Coping with the Holidays, Part 2: Family trying to “cheer you up”

During the holidays, it can sometimes feel like we’re bombarded with advertising telling us that we must buy more stuff and we must be happy.

Well – when you’re not feeling happy to begin with, this extra pressure can make you feel even worse.

Often, navigating relationships with loved on can get even more tricky at this time of the year. It can be hard for them to understand what you’re going through; some people assume that the holidays make everyone feel better, and it can be hard for them to understand how it’s different for you.

For someone who hasn’t been there, it can be hard to understand that mental health issues are not the same as being in a bad mood. It’s an injury, and you can’t just shake it off, any more than you can shake off a physical injury.

Look at it this way: pretend your family really loved skating in the winter months. This year, you had a broken leg. Now imagine your loved ones decided to help you out by making the best-ever skating rink in the backyard, stringing up pretty lights, and putting on your favourite music, figuring that all this will put you in the mood to shake off your broken leg and join them on your skates.

Does this magically fix your leg? Does it make you feel better?

Yeah – not so much, eh? Your leg is still broken, and now you feel awful that they went to all this effort, and really, there’s nothing you can do to unbreak your leg and get up on those skates. Instead of making you feel better, it just made you feel guilty for being injured.

So – before it gets there this year, please share this post with your well-meaning loved ones. Let them know that you love them very much, and you don’t choose to feel this way. You’re not doing it to annoy them. You really wish you could just snap out of it. But you can’t, any better than you could snap out of a broken leg to go skating.

Then, make a plan together. Decide what you will participate in, and what you’ll skip. Make a deal: their end of the deal is, they’ll try to understand about the stuff you need to skip. Your end of the deal is, you’ll do your best to actually enjoy the stuff you participate in – no, not force a fake smile and pretend. Actually stop pretending, and allow yourself a little comfort.

And then, maybe the holidays will feel slightly less awful this year…

Murray Chappell_1349

I’d love to have you share your thoughts, comments, and questions. If you do post a comment, please don’t give specific details of your trauma – these may be triggering to another reader. If you’d like to offer criticism, I’ll take it – I know I’m not perfect, and I’m always willing to learn. If you do offer criticism though, I’d really appreciate it if you could do so constructively (ie., no name-calling, please). Thanks…

You can find me on Twitter and on Facebook.

~ Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych.

*Fine print: Please feel free to share the link to this blog wherever you think it might be helpful! Reading this blog is a good start, but it’s no substitute for professional help. It takes a different kind of courage to admit to yourself that you’re struggling. PTSD is not a sign of failure – it’s a sign that you’ve been through a lot, and have tried to stay strong for too long. If you need help – you’re in some pretty great company. Reach out, and give yourself a chance to feel better.

**Really fine print: The content of Coming Back Home is copyrighted; please feel free to share the link, but do not copy and paste content. Unless otherwise noted, all original photography on Coming Back Home is copyrighted. The photo gracing today’s post was taken by Murray Chappell, and I’d like to thank him for generously allowing me to use his work. Please do not copy photographs from Coming Back Home without permission.

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3 thoughts on “Coping with the Holidays, Part 2: Family trying to “cheer you up”

  1. Hi De
    Been there done that , I know they all say even to this day there must be something you want when all I really want is them around me enjoying themselves, I personally show very little emotion but they seem to think that is is that I don’t appreciate what they got for me when if they put the slightest bit of thought nto the gift whether I need it want it or have it I love it. I get sooo much joy out of giving that is my present to me. My wife finds it a little weird about the expences I go to for virtual strangers but I coach three high shool curling teams and try t get everyone of them something and set up a sort of contest for a special prize for each team and then individual gifts but this is done on the last day before Christmas so they don’t feel the gifts need repaying, in fact I feel a little better off this year and am buying some curling brooms for them and some other things curling related which are slightly more than my usual limit. The look on their faces is a priceless present for me and I have a hard time keeping my emotions in check because I can’t see them if I start to get emotional

  2. Thank you for your Getting through the Holidays. This time of the year is horrible for our 12 year old daughter. We worry about her and Pray she gets through them. Thank you for the reminders, sometimes it is hard to see things through her eyes when it is “supposed” to be a joyful time.

  3. I am a mother of a fallen decorated soldier. My son was a veteran of 15 years and totally loved his career. Gregory wanted to make a positive difference in this cruel world of ours. My son came home the fall of 2009, broken with a very bad back and neck injury and PTSD… He came home and was then receiving 123.00 a month from the armed forces..Gregory was killed here at home on the farm. He was pleading for help, and was not understood. Gregory would never have hurt anyone.. The police shot and killed my son in Sept. of 2012…Christmas was our most favorite time of the year..I just find it so hard to even put up a Christmas tree..How can I celebrate this festive season without my dear son…I grieve every day and some of my family think that I should be over this? Wow…This is so so hard..I thank you for understanding..This really hits home…

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