Seems a lot of folks have a lot of gift ideas for the people on your shopping list who have depression, bipolar and alcoholism. Since I have bipolar disorder and alcoholism – and I love to shop –  I thought you might be interested in my thoughts.

First, remember that we probably did not get you a gift. Your beautifully wrapped gifts remind us that we didn’t get anything for you or anyone else that we had on our list

Let’s start with what NOT to give someone with depression, bipolar or alcoholism. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES give someone who is currently in a major depression a self-help book or – even worse – the biography or autobiography of some tragic artist or celeb who suffered from depression and killed herself.

Not only is the topic inappropriate, we cannot read when we are at the bottom of our black holes. Our brains can barely focus long enough to read the label on a prescription bottle. Books only remind us of what we cannot do because we are sick. Besides, Depak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey sound kind of silly when suicide seems like a reasonable solution. 

For God’s sake, don’t get us funny movies. Even Johnny Knoxville is not funny when you are seriously depressed. Funny movies only remind us that nothing is funny when you are in a major depression.

Bath products are a backhanded way of saying, “Gee, have you given any thought to getting off your butt and taking a bath?” Ixnay on candy because a giant Toblerone chocolate bar will not bring us happiness, especially if we have gained weight.

Double ixnay on anything alcoholic – even rum cake – which no one likes anyway. Alcohol is a depressant. ‘Nuf said.

As for music – be careful. Be very, very careful. We have already been bombarded with the terminally chipper Feliz Navidad song and we do not need to hear Blue Christmas again. If you want to give the gift of music, make sure it is an artist that you know we already like or that you are certain we will like and that there are NO SONGS IN A MINOR KEY.

About now you are probably wondering, gee, what’s left? Not much, which is the point. It’s not about stuff. Those of us in a black hole already know this. We have lost interest in material things, no matter who beautiful or expensive. It’s stuff. Just stuff. You may think that stuff will make us happy, but stuff is a worthless commodity in a black hole.

This is where it gets tricky. Because having someone in your life with depression forces you to evaluate your own definition of happiness. You learn that happiness is a verb. It’s an action word. Shovel my driveway. Wash my car or laundry. Pay my mortgage/car/utility bill this month. Even better, pay them all! Bring over a healthy meal. Clean the bathroom. Hang a bird feeder from the tree outside a window where I can silently sit and watch the birds. Fill it every morning with seed. Walk and play with my dog.

All we want for Christmas is thoughtfulness. It’s all that really matters.