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My 12-step anti-depression program for the holidays

Every year I’m struck by the same thought during the holidays: why are all the holiday movie classics about people with mental illnesses who are wonderfully restored to good health by a Christmas miracle?

George Bailey jumped off a bridge on Christmas Eve and miraculously snaps out of his depression with the help of a bumbling angel named Clarence. Natalie Wood, the clearly depressed mom in Miracle on 34th Street, is made happy and healthy by a department store Santa who ended up in Bellevue.shutterstock_66174244

Scrooge’s depression is lifted when the grim reaper comes knocking. Linus’ rendition of the nativity seems to alleviate Charlie Brown’s perennial dysthymia.

Folks, I’m here to tell you it ain’t that easy. You’re not going to get an angel like Clarence to show you what life would be like without you and the grim reaper – hopefully – won’t come visit. We’re on our own.

Frankly, for many of us the holidays suck. We’re supposed to be happy, happy, happy! And nothing sucks more than trying to force yourself to be happy, happy, happy and being around people who ARE happy, happy, happy because it’s the holiday season.

I live in south Florida but grew up in the frigid north. Even though I’ve been down here for nearly 30 years, it’s hard to get in the Christmas spirit when it’s 80-degrees. Jimmy Buffet ain’t Bing Crosby.

I will never get used to buying my Christmas tree in flip-flops. Apparently, by the pictures my friends are posting on Facebook, ya’ll are having a nice, white Christmas up there. I miss that and my family, which basically disintegrated after the death of my parents.

I’m whining. I know it. It’s probably one of the more annoying symptoms of depression. But I am doing something about it. I have a 12-step program.

1. I’m not watching television or listening to the radio. At all Especially those diamond commercials where the guy whips out a gazillion-carat ring or the Lexus in the driveway with the gargantuan red bow that elicits a syrupy honey-you-shouldn’t-have glance. Those commercials really bug the shit out of me.

And that Feliz Navidad song playing over and over and over on the radio makes me feel like I’m a prisoner in Guantanamo being subjected to some kind of audible torture technique designed to drive me insane.

2. Don’t drink alcohol – at all. Alcohol is a depressant. It’s like throwing gas on the embers of my depression. A drink coupled with the inevitability of hearing Feliz Navidad would surely push me into my black hole.

3. Remember January, February and March and the horrific seasonal-affective depression  that followed my white Christmases up north. Be grateful for the sunshine and 80-degree day that lies ahead.

4. Focus on the nativity and not on Megyn Kelly – whose comments on Santa’s race I did NOT watch on television but instead viewed on YouTube after my friends informed me of her ridiculous comments. I thought they were joking.

5. Take my meds. Period.

6. Absorb the raw joy and innocence of my friends’ little ones.

7. Expect nothing.

8. Give freely.

9. Stay within my budget.

10. Pray.

11. Pray.

12. Pray.

Amen and God bless ye merry sons-of-a-bitches who will be sporting big-ass rings and shiny new Lexuses on December 26. I will be at the beach.

Sad ginger-bread boy available from Shutterstock





My 12-step anti-depression program for the holidays

Christine Stapleton

Christine Stapleton has been a journalist for 35 years. She is now an investigative reporter for The Palm Beach Post. In 2006, began writing a blog for PsychCentral called Depression on My Mind. Her latest blog, Addiction Matters, draws on her 19 years of sobriety and her coverage of the drug treatment industry in South Florida.

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APA Reference
Stapleton, C. (2013). My 12-step anti-depression program for the holidays. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 17 Dec 2013
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