The Christmas tree on the Third Street Promenade, shown here during the 2009 lighting ceremony, may be a thing of the past. (Brandon Wise

WHAT’S THE POINT? — T’is the season for peppermint candies, gingerbread everything, loads of lights and Chanukah and Christmas displays are to be seen around town. There’s a thrill in the air as I walk down the Promenade I see decorations, and families out shopping all the while enjoying the holiday cheer.

The city does take on a Rockwellesque feel as businesses do all they can to liven up their front window displays with hot bodies in scarves and fat old men in red. The happy melodies of the Christmas songs and the one Chanukah song by Adam Sandler bring an easy smile to my face.

In short, I love this time of year. It makes me happy as we slow down the pace of life. Which is not to say that I love the traffic or the parking lot brain-death that so many are afflicted with, on balance, I feel the joy of the season.

My experience though, is not everyone’s experience. Many people feel the exact opposite. The more lighthearted and happy the surroundings are, for some people, the more depressed and withdrawn they become.

Major depression is a real mental health condition and is recognized as requiring treatment, some combination of therapy and drugs. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a subtype that needs to be treated as well. Usually this condition affects women more than men, people who live further from the equator and seems to be related to serotonin levels. It is thought that lack of light can cause a drop in serotonin.

Then there are the holiday blues. This condition is really triggered more by the associations that the holidays bring to people. I had the chance to discuss this topic with Dr. David Lee – a 40 year resident Santa Monican with a diverse professional background. He was literally a rocket scientist, getting his BS degree in mechanical engineering from CalTech, and a PhD from USC; he worked on the lunar excursion module when the astronauts landed on the moon.

He went on to become a psychotherapist, treating couples and garden-variety neurotics on the Westside. Dr. Lee said, “Holiday blues are often caused because people have bad memories and affiliations with false perceptions of what the family is, versus what it should be.” As we talked about how damaging the ‘perfect image’ that is sold to us by the marketers and advertisers is, I identified with the conflict between what ‘is’ versus what ‘should be.’ I think we all feel to some degree the push to create the ‘perfect holiday experience’ either for ourselves or our families.

I want that image of walking hand in hand with someone down the Promenade or along Palisades Park on a holiday night being all gooey and in love. It’s that Hallmark Presents moment, but it’s not often the reality. Dr. Lee continued, describing why people get the holiday blues, “maybe they’re lonely, it’s easy to be lonely when everyone is talking about how wonderful life is.”

Recognizing you have it is great, but now you have to do something about it. Dr. Lee recommends several things: 1) Don’t isolate! Go be around your friends. “It sounds counterintuitive, but you need to enjoy others to get over feeling blue. Relationships are the best cure for any kind of distress.” Dr. Lee advises 2) Focus on the positive in your life. “People create their own misery, and by focusing on the good they can change their mood. We need to laugh more, it’s a natural soothing mechanism for depression.”

Which explains why he createdTrueFortunes.comwhich is a website that distributes humorous, irreverent, biting, sarcastic, reminders of the absurdity of life. They are little snippets from his mind in the form of fortune style pronouncements.

Dr. Lee is a very interesting character, with a great attitude and is a local treasure himself. He wants to remind people that the Holiday Blues are not permanent, and there are ways to counteract them. I would recommend checking out his learn more of this amazing man and his wild ride of a life.

Remember, the holidays are supposed to be fun – so treat yourself well, go get a cheeseburger and a peppermint chocolate chip shake at Steak and Shake, or dinner at Fritto Misto.

Life is short, and we need to have more fun and enjoy it!


David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached atdpisarra@pisarra.comor 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

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