Some people don’t understand why it’s hard to be with family during the holidays. Some people don’t understand what it’s like to have a toxic or abusive family. Some people don’t understand what it’s like to feel like a shell of yourself when you’re with your family — how you have to switch back into survival mode and your sensitivity to triggers increases ten fold.
It can be frustrating to feel so misunderstood especially when there is so much focus on family around the holidays. All the holiday movies focus on it, the events around town, even ads and commercials we see. Society portrays the holidays as a time to be with family and loved ones and there seems to be no sensitivity to people who have a family that’s hard to be around.
I want to take a moment to validate everyone who is feeling this way. I want to validate everyone who is dreading the holidays, dreading being with their family. I want to acknowledge everyone who has a toxic, abusive, or unsupportive family. Everyone who gets triggered by being around their family. How you feel is so valid and you are not the only one who experiences this. There are a lot of people going through this exact same thing with their family. It’s not your fault that being around your family is difficult. It’s not your fault if you feel different from your family or triggered by your family. It’s not your fault if you have a dysfunctional or toxic family.
I want you to know that it’s OK to take care of yourself this holiday season. It’s OK to say 'no' to your family and do what you need to do to take care of your mental health. It’s OK to say no even if they get upset or don’t understand. It’s OK to choose to not see your family or limit your time with them during the holidays. You and your mental health come first even if it means upsetting them. They don’t have to understand. You have power and control over what you do and who you spend your time with. If you are worried that you’ll be alone if you’re not with them, reach out to people on the WhiteFlag App. There are people there who will relate to you and be able to understand what you’re going through.
Make your own holiday traditions, make your favorite meals and do your favorite things. I’ve started focusing on what I actually enjoy doing during the holidays, not what I feel like I have to do and it’s been so helpful. I watch my favorite Christmas movies, make a new ornament every year, go look at Christmas lights by myself, make a gingerbread house and decorate cookies by myself. Sometimes being alone is a gift.
I’m sending you all lots of love this holiday season. You aren’t the only one who is struggling right now. The WhiteFlag App and crisis text line (741-741) are great resources if you need support. Maybe try one new boundary to put in place with your family this year and see how that feels. I’m proud of you and I know you can get through this.
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