Santa and Sanity

Last Saturday, I heard a holiday skit on A Prairie Home Companion® that tickled my funny bone and wrenched my heart. 

It was about how Santa Claus started to suffer from claustrophobia. He was seeking help before Christmas so he could go down chimneys and deliver presents. These few short excerpts will give you some idea of how the story went.
Therapist: "Claustrophobia is very common, Santa Claus. Especially in a chimney environment."
Santa: "Help me over this chimney anxiety. I'm terrified of them. It feels like an MRI machine."
Therapist: "What if instead of a threatening thing—you saw the chimney as a big welcoming hug?"
Santa: "Because it's not." "'s a long dark hole with hot coals at the end."
Therapist: "Time is up. See you next week. Or wait a minute, no—I'm taking off next week. I'll see you in two weeks."
Santa: "Two weeks and it's all going to be over."
Therapist: "... do the best you can."
Santa: "That's all you can do for me? How about medication?"
Therapist: "Medication isn't recommended when you're operating a sleigh."
Santa: "Please. Give me some meds. Look— (HE SINGS) I'm making a list. I'd sure like some Wellbutrin or Valium. Santa Claus is begging you, please." "...I'm making a list and asking you twice. Some Percocet would be nice."
The skit ended when the next patient, Rudolph, came in for treatment for nasal shame.
I smiled, but then the plight of a friend came to mind. 
For years, he had suffered from depression and other issues, but had reached a contented equilibrium after intermittent counseling and medication. In September, he was let go from his job after decades of dedicated service. Nearly sixty-years-old and suddenly out of work, he suffered an emotional setback. Through COBRA coverage, he picked up health benefits. It was expensive, but he made it happen. Before long,  he reached his lifetime maximum benefit. Now he can no longer afford counseling and medication. Like Santa in the skit, he has to find a way to meet his commitments and get on with his life.
This year, I'm asking Santa to bring us better mental health coverage. Hope he makes it down the chimney.
—Tom DeSanto
Excerpts from A Prairie Home Companion® with Garrison Keillor, "Santa," December 20, 2008. Image from

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