure to thrive, pain and hopelessness is pretty dark stuff.

We are all connected. Our cheerful hello and smile helps remove the focus from our pain. A simple act of kindness by each of us, and a willingness to respond when we receive it, is a life changer. For Amanda, nothing can stop the pain, but she can distract herself from it. She can create art and show it, and she can interact with people she passes every day. Amanda can choose to reach out and smile and gift another with the light of that smile. Smiles and laughter are contagious just as swearing is.

Isolation can’t feel like isolation when someone opens a door for you and says “Hey there!” Or “Hello!” We don’t ask, “How are you?” We are afraid they will depress us and remind us of our own tale of woes. But, at least we can smile and offer a hand to someone struggling.

Christmas and the winter solstice have always been about a new beginning. A sense of peace in the dark winter’s night and a genuine love felt for your fellow human. Peace on Earth, goodwill toward man.

Unlike Amanda, I challenge you, if you feel isolated, if you feel unhappy about your world, reach out and say hello, offer a hand of help. And if a person reaches out to you, don’t look at them with wary eyes, just smile. There might be down on their luck people around, but that doesn’t mean you can’t say hello or acknowledge their existence. Most of us don’t have the financial freedom to risk giving anything away to a stranger, but a simple acknowledgement is a gift in itself. It stops the isolation from being so profound and it causes hope.

Yes, I am oversimplifying. But my point is when you think no one cares and no one loves you, look in the mirror and accept you. Give yourself the same unconditional acceptance that you would like to receive and give others. Give yourself permission to not be perfect and live. Know your pets will be loved by you and you by them. Know that all you meet will accept you like you accept you and the cycle of isolation stops. Reach out to a friend, clergy, mental health professional, or just simply start by saying hello with a smile. You have the power to walk away from the demon isolation.

Suicide isn’t a cure for the problem, it just starts more problems for everyone else that you knew or would have known in the future. So if you are going to extinguish something this season, extinguish the darkness of isolation. The life you change may be yours, or it may be ours. The possibilities are endless.

It is your choice.

*Amanda is fictitious.