Shaking the Christmastime Blues


For people like myself, who have wrestled with Depression, Anxiety and mental illness as long as they can remember, the Christmas season is less the most wonderful time of the year than the bleakest, most challenging and emotionally fraught season in a calendar full of them. It’s fucking brutal, y’all, precisely because it’s supposed to be so goddamn jolly and filled with cheer. 

December has generally been the toughest month of the year for me for reasons that go beyond having spent almost all of them in the heart of a Chicago winter. The end of the year is a time for reflection and looking back and, for someone who spends so much of his professional life examining his life and the curious, circuitous path it has traveled, that has always been tough for me. I spend a lot of my existence as a writer looking back, yet that hasn’t kept me from seeing big parts of my history and my psyche as a Pandora’s Box I will do anything to avoid opening for fear of the demons and dragons that might be unleashed. I’m not speaking metaphorically.

The unrelenting pressure to be happy, social and generous all Christmas season long (in order to propagate the cruel hoax that is capitalism) makes the inevitable loneliness, sadness and depression so many of us feel each December even more painful and acute. When everyone in the world is supposed to be happy, unhappiness begins to feel like treason, to badly paraphrase a Stephen Merritt lyric. We depressives always feel like we’re on the outside looking in, perpetually uninvited to the big, gaudy, happy party that is American life. During Christmas that feeling is exponentially more intense. 


At Christmastime the gulf between the lives we actually lead and the lives that consumer society angrily demands we lead is at its most terrifyingly vast. Christmas is supposed to be when friends, family, cozy Christmas consumer culture and the Santa Claus side of capitalism combine to give lucky Americans a natural Yuletide high, a rosy, apple-cheeked glow that comes with weeks off of work, presents to look forward to, and, God willing, a big old Christmas bonus or raise to start things off on an up note next year. 

Instead it’s a time when a LOT of us are fired from jobs we probably hated, because the Scrooges who control Capitalism are eager to wipe money-losing divisions off the balance sheet before a new year begins. We’re desperately lonely at a time when every commercial insists we should be spending our evenings smiling before a crackling fire with friends and family, a cup of cocoa in our hands. 


It’s a sick goddamn lie is what it is that, like so many other aspects of capitalism relentlessly promoted by the people at the top of the socio-economic ladder because it gives them power and money and control and keeps the masses from revolting against their money-grubbing oppressors. 

What I’m saying, dear reader, is that I’m only now beginning to realize that I am, in fact, a Communist. I blame Christmas. And capitalism. And the nakedly capitalistic nature of Christmas. This lunacy has made me a Christmas Communist. That’s my new identity.


For many of us, Christmas is not something to look forward to all year round. It’s something to be endured and while I’ve been holding up pretty well this year, all things considered, I must remain ever vigilant.  Santa won’t be sliding down my chimney any time soon, being a poisonous capitalist scheme and all, but the Black Dog of depression is never shy about paying me a Christmastime visit.

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