A 54-year-old mum has been diagnosed with 'seasonal depression' because she cannot accept that Santa isn't real.

Lynn Cassidy has never recovered from the devastation of discovering that her parents bought all her presents when she was 10 years old.

Every year since then she has slipped into depression as the festive season approaches and even found herself suicidal before seeking professional help.

She now sees a counsellor and visits her GP every October to get a prescription for anti-depressants to last her through the Christmas period.

Lynn explained: "I didn't have the happiest of childhoods but for this one day a year my whole family got along.

"Back then I didn't think it was my parents who did all of this - the magic of Christmas was down to one man - Santa Claus.

"I was so happy that on this one day there was proof that I was loved and cherished by somebody who didn't necessarily need to love me.

"Someone thought I was special enough to go out of their way to wrap and give us all gifts. It made me feel wonderful and loved.

"Santa meant so much to me, to know he didn't exist ruined my whole world. I know I should get over it but I can't.

"Without Santa there is no point in Christmas, I am not ashamed I to say I had therapy to deal with my Santa issues."

Second-hand bike

Lynn, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, first realised Santa wasn't real when she got a second-hand bike for Christmas aged 10.

She said: "I just knew that Santa wouldn't need to give me a second-hand bike, and that it must have been my mum and dad who had bought me it instead.

"I remember feeling immense sadness as I looked at them and asked if Santa was real.

"They didn't even really have to answer, they just looked at me in a way that said it all. From there my world came crashing down."

Lynn had to keep up the pretence for her younger brother, who still believed, which she says made matters worse.

"The year after I found out the truth, I tried to ruin Christmas for my little brother by showing him where our stash of presents were hidden," she said.

"It was only when I started therapy a couple of years ago that it all made sense and I was able to join the dots."

Autumn anxiety

Now Lynn's anxiety starts creeping in during September when Christmas displays crop up in the shops.

She visits her doctor in October for her annual course of anti-depressants to see her through.

In a strange twist, Lynn searches for ways to lift her Christmas mood.

She said: "It's like I'm searching for the hit that I got from Christmas when I was young. I have Christmas 24 channel on all the time - watching all the Christmas films.

"My favourite at the moment is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation with Chevy
Chase. I can really relate to that story and how he is trying his best to make Christmas the best ever, but it all goes wrong.

"I go to Christmas light switch-ons and garden centres to immerse myself in their elaborate light displays to hope that it may get me in the spirit of things but it doesn't work.

"I actually don't mind the run up to Christmas but on Christmas Day it all comes crashing down because the dream what I've been chasing, the lift that I've been wanting on that special day, is not there.

"But of course it can't work because the thing that I am actually searching for, the person who could make it all better, doesn't even exist."

‘I envied my children’

When Lynn's children were younger she would do her best to get in to the swing of things for their sakes.

She says: "I would take them to see Santa and they would tell him what they wanted for Christmas, I envied that they believed. It did help a little to see Santa in the grotto.

"But when they got older and me and their dad split, he would often be the one who took them to see Santa so that would hurt me all over again.

"When I was a young girl we had a routine. I'd go to bed at night and listen out for Santa's sleigh bells.

"In the morning we'd wake up early and go to the bottom of our beds to see if Santa had been and left presents in our pillow cases. We'd have a chair each full of presents - it was amazing.

"I did try and replicate this for my children. I didn't want to ruin their Christmas. They would come into our room and I'd get up with them and try hard to be full of smiles.

"When they were younger it was easier as they were so excited.

"I did argue with their dad because he would accuse me of ruining the day but I did my best - over time I'd take myself out of the day as much as I could.

"I'd be able to put on a brave face and go through the motions but I'd have to slip off a couple of times for an hours or so and go to my room to take take stock, have a bit of peace and quiet until I could face it all again.

Bleak Christmas

"The day is so overwhelmingly bleak for me. I manage not to cry, but my mood is very low.

"I do try not to ruin it for other people, I wrap up presents and I am there, but I find it hard to pretend and plaster on a fake smile so I'm mostly pretty sad all day. I don't make Christmas dinner.

"I know I make it very hard for people, it's hard for others when they want to enjoy the day and I just can't."

Lynn's children are now 30 and 25, and at least understand how their mum struggles.

"I keep trying different things every year and this year we are going to a friend's place who is having a Christmas open house," she said.

"I'm hoping this might work, but then, who am I kidding?"

Therapy

Lynn had to go into therapy a couple of years ago when she started to feel suicidal.

She says: "I knew I'd hit rock bottom. I know it sounds crazy to people and I know it's not rational but I can't help the way I feel. I can't avoid Christmas, it's impossible, but it gets harder to face as the years go by.

"I've been in therapy for a long time to come to try and come to terms with the way I feel."

But Lynn doubts she'll ever accept the truth about Christmas.

"It's a funny one," she says. "Most kids don't blink an eyelid, and none of my kids were disappointed when they found out Santa wasn't real. In reality you can see that it might be quite a hard thing to discover the truth.

"For me, Santa was a magical figure who loved me and represented love and kindness. Finding out he didn't exist broke my heart.

"I'll never get over it."

Photo credit: SWNS