This Christmas is a little different this year within my family. From ages 14-17 I was in the hospital on Christmas Eve and got a day pass for Christmas day, then from ages 18-20, I would spend Christmas with my Mom at her cottage. This year, I will be spending Christmas with my girlfriend, Monika. There are an immense amount of factors that went into making this decision such as, my cat needs to be taken care of, I have exams and medical appointments going late into the month, my apartment needs to be taken care of, I start my new job early in the new year, etc. etc. But, one of the major reasons I am spending Christmas away from my hometown, is because I’m creating my own life that is not dependant on others.

I have put my family through A LOT in the past decade, resulting in a hindrance to their own success in their lives and careers. I know it’s not my fault for being chronically ill, but my parents were with me every step of the way and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. I’m twenty-one now and I attend McMaster University, I’m a barista at Starbucks, yoga teacher, vegan, avid volunteer, and fundraiser. I guess you could say I built a nice little nest up here in Hamilton. I see my psychiatrist every week and go to individual therapy, I get my injection, talk to my GP and go to DBT group every Tuesday. I don’t have a lot of friends, but I do spend an immense amount of time with my girlfriend, Monika. My friends from back home keep in touch and I talk to my family daily. But this holiday, I won’t be going home.

Building a stable home and succeeding in that environment is a very hard thing to do, especially for people who suffer from mental illness. At fourteen I was told I would likely need to be permanently institutionalised, and at sixteen I lost all hope of living alone. Five years of hard work, determination, and self-care lead me to the path I’ve always wanted, a normal one. I’m not going home for Christmas due to a variety of reasons as I mentioned before, but coming to that decision was extremely difficult for me. Surviving the holidays is incredibly difficult for almost everyone, so when someone suffers from mental health problems, the ‘best time of the year’ can become the worst.

The holidays can be a beautiful time to reconnect with family and loved ones but that can take its toll and sometimes it’s too hard, and that’s ok. This year I will be spending the week before Christmas with my family back home, but I’m going to come back home to Hamilton for Christmas Day. I want to emphasize that a lot of people feel they need to ‘please’ their family, or feel guilty if they don’t do what the members of their family want, but this is your holiday so spend it with who you want and do what you want. Now, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t spend Christmas with family. I’m saying that everything we do in life is a choice and you shouldn’t feel pressured to do one thing over another.

Common Negative Emotions During the Holidays…

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Fatigue

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Stress

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Sadness

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Love

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Loneliness

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Bloating

Common Positive Emotions During the Holidays…

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Irritability

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Happiness

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High Spirits

Spending time with family sucks sometimes, let’s be honest. But, this is the family that shaped who you are today. I’m not talking about directly blood-related relatives, but the people who have meant most to you in your life made the biggest impact, strongest impressions, taught you lessons, cared for you when through health and sickness, helped you when you needed it, and always listened. Sadly, some people don’t have great connections with their blood-related family members. But, please remember that you do NOT have to be related by blood to be in a family. Give the title to people who deserve it, people who root for you, and people you care about.

Now, I’m rambling a little bit…back to the topic of this post, I want you to have a holiday where you define what is best for you. This doesn’t mean you should rebel against the family because you’re mad at them…families fight and that’s part of the reason why they become so close. But if you are in an unhealthy relationship with your family, it’s ok to take the space you need. There is no shame in doing what is best for you, even if that means being alone on Christmas. If you will be alone for the holidays please remember that there are many places around the community where you can go to give thanks with others. These can include church, soup kitchens, groups, clubs, and even open coffee stores. The holiday season is a time to celebrate, so I challenge you to celebrate YOURSELF this year.

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