Ways I make the Holiday’s suck less…and they may help you too.
October 10th was mental health awareness day, and while I did not post about it… I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I also spent a lot of time thinking about how the holidays are just around the corner. How both of these things can make the next few months tricky. How mental health and the holidays can be a cluster fuck of triggers, mental exhaustion and a rise in suicidal ideations. I know it isn’t easy for many people… and so I want to talk about how I get through it. What I find works for me…and maybe someone else can get some ideas of ways to keep yourself safe this holiday season.
If you need to, create your Own Family.
Sure, technically family is the people you share blood with. People who you are related to. However, I say fie to this notion. If you, like me, suffer from family members/a family that has heaped a lifetime of trauma upon you – who make any actual boogeyman pale in comparison; then you need to create for yourself a DIY Family.
A DIY Family is a group of people you cobble together that make you feel safe, loved, and protected. People who can give you hugs, and tough love in equal measure. Who provide you with a safety net for when the outside gets a little too rough. Your DIY Family can contain blood family too … but they have to be safe people.
During the Holidays, this DIY family is your cushion, your shelter from the storm. They are people you can go to when you’ve suffered through an obligatory family function that leaves you feeling raw and wounded. That makes you question who you are, and in equal measure sends you back to the darkness – when you maybe just started to see the light.
Before you go to one of these functions – reach out to your DIY family. Let them know where you’re going – let them know it’s going to be tough. Let them give you courage. Let them talk you up. Believe them – because these are the people who know you. They are the ones who have been at the finish line this whole time, cheering you on.
When you come back from one of these functions – check in with them. Maybe you won’t want to talk. Maybe you just need to hear a kind voice. Maybe you just need a hug. Whatever it is, it does not make you weak to need someone. It makes you strong. It makes you powerful. Learning how to lean in sometimes is the best gift you can give yourself.
I get it.. Members of your blood family may be so wickedly clever at knowing how to revert you back to your traumatized self. How to poke at your soft spots. How to rip off scabs and rub salt on open wounds. They can make you feel like the worst version of yourself, I’ve been there. Sometimes, I still go there. But my DIY family helps bolster me until I can get back to good. If you let them – yours can do the same.
ALSO! Added bonus. You know how in popular culture there is always that “tell your parents you’re at my place” when the person sneaks off to do something they aren’t supposed to do. Well..Sometimes you can have a dear friend be an adult version of that. Someone who allows you to use them as a reason why you can’t go somewhere. Who will stand up for you if you’re called out for it.
Boundaries, know them. Use them.
I know setting boundaries are easier said than done. I know it’s not easy to choose yourself, when you feel like other people will be disappointed. However, this is one of the most crucial tools you can develop for yourself in your mental health toolkit. Start small. The boundary could be that you only allow yourself one or two events a week. That when you’ve had it for the day and that one friend who cannot offer you a reciprocal friendship & leaves you feeling drained texts you – just leave them on read until the following day when you may be better equipped to deal with them. Not everyone is owed everything from you right away. You are allowed to choose you.
Be mindful of what you are capable of handling. Take stock of what you’re feeling. If the idea of going to some holiday gathering, no matter how small, makes you shrivel up internally…then give yourself permission to say no. To make alternate plans. Trust and believe that people would much rather you be healthy and present, than emotionally exhausted and clearly not up to the visit. If that person is truly your friend – they will not begrudge you for taking “me” time. If they do – well fuck them. Those are not people you want in your life. Take steps to minimize your time with them and phase them out.
Over the years I have been completely open with my friends about the fact that I may disappear for days or weeks, and I am very fortunate that they understand this. They let me have my space without reprisal. This does not mean they don’t check in; but they don’t push the boundaries I’ve set for myself.
During the Holiday season give yourself the gift of saying no. Of figuring out what you need. The Holidays can be a sensory overload, and chaotic. Take time to carve out a safe space for yourself. Take time to draw a line in the sand, no matter how small.
Me Time & Self Care
The Holidays are a monster time suck, they require way more time spent amongst tedious social responsibilities than any other time of the year. Even though you spend so much time amongst others – it’s so easy to feel lonely and isolated, even when you’re surrounded by people. Seeing others having experiences that seem so effortless and easy, when every moment for you is a landmine of possible triggers and pain. Or maybe seeing someone with their families, that have beautiful holiday traditions and memories not mired with trauma and pain. Any one of these scenarios can bring the hurt. Make you want to sleep the whole Holiday season away. Make you want to not exist. Make it extremely fucking difficult to keep your mental health in a safe place.
All of this is why self care is so fucking important. You need to keep your glass as full as possible so that you can keep pushing forward. So that you can be your best self to battle those tricky situations you may find yourself in around the holidays (and throughout the year in general). Yeah, self care can definitely be having a hot soak with some smelly stuff; or reading a book with a cup of tea. Taking time to enjoy the things that make you feel good are important.
However, you also need to practice self care in terms of the smaller, less “glamorous” things. Make sure you’re taking your meds. For the days when making food seems like an impossibility; make sure you have easy to prepare meals that take little to no effort – but will sustain you nutritionally. Take a shower, even if it’s just a 5 minute scrub – you will feel a little bit better, I promise. I also personally find doing the most simple things, like laundry, when I first wake up (because that’s when I have the most energy…so whenever you feel most energized try it out). It does two things: I get clean clothes and I feel like I accomplished something – which can make my day a little more positive.
You don’t have to do all of this at once. I get it – when you are having a bad day, getting out of bed can be an impossibility – but make sure you’re at least taking your meds and having SOME food & staying hydrated (which I won’t lie, I am fucking terrible at doing myself). Just add things on throughout your day that you feel like you can accomplish. Do not punish yourself if you can’t get out of bed. You are still an awesome amazing human being. You are strong and sometimes you just need to take a moment to nest. That is okay.
Don’t do more than you can afford
This comes back to boundaries I suppose, but I think it is something that is a standalone discussion you need to have with yourself. I know it was something that I needed to accept, and it was really fucking hard – and made me feel like a giant fucking failure for many years.
If you cannot afford gifts – you are not a bad person.
Even homemade gifts can get expensive and consuming in different ways.
Sure, it’s great to be able to give SOMETHING. However, if you can’t… you can’t. Rent, groceries, utilities and other sundries that make your life viable are far more important than putting yourself in debt, or spending money you do not have.
If it all comes down to gifts and money spent for someone in your life – maybe you need to re-evaluate that relationship. No one should expect you to over extend yourself in order to prove you care, or to participate in the holiday season. If you can afford to buy gifts, or make gifts then great. If you can’t tho? That is okay. I promise.
The one thing that gets me through the Holidays whole, and often happy is my DIY fam. I may not have been able to afford gifts for them these past years, but we gave each other the gift of time spent – which I think is invaluable. I have learned that there are SO many ways to gift people your time that make beautiful lasting memories that are more special than a tangible gift could ever be. Forget what the commercials tell you, forget Santa’s wish list, forget what the capitalist scum tell you – you DO NOT NEED TO SPEND MONEY TO HAVE A GOOD HOLIDAY.
So this is my list of how to make it through the Holiday Season with as little bumps and bruises as possible. I hope that you know that you are so loved and treasured by people in your life. Mental illness may make it incredibly difficult to believe that – but trust me. TRUST ME. You are.
If I have missed something please leave a comment or message me and I will add on … I may add to it myself as the season progresses and I remember things.