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Why Staying Home for Christmas Is What's Best for My Mental Health

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For the first time in a long time, I hear the Christmas muzak on repeat in Target and I no longer feel the creep of dread winding around my spine, constricting my throat. I do feel a jolt of consternation on Thanksgiving day, but that’s the leftovers from 10 years of working in a department store. That’s another story for another time, however, I will remind everyone reading this to please for the love of all things holy be kind to your friendly retail employee during this season. It gets ugly. Like having to dodge a 22-oz. Yankee Candle zooming through the air like a Christmas cookie scented Zeppelin, ugly. Merry fuckin’ Christmas. I digress.

Somewhere amidst the obstreperous group of teenagers, the Christmas lights glowing in my classroom, the piles of grading, a growing to do list, and perhaps, plastic baby Jesus himself, I, the proud owner of three mental illnesses (borderline personality disorder, ADHD and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, if you’re wondering), have found a semblance of peace.

You may be wondering how this is possible. While the answer is simply worded, it is not altogether simple: I am staying home for Christmas.

As a kid of divorced parents, I spent the holiday season bouncing between various houses filled with confections, catch-up conversations and cheer. I genially navigated the experience shoving down the embryonic growth darkness pitting itself deep within my stomach.

Then shit just blew up. I stopped swallowing my feelings, realized I had a whole pile of problematic behaviors and got pissed off. Much to the chagrin of everyone, I started slamming down some boundaries and talking about my hurt and anger, which as you can imagine led to more hurt and anger. There’s no need to scrupulously comb over the details — we all got our “stuff.”

And my “stuff” will keep me home for Christmas. Because there’s a reason my psychiatrist asks me if I have a plan to keep myself stable over the holidays — the holidays are a calamity unto themselves, and I don’t need further encouragement. And while I know that means I’ll have to endure the disappointed text messages, uncomfortable decline of invites, with the occasional narcissistic retort thrown in, staying home for Christmas is the best thing for me.

Because it took me 31 years to realize that the guilt I feel is not my own and it most definitely does not need to guide me into a variety of uncomfortable situations with ears burning and body in “fight” mode. It does not need to render me helpless on the couch as the minutes tick away with the time I have to leave looming in the background. It does not need me to swallow down the sobs after starting a fight with my husband in our car because I read too much into his response while I was navigating to the next get together.

So, I will be staying home for Christmas because I know that’s the best thing for me. Because after years of spiraling out of control and somehow playing at normalcy, I realize that making me a priority is the best gift I can ever give myself.

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Getty Image by jakkapan21

Originally published: December 7, 2017
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