Holidays can be a very difficult time for the victim of depression. As I've discussed in the last post, it is very easy for well-intentioned holiday activities to completely overwhelm the depressed person. If you know someone who's depressed (some warning signs can be found here if you're not sure), you might want to prepare a gift that takes their disease into consideration. Here are some ideas:
Presence, not presents: present them with an invitation or a certificate that requests that they spend the holiday or a specific time with you. Make it quite clear that no gifts will be exchanged, no food is to be prepared, and nothing special is required. If they tell you, "I'm afraid I won't be very good company," tell them, "That may be true, but I will be." If you sincerely care about this person and are willing to see who dwells beneath the cloud of gloom that their disease has helped them make for themselves, this may be the best gift you could give. If you and they are lucky, they will be able to tell you it made them happy. If not, trust that it did.
Focus on the positive: Put together a photo album, a slide show on a CD, or a letter or scrapbook that centers on positive things you have shared. A well-depressed person doesn't see themselves as having any value, and this kind of effort serves to remind them of things they've almost certainly forgotten. Depression can cause memory loss, and you can bet that the good ones go first. This is a gift that will be cherished.
Ask for help: This may or may not work, depending on the level of the depression. My mother has suffered from depression on and off for most of my life. The holidays have always been important to her, and I knew that being at a loss for things to suggest to her for gift ideas wouldn't sit well with her. Since I didn't have any wants particularly, I requested that she create a needlework piece for me. Mom has always been an avid needlework artist, ranging from knitting to crewel to embroidery to counted cross stitch. Her hands knew what to do even though her mind didn't see the point, so the act of creation served as a reminder of the value she held to me.
Bright Blessings: If you share a religious belief with the victim, or at the very least he or she isn't a diehard atheist, offering a tangible blessing may be helpful. Depressed people have very often lost their faith, and cannot pray for themselves, even if they know that prayer is a very important part of their ability to overcome the disease. Give them a promise, one you intend to keep, that you will pray for them daily or weekly for a set amount of time. Put it in writing. As an alternative, find an appropriate candle and either bless it yourself or have it blessed by someone who has taken religious orders or their equivalent. Specifically focus the blessing on light, be it the Light of Jesus or the return of the sun or the oil that burned for eight days, or whatever makes sense in your tradition. Tell them to burn the candle at their lowest point in the day.