Have Chainsaw Will TravelIt’s the kind of dream one can never truly explain, only experience. A nightmare that’s raw, graphic and visually visceral on an emotional level of surrealism that goes beyond terror. An unconscious vision that fills your soul with desperation, compelling the fabric of your being to fight its way back to the waking world… only to realize you can never truly wake up.

A stifled scream is emitted and abruptly reduced to a pained gasp of agony laden with despair. Eyes fluttering open, to blink back the hot tears that stream down shallow cheeks. Hands reach out, groping for purchase or purpose in this present darkness and are found wanting.

There is a moment of confusion… where? This followed by a resigned sigh of realization and recognition. The sofa… of course it’s the living room sofa, the refuge and sanctuary of sleepless nights. Because sleeping in the bedroom… in the bed… is just… just can’t.

The television, which drowned looping thought and lulled to sleep, casts the ghostly glow of the home screen about the room. Its 3:17am, still a few hours left till morning. Long dark minutes relished before the night is over and this small reprieve from the world comes to a close with dawn.

There is an unfamiliar, shadowed shape, there by the window. What is… oh yes… it’s the tree. The one insisted upon, delivered, set up and into place by well-meaning co-workers, friends, family? Any or all, it’s an irrelevant blur. Confident it will improve the mood, inspire holiday cheer and remove the funk that has settled in, grown and spawned over the past few months… year?

Good intentions pave a road to guilt and an unspoken obligation to return the thoughtful gesture. Thus the brightly colored packages beneath said tree tagged with their names. And of course promises made to attend all the rituals and functions that come with the season. Promises to keep and miles to go before…

Each traditional meal is accompanied by insistent and repetitive commentary, of looking tired and too thin. Secret Santa reveals no real secrets. Every gift exchange and yuletide game is a going-through-the-motions chore, with a smile and laughter on cue. A struggling strain of keeping it together till the gauntlet of cheer mercifully comes to a close.

Once concluded, driving home, the façade falters. The ache hasn’t been cured only curbed.

And all that’s taken away is a sense of regret and guilt for ruining everyone else’s holiday.

Mercifully comes the night and a temporary pause in the chaos. Back to the sanctity of the sofa, click on the telly… holidays specials spawn horrific heartfelt sentiment and self-loathing. Quietly rising, shuffle to the bedroom, the letter is already on the nightstand. All that’s left to do is open the top drawer revealing an escape, a solution… an end. A shaking hand reaches for the handle and we fade to black. So we leave the fate of the final act of this down-trodden melodrama to the whim and imagination of you, the reader.

The holiday season is upon us, a sense of joy and cheer fills the air. And yet while so many are happily trimming trees and decking halls, there are a few not so jolly souls. They are not being a Grinch by any intentions of their own. Honestly, they are likely unaware of your perception of them because they are entangled, trapped within themselves.

Surrounded by the over-glorified celebratory cheer of the holiday season, they feel more out of place than usual. This furthering a frayed disconnection that leads to dark thoughts and a far lessened sense of self-worth. The phrase- “Surviving the season” takes on a whole different and less humorous aspect for these folks.

So what can you do? How can you help? *Pay attention. Don’t hover, but don’t be oblivious. If you know them then hopefully you’ll know.

*Listen don’t lecture. Oft they’re not looking for a solution from you, just a shoulder. Sometimes just getting it out helps get through and over.

*It’s personal. If they open up to you alone don’t bring it before council. Embarrassment makes matters worse.

*Inquire to quell. If you’ve any worry or doubt in your mind, then simply asking, “Are you okay?” is a good place to start.

I welcome almost all questions, comments via FOCUS, or E-mail me at [email protected]. Hope to hear from ya until then try and stay focused! See ya.

Editor’s note: Call 988 to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish. Also call to chat if you’re worried about family or a friend.