When the Holidays Bring More Pain than Joy

By Cece Flores

The holiday season is one that brings images of togetherness, comfort and joy to mind…depending on whose mind you’re examining. For some of us, the seemingly immediate jump from Halloween to Christmas feels like someone stomped on the panic button in our brains. The transition is so quick it can feel subtly violent, like a month of your time has just been erased from your life. Why do we Eternal Sunshine the month of November? Not cool.

There’s a sense that time’s running out. For a series of weeks, you have to find the perfect gifts, outfits, dates, balance, excuses, for an occasion that is just days long. And you’re supposed to stay sane while doing so. I’m personally tired just thinking and talking about it.

For people with mental or physical disabilities, those who struggle with their body (particularly if the issue centers food), those who struggle with money, those who either don’t get along with or don’t have families, those of different religious beliefs, this can actually be the most dreadful and alienating time of the year. Will people be understanding of our needs? Will people come to us if we need them to, or will we just be counted out? Is there space at the table for an extra serving of effort? I sure hope so.

One of the worst Christmases of my life was the one following my assault. To say I was in a dark place is an understatement, as it had happened a month before. Repeatedly being told to smile by- probably well meaning- people made me sick to my stomach. A person who’s no longer in my life even told me that if I wasn’t gonna enjoy myself I should’ve stayed home. That is obviously the wrong approach and, I hope, not a common one, but I think it bears clarifying: don’t do that.

One of the best Christmases of my life was the following one, which I spent alone in my room eating Poptarts and watching Elf. There was not a trace of FOMO, though now I feel like I just wanted to be away from people because of my previous experiences. While there’s nothing wrong with the decision to protect oneself, I can gladly say this year is very different for me and I intend on embracing the feeling like my life is depending on it.

But if you find yourself unable to get into the spirit for any reason, don’t beat yourself up. There are more of us than you probably realize. As long as you can reframe this as a day that comes and goes like any other, a day whose level of importance you have your whole life to perfect, you’ll be absolutely fine. Take some time to sit with yourself and think about what you are grateful for and who and what does deserve your energy. Gather that data and plan around it. If you’re left with just you, good news; you’re the best friend you’ll ever have. Anyway, the pressure to feel something you don’t feel is kind of ridiculous, kind of like forcing yourself to like a band you can’t stand. Imagine that you’re 9 years old and December 25th is International Backstreet Boys Day, but you’re actually more of an N’Sync person so you’re not gonna celebrate it anyway, and it’s not really gonna make a difference. Live your life knowing you always have that choice.

Tell Us: Do you struggle with the holidays? How do you cope?

Cece is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.

Featured image via Unsplash.