Getting Through the Holidays, Part 1: Make a Plan

When you’re dealing with PTSD and/or depression, the holidays can be especially difficult, for a number of reasons:

  • Family: you may have loved ones who don’t really understand what you’re going through. They might try really hard to make you happy because it’s the holidays. When that fails, you might feel guilty, and they might feel underappreciated and resentful;
  • Gatherings: being in a group of happy people might make you feel like an outsider. You don’t feel how they’re feeling, and seeing happy people can be all the more excruciating when you’re hurting.
  • Survivor’s guilt: if you’ve lost buddies, you may feel undeserving of celebrating the holidays with your family when others don’t have a chance to celebrate with theirs.
  • Trauma anniversaries: if the bad stuff happened around the holidays, you may find yourself even more on edge at this time of year.
  • Crowds are hard enough when they aren’t filled with frenzied holiday shoppers.

This is by no means a list of everything that comes up around the holidays, but it’s some of the more common concerns.

Here’s the thing: you’re here, you’re reading this post, and that’s already a good step forward. Let’s take some time to think about it and problem-solve, to try to get you through the holidays as smoothly as possible this year.

First – give some thought to what the holidays were like last year. What were the biggest trouble spots for you?

  • If a relative tried to “cheer you up” and then felt hurt or upset that it didn’t work, please send them this post. They need to know that it’s not their fault, or yours. You can’t make depression or PTSD take a break for the holidays.
  • If big gatherings are difficult: (1) go to smaller gatherings; (2) don’t attend every single thing you’re asked to do; (3) use coping strategies, like going outside for a few minutes of relaxation; offering to take the host’s dog around the block; or leaving when you need to, rather than just sitting there and punishing yourself.
  • Plan ahead what you feel up to this year, and what you don’t. Don’t participate out of a sense of duty and obligation; skip what you need to skip.
  • The holidays can be a really lonely, isolating experience. Please realize YOU ARE NOT ALONE. This blog has 15,000 readers – that’s fifteen thousand readers who can relate to how you’re feeling. So while you’re avoiding the big gatherings with your relatives, reach out to a battle buddy. If you don’t have one, reach out right here.

Hey – all I want from Santa this year, is for all my readers to still be around in January. And he’d better deliver.

Please reach out when you need to. 

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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11 thoughts on “Getting Through the Holidays, Part 1: Make a Plan

    1. Joe, if that’s the ONLY thing you can take away from the articles, then they’re probably not for you. – just sayin!

    2. Hi Joe!

      Welcome, and thanks for stopping by.

      The “peeps” thing is something I came up with once, months ago, on a complete whim – I asked people what they thought of it at the time, and the feedback I got was to keep it, so it stuck. It’s a bit goofy; but, most of the topics that this blog discusses are pretty heavy, so a bit of goofiness helps to provide some balance and lighten it up a little.

      I hope you’re able to look past the “peeps” thing, and find benefit in this blog. One place to start would be right at the top of the page, underneath the banner: click on the second button from the left, “start here”. It’ll give you a brief overview of where to find different kinds of information. Let me know if there’s anything in specific that you think needs to be covered that I haven’t written about yet, and I’ll add it to my list of future topics.

      1. I’m sorry but “peeps” is a little weird. Thats what people call perpetrators of crimes (“the peeps”) or pedophiles/perverts. I don’t know but thats first thing came to my mind. maybe I watch too much news. I will still check out this site though! After Thanksgiving I certainly feel like hibernating until 1/2/14.

        1. Hi Jill!

          Thanks for stopping by.

          I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of “perps” – which is short for “perpetrators”. “Peeps” is short for people; it’s meant as a non-offensive term of endearment. It’s my lame attempt at being young and cool (I’m neither, which is why it’s falling flat on its face).

          I’m open to changing it up – but, to what? “Dear readers” sounds a little too “Dear Abby” to me. If someone suggests a new alternative, I’ll try it on and see if it fits.

          1. Thanks for the ‘peeps’ thing… I liked it plus you told me where to get started. My sister introduced me to your blog and it has information that is useful to me.

          2. Hi Dee This is great, & I’ve shared on both my personal & professional FB pages. Too bad people are stuck on the “peeps” thing. Unfortunately I’m one who doesn’t like it all that much. It doesn’t translate so well from the verbal to the written. Saying “gotta tell my peeps about this!” Sounds much cooler than it looks on paper. How about just “People,” or “Folks,” or “Everyone?” Whatever you choose, whether keeping the peeps (little yellow Easter chick image in my head) or changing it, prefacing it with “Hi,” or “Good morning,” or some other greeting puts it in perspective. Just my 2c worth. Not a big issue, but hate to see people get distracted from the message, which is GREAT!

  1. I loved this blog. All the warm and fuzzy commercials this time of year showing folks in the holiday spirit are so unrealistic. If you are suffering from depression, unhappy or lonely for any reason the holidays magnify those feelings. The reality of the season is that it is a very stressful time of year. Feeling that you should be happy and cheerful certainly add to that stress. So we all need to be empathic toward those folks that are not feeling all warm and fuzzy. Peace and love to all.

  2. Peeps…. those yummy marshmallow bunnies that come out at Easter!!

    Peeps…. what I affectionately call my little daycare kiddos.

    Peeps…. one word that can mean different things to different people.

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