the Rock Doc:
Sound Advice for a Song
By psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, Ph.D.,
Aka Dr BLT
* Details contained in the original correspondence, or inquiry have been omitted or otherwise altered to protect the confidentiality of the inquiring party and to make key spiritual/psychological points.
Dear Doc BLT:
Hi! My name is Donna Downey. Iím 33 years of age and Iím African-American, as is my husband. I live in Oildale, California. Christmas is just around the corner, and Iím usually pretty big on Christmas, and Iím a church-going Christian, but Iím just not feeling the Christmas spirit this year. Iím kinda sorta a little depressed, not suicidal, not yet anyway, but definitely in the depressive zone is you know what Iím saying.
I usually travel to Montana to see my husbandís parents, but my husband and I canít afford it this year, as he was laid off of his job 4 months ago. Heís a street musician, but heís unappreciated and underpaid as one. He tried to get a job as Santa, but they wouldnít hire him anywhere. I hate to be that paranoid person that sees racial motives behind everything, but I think itís because heís black.
My dad had a top ten country hit (yes, thatís right, heís country and heís black) back in the 60s, but he squandered all of his fortune, and heís now an alcoholic in a rocky marriage with my mom. We have one child. She is two. Thereís more information I could share with you, but Iím too depressed to continue.
Donna Downey Down
Dear Donna Downey Down: Thatís a whole lotta Dís and they spell depression. Depression can be seen as an unwelcome foe, or as an invitation to explore issues that seem to be bringing you sadness. Although you still have your husband, I think you could probably identify with the mood introduced in this song:
What Kind of Christmas (Has
Iím also of the opinion that you and your husband may find some sort of comfort in this song about another African-American male who was turned down a job as Santa, ostensibly for his skin color:
Sometimes the best way to experience gladness is to allow yourself to feel, and to express the sadness. What you are feeling is legitimate sorrow, though it may be exacerbated by a genetic or physiological predisposition to clinical depression. It has to do with the experience of loss and it is a grieving process that you are faced with. Grieving doesnít respect the time or day and it certainly doesnít take Christmas vacations.
Grieving has to do with loss, and, though it may be more acute after the passing away of a loved one, it doesnít necessarily have to do with the experience of actual death of a person.
Youíve lost your father, ostensibly, to alcoholism. You and your husband have lost a steady source of income, and with it, your peace of mind, and possibly your confidence, both individually, and as a couple and a family. Along with the financial loss, and concomitant sense of security and confidence, youíve lost an opportunity to visit your in-laws, a family tradition Iím assuming you and your husband treasure.
You canít hide from grief, or put it off. You canít simply put on a happy Christmas face. You must explore your various losses with a professional, a friend or a pastor, depending on the severity of your condition. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you need to go to an emergency psychiatric unit or call a crisis line right away. If you are not thinking about suicide, but are otherwise having trouble facing your day and if you are just barely getting yourself out of bed in the morning, you most definitely need to see a psychologist (or another licensed mental health professional) and a psychiatrist for medication.
If your depression is manageable, but persistently painful nonetheless, then perhaps simply surrounding yourself with supportive family members and friends, and seeking the assistance of your church pastor, will be sufficient. Either way, you will need to open up, and you will need to openly express, not hide, your sadness.
If I were a psychological Santa, I would come down your chimney and leave you and your family a gift of joy and peace of mind on Christmas eve, if not, before. Unfortunately, I donít possess those powers. While Iíd like you to be happy all throughout your Christmas season, you just need to be happier than you are now, and incrementally moving towards the type of joy expressed in this song:
Spread Some New Year Cheer
Perhaps getting a babysitter for your little one, and spending some quality alone time with your husband, doing something relaxing on the cheap will also help to buffer the blow of the multiple losses you have experienced. If you agree, then hereís a little song that may add some romance to the moment:
Christmas For Two
Maybe your husband, also being a musician, could share some of his songs with you.
Good heavens, Iíve just given
nearly ½ a CD of songs away. I hope the songs and the suggestions
put you on the path from grief to relief. This can be accomplished
only through belief. Believe that there is a light at the end of
your dark tunnel. There is. It may be a bit insensitive, and
somewhat unrealistic to wish you a Merry Christmas, but I do with you a
Christmas that is meaningful and merrier than expected! God bless!