What I Need Others to Understand About My 'Mundane' Holiday Request

For the longest time, the holidays were my favorite time of year. The lights, smells and festivities hung in the air much the same way as my hopes and dreams. That’s not to say I don’t love the holidays now, I just happen to have to prepare for them a little differently.

In my house, you will find a stack of presents wrapped in the shiny paper (because I like the way it reflects the lights from the decorations), all different sizes of cubes. In my house, you’ll find holiday decorations and themed mugs, plates and towels, as well as some snowflake sprinkles I put on top of my hot chocolate and the whipped cream on my coffee. In my house you will find a little Santa hat for my dog and you’ll hear carols coming from everything that plays music. But the one thing you won’t find are gift bags.

That’s because they are a trigger for my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I have to be proactive and ask each and every person that if they give me anything, they wrap it in a box and paper — not a bag. I almost always get at least one quizzical look and have to explain why. It’s not that I judge people on their wrapping skills, or even that I want special treatment. It’s that for my own mental health and well-being, gift bags simply cannot be in my life anymore.

Before bags became an issue for me, I would never have thought that mental health could hinge so strongly on something so seemingly mundane. I couldn’t fathom that the holidays were a time of pain and suffering when I saw so many beautiful things. Now, I understand and I want to help others do the same. I know now that even the people who celebrate the most could need some accommodations to keep on celebrating.

So this holiday season, if someone asks you to do something a little differently than you had in mind, maybe they aren’t being picky. Maybe they need your help to ensure that their days too, are merry and bright.

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