It's almost Christmas -- a fact that is greeted by most visitors to my office not with joyful anticipation, but rather as a reminder of how lonely they feel. Many of my patients tell me with dark expressions on their faces, "When the streets are bustling and lively, it just makes me feel all the more miserable."
While I was wondering what I could say to these people, I received a handmade pamphlet from a minister by the name of Yoshikazu Okado, who has been turning out the publication for many years.
"Christmas is a declaration that all people are important," he writes in the introduction. As I read this I thought, "Isn't Christmas for Jesus Christ, and romantic partners and families?" Further along, however, came a passage about how the Bible says that the light of Jesus shines on everyone without exception or discrimination. In other words, Christmas -- the day Jesus was born -- is a joyous moment about happiness for all. It is a holiday in which each person is celebrated.
When a person arrives in our offices, doctors like me apply the science of psychiatry to determine what illness they may have, and how severe it may be. People leave the office having been treated entirely as "patients," and I send them off with the words, "Don't push yourself too hard, and I'll see you next week." You could say that classifying people is my job.
Within that context, I eventually start to wonder about which more personalized categories patients may fall into. Are they happy, or lonely, or feeling pitiable? And I don't think it's just me. The patient, too, may begin to classify themselves with labels like "worthless," or "loser."
Okado's little pamphlet points out that in Christianity, Christmas is not a holiday to make lonely people feel even more so. Rather, it is a day for everyone -- even those feeling lonely -- to have someone tell them, "It's wonderful that you're alive." This was something of an epiphany for me. For the rest of December, I will tell my patients, "I've heard that Christmas is a day when no-one is singled out or discriminated against."
Actually, I don't think I'll limit this to just the Christmas season. I'll do the same for New Year's, for all of the various winter festivals around the country, and for all kinds of holidays throughout the year.
If someone says to me with a sad expression on their face, "When everyone around me looks like they're having fun, it just makes me feel all the more miserable," I want to tell them, "This day is for you."
This Christmas season, why don't you try telling yourself, "I'm a precious person, too"? (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)