I’m in my mid-70s, and 2020 has been the worst year I can remember. It started with the impeachment of the president that further divided our already polarized nation. Then came the global pandemic that had many of us living in quarantine as businesses failed, unem-ployment soared, and the stock market crashed.
My wife’s mother passed in June, as massive forest fires consumed the forests in the west and political protests, riot-ing and looting broke out in many cities. Then, just when I thought it could not get any worse, the hurricane season brought a record number of storms, including Hurricane Laura, which left a trail of incredible destruction and devastation across Southwest Louisiana. Finally, to cap it all off, there was a presidential elec-tion filled with rancor that left the country even more politically divided.
Thanksgiving is just a week away as I write this. It is a time when families tradi-tionally gather for a feast and good cheer. But we are now being warned that it could be a “super-spreader event” that might put grandma and grandpa in the hospital, fighting the coronavirus for their lives. So, as I sit in the rubble of the house in which my wife and I raised six kids, I ask myself: “for what should I give thanks?”
Here is the list I came up with:
1. I am thankful for my dog that loves me and thinks I am the boss.
2. I am thankful for my wife whom I love, but who thinks she is the boss.
3. I am thankful my wife refused to ride out Laura in our house.
4. I am now thankful for things we tend to take for granted, like electricity, cell phone service, hot water, air condi-tioning, and drinkable water.
5. I am thankful I could hide in my office while my wife complained about the lack of electricity, hot water, air con-ditioning, drinkable water and mosquitos.
6. I am thankful my hip replacement surgery scheduled for August 25 was can-celled.
7. I am thankful all my kids and grandkids, whom I can only wave at from a distance, appear to be safe and healthy, and that they still recognize me.
8. I am thankful for people who wear masks to protect others.
9. I am thankful my wife has lots of friends and family to whom she can com-plain about me, the mosquitos and insur-ance adjustors.
10. I am thankful the hurricane sea-son is nearly over.
11. I am thankful I do not live in Honduras.
12. I am thankful I do not live in the hills of California.
13. I am thankful Popeye’s in Moss Bluff has just re-opened.
14. I am thankful we can stream movies at home on our TV.
15. I am thankful for Blue Emu, Ibuprofen and my other pain medications.
16. I am thankful the stores are nowwell stocked with toilet paper.
17. I am thankful the LSU-Alabama football game was cancelled this year.
18. I am thankful for the spam folder on my email and caller I.D. on my cell phone.
19. I am thankful I will not have to rake up pine straw and leaves in my yard this fall.
20. I am thankful our house is on high ground and water flows downhill.
On a serious note, many people in Southwest Louisiana have suffered tre-mendous damage to their homes and busi-nesses from Hurricane Laura. It was the most powerful storm ever to make land-fall on the Gulf Coast. We took a direct hit, with the eye of the storm passing over downtown Lake Charles and Moss Bluff. They are still assessing all the physical damage and adding up the cost. But with time, we will repair and emerge better than before.
But mental and emotional damage is more difficult to repair. With the hurri-canes coming on top of the pandemic, the global economic collapse and the uncer-tainty of government actions, the stress of rebuilding our homes and businesses is an emotional burden that is hard to bear and even harder to repair. Depression is not just a matter of feeling sad or unhappy; it is a documentable medical condition that needs professional attention. Saying, “snap out of it!” is not a cure.
What are the signs of depression? According to the Mayo Clinic (mayo-clinic.org), although depression may oc-cur only once during one’s life, people typically have multiple episodes. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day, and may in-clude:
— Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness.
— Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters.
— Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports.
— Sleep disturbances, including in-somnia or sleeping too much.
— Tiredness and lack of energy to the degree that even small tasks take extra effort.
— Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food along with weight gain.
— Anxiety, agitation or restlessness.— Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements.
— Feelings of worthlessness or guilt; fixating on past failures or self-blame.
— Trouble thinking, concentrat-ing, making decisions and remembering things.
— Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicide or suicide attempts.
— Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches.
For many people suffering with de-pression, symptoms usually are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities, or relationships with others. Some people may feel gener-ally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.
We often see an increase in suicides during the holiday season. If you know someone who is suffering from depres-sion, please encourage them to seek help from a medical expert or through their church if it has persons qualified to deal with these issues.
Suicide Hotline number: 337-491-1456, ext. 5303
P.S. Unless you belong to a politically homogeneous family in which every-one agrees, do not drink and talk politics this holiday season.