Christmas Carols and Mental Illness

How is that for a clickbate title?

No, I am not suggesting a correlation. It’s more like I am combining things.

Today I happened upon this: No, I’m Fine

It won’t take long to read it, so go read it! If it doesn’t ring a bell with you, it may still help you understand what some other people face.

I’ve overloaded before. I can’t say if my overloads are like his because I’m not in Mr. Tayler’s head, but what he says is hauntingly familiar. When the stress ratchets up to a level that flips a particular switch in my brain, a kind of pressure-valve, I change. It’s usually caused either by sensory overload (there is a reason I avoid noisy concerts and large masses of people…) or from having too much to do. Being single means that, apart from the kindness of family and occasionally friends, I have to do All The Things myself. And there are a Lot of Things. I tremble when I try to imagine what it’s like for single parents!

This is different from my depression, but not unrelated. The stress can either tip me into overload (more violent, but shorter lived), or depression. That is, the machine either executes an emergency release of pressure, or it simply shuts down. As a friend and I recently said over e-mail, depression sucks. She, dear heart, is grieving. That is a monster of a trigger.

Side Note: if you’re wondering why I refer to my brain as if it’s made of gears and pipes and switches, it’s because it helps me give context to the things that happen in it over which I have no control. And if you don’t buy the idea that I have no control over some processes in that particular fleshy mass, then you really need to educate yourself on how mental illness works. If you can “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps,” or “cheer yourself up,” then you are dealing with the more unpleasant aspects of normal human emotion. Real depression, or anxiety, or other mental afflictions are not in that range. They are what happens when something goes wrong with the machinery. If you haven’t experienced what that’s like, then the best thing you can do is listen to those who have and believe them.

For my friend who is grieving, this is a hard time. It’s a hard time for a lot of people. I know of a family who recently and unexpectedly lost a child around the same age as my nephew. My heart broke when I heard about it, and it’s been breaking off and on ever since. I can’t imagine what that must be like. How hollow the season of comfort and joy must feel for them right now. How they might want it to go away, to leave them alone. Please remember them in your prayers.

Cheery stuff for around Christmas, I know. As it turns out, I’m stressed right now, but otherwise pretty even-keeled. I’ve had a few small overloads, but no depression. I am extremely blessed to be able to say that, and I am on-my-knees grateful.

Still, this does not look like it will be a lighthearted season for me this year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (though I do like to have a lighthearted Christmas, when I can). Sure, this is a time for rejoicing that Our Lord came and took human form for our sakes, but isn’t part of that rejoicing a recognition of why He came? Why we needed Him so very badly, and why His coming was not only Good News, but the only possible Good News a world like ours can receive? That the Perfect Creator would take up weakness, vulnerability, grief, pain, and not only death, but seeming-abandonment by God Himself. For if ever we feel so abandoned or forgotten, we can still look to Him and realize that He, too, cried out “why have You forsaken Me?”

And then He overcame. He rose even from that darkness and death. God had not truly abandoned God, as He has not truly abandoned us. And He is still bringing us up along with Him. He came down to our level in order to lift us up from that mire. I think that is very Good News. And seeing the mire around me only highlights just how Good.

Hope is born in human flesh, in a cave filled with animals, and that is our comfort and our joy.

And now, yet again, my Carol Countdown from 2013.

December 1: O Magnum Mysterium – Nothing says Christmas like 16th Century Latin

December 3: Away in a Manger – probably not the version you know…

December 6: Hearth and Fire – more winter than Christmas, but lovely

December 8: Balulalow – A joyful song from Scotland

December 10: Don Oiche ud ImBethil – Softer, more meditative fare. It gives me chills.

December 13: Cantique de Noel – You may know this as “O Holy Night” but I dare say that it is far more beautiful in French, especially with Joan Baez’s voice

December 15: Beautiful Star of Bethlehem – Twangy country Christmas music, and a fine example

December 17: Brugundian Carol – a softer, more mellow folk carol

December 20: Third Carol for Christmas Day – hauntingly beautiful song from the 1700’s

December 22: Veni, Veni Emmanuel – I love “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in any language, but there is something of crystal-beauty to the words in Latin.

December 24: Go, Tell it on the Mountain – The incomparable Odetta, what more can I say?

December 25: Christmas in the Trenches – And finally, the Christmas offering. It’s pretty self-explanatory

Love and blessings to you all! And Peace, and Joy, and every good thing.

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About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

13 responses to “Christmas Carols and Mental Illness

  • wispywillow

    I can relate to Mr. Tayler’s post on several levels. I’ve been at that level of overwhelmed where I feel like I can’t function, and when my mother used to try to make suggestions, I’d snap at her because I just wanted space to think. Since her death, I’ve not been at that level of frustration… I’m not sure if it’s because she was the one who frustrated me on many levels, if the new house gives me a little more breathing room, or if at this point in my grieving process, I still don’t care about anything enough to be overwhelmed anymore. (And on a side note, I can also relate to his anger at having to take pills in the first place.)

    This year has been the first that I truly understand why suicide levels increase during the holidays. I knew before, but now I understand. God, I’m even wrenched with guilt that I was in England last Christmas and didn’t spend it–what was unknowingly Mom’s last Christmas–with her.

    I need to get the presents she has wrapped out of her closet and sent out to their intended recipients. I want them gone, away. I want the terrible pain of that chore to be behind me. And as for my remaining family… I need to bring myself closer to them, but instead I’m isolating myself from them. To do otherwise seems too energy-consuming.

    *sighs and leans*

    • jubilare

      *hugs tightly* I know you know this, though I also know you can’t feel it right now, but your Christmas away is not a cause for guilt. Regret, perhaps, because regret touches on things we could not have known, but we aren’t guilty for not knowing the future.

      Is there anyone you can get to help you ship the presents? I’d like to get up there and help, but that wouldn’t be until after the holidays.

      *sighs and hugs more* The thing we want least to do while depressed is usually the thing that we most need to do. I hate that about depression. It simultaneously attacks us and makes us not want to fight back.
      If you can, before you go, try and see a family member or two, just for tea or something, not even to talk about things, but just to touch. Still, it’s ok if you you can’t do it. Time will come, again, when you can.

  • David

    Thanks for the link to Mr. Taylor’s post — it was an illuminating read, and something I and people I know can at least somewhat relate to. Thanks also for those links to your previous advent posts — it was great to hear those different versions of Christmas songs.

    • jubilare

      Hello, friend. ^_^
      I’ve found that, with such struggles, learning that one is not alone is helpful.

      I’m glad you enjoyed them. One of these days I hope to make a new list, but not yet.

  • Deborah Makarios

    That’s the really wonderful thing about Christmas – not the gifts, the being with loved ones, the food, the singing – the really wonderful thing is that whatever it is, He’s with us in it. In essence, that is the meaning of Christmas.
    Thanks for not trying to be mindlessly cheerful.

    • jubilare

      “He’s with us in it. In essence, that is the meaning of Christmas.” Amen. That is both an unspeakable comfort, and a joy capable of transcending circumstances.

      Time for some Chesterton!

      A Child of the Snows

      There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,
      And never before or again,
      When the nights are strong with a darkness long,
      And the dark is alive with rain.

      Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
      The place where the great fires are,
      That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth
      And the heart of the earth a star.

      And at night we win to the ancient inn
      Where the child in the frost is furled,
      We follow the feet where all souls meet
      At the inn at the end of the world.

      The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,
      For the flame of the sun is flown,
      The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,
      And a Child comes forth alone.
      -by G. K. Chesterton

      I fail at faking cheeriness, anyway. Either I’m cheery or I’m not, and if I’m not, faking it just gets me funny looks.

  • Colleen Whitver

    Good timing, my darling. And I am going to listen to your carols and finish some Christmas prep.

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