For as long as I can remember, I’ve had mixed feelings about the holidays. Even as a young child, I remember dreading the sixty-two days after Halloween, because I knew it would be the most exhausting time of year.
This isn’t a “bah humbug” piece.
There are many wonderful things about the holiday season. I love seeing my family, especially when relatives we don’t see often show up, which is more likely at the end of the year. It’s a great time to connect with friends because more people have time off during the holiday season (unless you work retail, then you work more).
My mother has always loved Christmas and worked very hard to make this season a special time of year for my sister and me, making a point to decorate for each holiday. After Thanksgiving, she would spend hours in the yard, “making Christmas,” hanging lights, and carefully placing displays. The lighting was always magical and is still my favorite part of the holiday season even today.
In the evenings, my mother would take us cruising around the neighborhood listening to Christmas music, looking at holiday lighting displays. Windows down and laps full of thick comforters, sometimes my dog Ripley would come along for the ride. Even now, these joyful memories bring a massive smile to my face.
There were certain aspects of my personality that my mother always seemed to understand.
As a child, the impending not knowing and surprises that many kids look forward to were unappealing, even anxiety-inducing, for me.
Early on in our relationship, my mother conceded to letting me pick my own Christmas and birthday gifts, as long as they were within reason – stopping the months of obsessive wondering that would have tormented me otherwise.
As an adult, I’ve found that merely NOT giving me a present also works very well. No gift, nothing to worry about. Problem solved. Gift giving is actually still what brings me the most anxiety this time of year.
I’m a terrible gift-giver. Every now and then, I may see the perfect gift for someone when I’m out and about on a whim, but under pressure, obligation, and forced deadline, I struggle to find items that fit people’s personalities.
Why can’t we just give people gifts whenever we feel like it? Why do we need special days, that feel less special to me, because everyone is doing the same thing at the same time?
It’s hard to watch people spending money they don’t really have to buy other people things they don’t really need, saving up all year, or putting everything on credit to pay off for the next six months. If we could have all the holiday festivities without the gift exchange, for me, the season would be almost perfect.
What do we do if this time of year is difficult for us?
How can we unwind and heal from past trauma if this season brings up old wounds? Can we learn to be firm in our boundaries, take the time we need for ourselves, and make sure not to lose sight of self-care this season?
If the holidays are easy for you, can you hold space for someone who is struggling? Will you reach out and offer support to someone who doesn’t have a family to turn to this time of year? Can you understand if one of your own family members needs some extra time and space this holiday season? Will you sit and listen without judgment, even if you don’t understand if your friend is feeling low?
Sometimes, if you’re feeling stuck in a rut, creating new traditions can be an excellent way to break up the monotony. This year David and I had our first “unThanksgiving.”
We went to the beach, and, for the most part, pretended Thanksgiving wasn’t even happening. Free from the expectations and demands of others, we began to forge our own traditions. We had the best and most memorable Thanksgiving yet.
In case my family is reading this, we’re not planning to skip out on Christmas. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone and enjoying family time. This month, as we are all deep into the throes of a season that can bring mixed emotions for many of us, I ask the community:
#ActuallyAutistic #AskingAutistics the holidays are coming!
- Does the phrase above spark joy or bring dread?
- What do you enjoy about the holidays season?
- If the holidays are hard for you, what makes this time of year difficult?
Immense dread. Time with extended family in too small a house. Nowhere to go. Then people talk to me for 5 minutes about the most boring things before I’m left alone for the rest of the night.
DREAD DREAD DREAD!? It zaps me like nothing else! The stress of buying gifts and getting a good price. The lights and noises, huge gatherings of people!
?Ugh! It’s just much to much!?
i HATE this season. I its overwhelming and i hate ‘forced joy’ and trying to figure out what people want for gifts and i hate getting gifts because im particular and i dont like surprises at all and it gives me all sorts of anxiety.
also its .. a depressing time in general
Elizabeth Lain, @LizardEatsFlies
I’m in Costa Rica so I love the weather bc it reminds me the feeling of finishing the school year, love the food and some traditions we have here around it. Don’t like the gatherings, the shopping and the fact ppl get crazier during the holidays.
Holidays cost money and bring a lot of stress when I don’t do what people want or don’t buy the right presents or whatever. So I’d rather they not happened but I can’t escape
John Elder Robison, @johnrobison
It sparks a feeling of being tired, holidays take energy and stress.
Cordelia Hecker, @AutisticHelpsU
I dread when my family asks me if I’m going to visit for Thanksgiving and for Xmess, and before I can answer they start cajoling me about making sure I do.
I really don’t like the get-togethers. It’s not my family. I love them. It’s the “holidays”.
The holidays are just excuses to get together, eat a lot, and exchange presents. I would like to and try to do that different times of the year, but nobody has the time… except on the calendar-designated holidays. I think that’s weird AF. I mostly hide when I go.
Both joy and dread. I love the lights and food and music. I hate the time crunch and people that think it all has to happen on one day. I also hate not having enough money that is very stressful.
I adore themed festivities, sparkly decorations & special food & I never lost my childhood sense of wonder about the magic in the air…
But navigating holiday family dynamics has always been absolute hell for me. Inevitably I end up hiding in a room crying on the floor.
Mainly dread. There are bits I like, but societal and family expectations, enforced pressure-cooker socialising, and the disruption to my usual routine for most of December just wipes me out.
Anna Nicholson, @axnicho
Read more #AskingAutistics articles by Christa Holmans, Neurodivergent Rebel
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