I guess it all began shortly after the Fourth of July. But now that Halloween is over, the media blitz begins in earnest. It’s Christmas. Oh yeah, with Thanksgiving mixed in there somewhere.

It’s been that way for a couple of decades now. Not when I was a kid though. Secular Christmas music, decorations, movies, TV shows, et. al. began once Thanksgiving was in the rear view mirror.

Today, it truly begins sometime in September to a degree. Not only does the hype amp up children, who we all know don’t need much to ignite them, but adults, too, get caught up in the eddy of excitement.

But this is not the gist of my column. It’s quite the opposite. I think now about those who don’t, can’t, and won’t get caught up in the “holiday spirit.”

There are those for which the two-month year-ending celebrations are just another day in the drudgery of a life without — without a job, money, food, companionship, and hope. Those who cannot provide a table adorned with more food than can be consumed. Like the dogs in the Mark and Matthew’s Gospels, they would love to eat the scraps that fall from these decadent feasts. Those who are alone, abandoned, divorced, separated, recently suffered a crushing loss of a love one. These poor souls don’t share in the hoopla.

There’s another group of which not much gets mentioned, although the tide is turning a bit.

Having written this column for more than 20 years now, I spent most of the time cautious about what I write. I worried about what family, friends, coworkers, readers thought about me.

Having seen far too many losses in the past few years, some totally unexpected, I realize that none of us know how much time we have left on this earth. With this in mind, I bring up those suffering from anxiety and depression disorders. I am one them, having been diagnosed mid-life as struggling with both. Medications help, but they’re not meant to take away the fear and the not knowing why I feel like I do at times.

As child, I hated birthday parties and Christmas get-togethers with cousins (seemingly hundreds of them on my mom’s side), aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends. It’s not that I didn’t love them. I did and do. I would get so nervous and anxious knowing I had to be among them. It would sadden me, beyond normal sad, that I felt this way.

These curses didn’t end when childhood did — they only changed based on what adult situations I was in. I still get very nervous when meeting with groups more than just a couple of people. I love going to concerts, but until the act begins performing, my mind races and panic sets in.

Well folks, all these wonderful attributes rear their ugly heads during the holidays. There are times when I don’t want to even be with large groups of family — again, not because I don’t love them. I do. I just get so antsy and depressed at times.

I don’t like letting this side of me out. Even now, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing, but then I remember that I don’t know how long I’ll be here.

The reason I bring up my “dark side” is to help others like me who experience the same anxieties and depressions, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I’m sure there are some who experience far worse episodes than I.

Please be aware of the people you love this season. Please know that if they seem uncharacteristically aloof or distant, it may be an inner struggle going on. Don’t be offended if they turn down an invite. There are those whom you would least expect that have these maladies.

I like to make people laugh because I like to see them laugh, but also it’s a mask at times. Just ask one of my heroes, Robin Williams, someday.

Please remember that those whom you think should be enjoying this time and are not, may have a good reason.