I snuggle with my dogs. I’m really thankful they want to snuggle. I need them. They hunger for my touch the way I hunger for the touch of another human. Doggie connection is certainly better than no connection at all. It meets a need. Being greeted with excitement when coming home from work is something I treasure and enjoy. Having them vie for my attention, roll over to expose their little tummies for rubbing, wedging themselves as close to me as possible when we bed down for the night, all these things warm my heart. Knowing they are secure in my presence and are sure of my love gives me purpose. I am grateful. I am blessed. But I am alone. I am isolated. Their life is the only life in my universe. Their light is the only light. Contact with them is the only contact I receive. It is important. It is meaningful. It’s just not quite enough.And then there are the parties. Most of which don’t involve me. Because I’m not a part of anyone’s core group or family. So I find myself watching happy, excited people talking about upcoming events or sharing about festivities they just attended, knowing I don’t belong and am not connected enough to be welcomed into the hubbub of their jovial celebrations. Almost everyone seems to have plans that involve connecting and they are anticipating sharing meaningful times with those they care about while making memories they can cherish. Some parties do involve me. A few of us at work were invited to dinner by my boss. The invitation was extended to me…and a guest. I stared at the invitation for a long time because I knew I don’t have anyone in my life who is enough of a friend that I can ask them to accompany me to the event; an event I can’t avoid, since it’s work-related. Initiated by my boss. So I will be the single among couples. The awkward fifth wheel. Which just spotlights my isolation. Rubbing my face in it. Then there’s the money angle that’s creating tension and excruciating pressure. I have none. I’m so close to the end of my resources, there are times I literally can’t breathe because of terror. Knowing it’s all coming crashing down on me; that it’s just a matter of time literally takes my breath away. Considering my precarious situation, the depth of my debt and the shortage of available funds, there is no way I can participate in gift giving. Not that I have many people to buy for, but I can’t even provide a meager offering to those few. If they lived closer, I could offer non-monetary gifts, giving my time or talents, such as they are. But they live far enough away to make this impractical. Considering it will be difficult to come up with the funds to buy gas for my car to make the trip “home” for Christmas, my options are severely restricted. The weather is a challenge. The cold is painful. The ice and snow make getting to and from work dangerous. Even a trip to the grocery store is highly stressful and hazardous. It takes a lot more work and stamina for me to face the day when the day is dark, gloomy, icy and frigid. All of this causes the depression that routinely keeps me in a choke hold, that barely allows me to catch my breath enough to survive, to take me into a zone of near unconsciousness and immobility. I fight for every shallow gasp of air. I fight to want to live. To have the strength or desire to keep breathing. To do even the bare necessities life demands. My mind fogs, my heart exists in a very dark and ugly land, devoid of joy, meaning, dreams and I lack the will to initiate motion. It takes me under the ominous waters of the churning ocean I swim in every single day. I drown in the arms of the cold and paralyzing waves that push me down. My eating disorder doesn’t fare well either. As the anxiety level ratchets upward, my need to somehow control the uncontrollable intensifies. It is harder for me to resist multiple binge purge sessions nightly and on the weekends, everything escalates. I am continually trying to balance between the point of no return and being able to sustain life. Or to care if I do sustain life. The behaviors truly only make things worse, but in some insane way, in some part of my wounded psyche, they get me by. They also make me crazy, driving me to desperation, draining my very limited finances, risking my health. So I go another round to alleviate the tension. To numb the pain. To distance myself from my overwhelming issues. This is not how I envisioned my life would turn out. Navigating this season is like walking through a mine field…it’s only a matter of time before I step on something that blows me apart. There are too many reminders of the harsh reality in which I live. Too many reminders of how bleak is my world. While it is the season to count blessings and to be thankful, there is an excruciating edge to it that cuts deeply. I am thankful and blessed in many ways. And I am grateful. I have a job. I have two sweet little Schnauzers who love me dearly. I have a brother who cares. I’m not in the hospital. I still have a roof over my head, even if it doesn’t appear that will last much longer. Today, I have shelter and heat and food. My car still runs, though it is old. I can still get up out of a chair without effort and my joints don’t ache and scream. I can see. I can hear. I can talk and think. My memory isn’t what it used to be, but it still functions relatively well. I have some fun clothes. Too many clothes. But I love clothes, so they are a little source of enjoyment. My computer still works. I’m connected with a lot of people I’m acquainted with via Facebook which provides me with some much needed interaction, even though it’s only electronic. I’m relatively intelligent and that has helped me in many ways in my life. So please don’t think I’m not appreciative of the good things that are available to me. I am. Is it wrong to want more? Is it wrong to want to experience the connectedness so many others seem to have? To finally know this season as the most wonderful time of the year?
You know the song…”It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Or not. It’s really not such a wonderful time of the year for some of us. For example, it’s pretty tough for people like me who struggle with depression. A depression that is made worse by the shorter days and scarce daylight. For those of us who don’t have close family or significant connections, it also sucks. Because the season is all about family. Loved ones. Celebrating with friends and your family unit. Laughing. Hugging. Enjoying. Connecting. There is a hollowness about the whole holiday season for those of us who are alone and disconnected. The laughter is all around us, but not in us. The warmth never reaches us. We watch it happening, but it never touches our heart. We hunger for it, but are never able to partake. We remain empty and alone and hurting. And famished. The last time someone touched me was when my brother and sister-in-law gave me a hug over Thanksgiving. Other than that, I haven’t been hugged in a very long time. That lack of touch is painful. It’s not something you give much thought, particularly if you are embraced and caressed sufficiently. But when you aren’t, when it does happen, it takes you by surprise, for you suddenly realize how desperate you are for that physical contact. You abruptly grasp the significance of what you are lacking. But physical touch is not the only thing you are missing. The touching of souls, the meeting of hearts, the connecting of minds…that’s not happening either. It’s a deadly combination. And this time of year brings the deadliness of the lack, and resulting void, into sharp focus.