Day 3: When ‘Home for the Holidays’ Isn’t Good For Your Mental Health

Cause some families ain’t shit and I am not here to tell you to spend time with ain’t shit people. – Ashley Sharie

Yesterday for Blogmas, I shared some of my favorite holiday memories, both old and new. Reminiscing on some of my favorite times with my family and friends. But, the last two holiday seasons have been a bit rough mentally because of the loss of my Grandmother. Both times I traveled home for Christmas I had to have a crying fit in the car because her absence was, and is, definitely felt. No matter what I was in town for, or what time I got in, her house was my first stop. Whether I was there to hang with her for a few hours, or just stopping in for a few minutes, it was a necessity. It’s still weird going to Cleveland and NOT going by her place.

The holiday season isn’t so merry and bright for a lot of people, for various reasons. Grief. Loss. Health. Childhood trauma. Toxic family. And the list goes on and on. Some of you don’t have a family home to return to for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. You may not receive invites to holiday parties and gift exchanges, and maybe some of you can’t even be in the same room with your relatives without arguments breaking out and past conflicts resurfacing. And I’d be remiss if I talked about the holiday season without acknowledging that.

When this topic was suggested to me, I definitely felt a heart-sinking feeling because it is the reality for many people. Fortunately for me, blood relatives who I consider toxic aren’t around during the holidays. Don’t get me wrong, my immediate family isn’t perfect and we all have our shit to deal with, but I love the time I get to spend with them, especially around the holidays and have grown to interact in a way that is conducive to my mental health and healing.

All that to say..

I write this piece mostly from a place of empathy and not experience.

For some of you, going home for the holidays comes with A LOT of emotional baggage that barely fits in your carryon. It means facing demons, both figurative and literal, that bring about the presence of toxic relatives, unpacked childhood trauma, and an overall downward spiral of any joy you had before the day.

It means sneaking off into a bathroom to cry and get through it. Or hiding the anxiety attack that is brewing up, threatening to show itself at any moment. Home the holidays may mean being in the continuous presence of some of the people who have caused (and may still cause) you the most pain, and yet because they are related by blood or marriage, you’re expected to deal.

So here are a few pieces of advice that I share, with love, that may make the holidays a little bit better for you:

Don’t be afraid to love from a distance.

This is something that I learned in therapy. Not everyone, regardless of relation, needs to be in your intimate space. You don’t have to involve them in your everyday life.

Be open and honest about your needs.

[Read: if you can] This is a tough one because chances are, the people who you need to be open and honest with, will be least-receptive of your truth. So I say this in an “I know it’s easier said than done, but still try” kind of way. If you hate when your overbearing mother nags about your love life and when you’ll have kids, tell her. If your aunt’s sly comments about your weight gain hurt you, tell him. Or, if constantly having to face the uncle who may have touched you inappropriately is no longer something you want to accept “having” to do, say it. Though they may not be receptive, you’ve spoken your peace.

It’s okay to limit your time with family.

Family gatherings are not obligatory, especially if they put you back in a place mentally where you don’t want to be. This may mean skipping a holiday gathering or two or missing a couple of Sunday dinners.

Have a designated support friend.

Someone you love and trust. Someone you can text or call and just say “hey, I’m not okay right now and I just need an ear.” This person should be someone you’ve already discussed the dynamics of your familial relationships with

Family doesn’t have to be blood.

Create your own family and traditions. I am closer to some of my friends than I am some of my relatives. Family is who and what you make it. If you’d rather have a Friendsgiving, or spend Christmas day with the homies, that’s okay.

In all things, protect your mental health and I hope this piece helps you a little bit in your effort into doing so.

Merry Blogmas,

Do you have any tips for making the holiday season a bit easier? Let me know below.

17 Comments

  1. Reply

    Sheena Steward

    December 12, 2018

    You’re right! As amazing as this time of year is, there are a lot of triggers involved with this season. I think you handled this tough topic perfectly.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 13, 2018

      Thank you!! 🙂

  2. Reply

    Jessica

    December 12, 2018

    I love the honest in this post! I could feel it. My family hasn’t been the same since my grandmother passed away in 2004. We are all like strangers. I take care of myself first. I’m glad you are spreading this holiday honesty!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 13, 2018

      Yes, always take care of you first!! Thanks so much 🙂

  3. Reply

    Letitia

    December 12, 2018

    This hit home. I have a lot of emotional baggage when it comes to blood relatives and this is a reminder that me livingloving from a distance is healthy for me . I can only be responsible for myself and not what others perceive of me . Thank you for this timely reminder ❤️

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 13, 2018

      ” I can only be responsible for myself and not what others perceive of me .” I love this, so true!! Thank you

  4. Reply

    Kita

    December 13, 2018

    This post right here! I don’t have any family members left as they all have passed away but when they were alive I kept my distance because I wanted to end my year on a joyous note.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 13, 2018

      I’m so sorry to hear that, but i hope you find a way to enjoy the holidays either way!! 🙂

  5. Reply

    Mimi Green

    December 14, 2018

    I firmly believe in spending the holidays the way you want. Ones mental health is important, most important. Spend the holiday time being with others, or being alone. There is no perfect formula and people shouldn’t make us feel guilty for our choice.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 14, 2018

      I totally agree!

  6. Reply

    Monique Tillman

    December 14, 2018

    You hits some nails on the head with this. I live by love them from a distance because I dont have time for BS. Period..Sometime your family can be the worse.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 14, 2018

      I live by loving people from a distance, such a peace saver!

  7. Reply

    Sweet Tiffy's Inspirations

    December 15, 2018

    I love the holidays and family time but i realize that not everyone shares the sentiments. I like that you mentioned that just because you don’t share the same blood you cant be family! Create your own safe places

  8. Reply

    jadoreledecor

    December 15, 2018

    Xmas is not one of my holidays, but my heart certainly goes out to those who do observe it and who are deeply missing loved ones. Such a thoughtful and compassionate post on your part

  9. Reply

    cleverlychanging

    December 15, 2018

    I love family time so the holidays make me happy. I think it’s important to limit negative vibes so don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t want to be around people who steal your joy even if they are family.

  10. Reply

    Kasi Perkins

    December 17, 2018

    I love the holidays, but you brought up some great points as to why some people may not look forward to this time of year. You gave some really helpful advice as to how to make the holidays more enjoyable for those people.

  11. Reply

    Jonna Scott-Blakes

    December 27, 2018

    These are great tips for any time of the year. My cousin and I were just talking about some things going on with another family member the other day, and I was telling her I had to just let it go. It’s not our responsibility. You have to release yourself from it sometimes.

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