The avoided truth of the holidays: a piece of my story

It’s that time of year again. Bright lights are permeating the streets, Christmas tunes are taking over the local radio station, and Santa Claus is somehow making a presence in every mall in the country. I can practically taste the holiday spirit, and it’s not just the peppermint bark.

It is undoubtedly a beautiful sight to watch the holiday spirit bring families together as well as highlight the essence of giving and kindness. However, although it appears as a reality shift, the truth that most will avoid is that Christmas is nothing but an illusion. It’s a social agreement to change the theme of our daily lives, and for once, designate our focus toward giving our time and resources to people we love. I’m not trying to kill your vibe, but in midst of all of this, there are individuals facing inner struggles, doing everything they can to play into the facade, even if this means burying their emotions to appear “jolly”. A holiday that is supposed to be about altruism and love becomes a time of loneliness and despair for many.

I considered writing a structured article that would bring awareness toward the holiday blues that a part of the collective experiences. Then I remembered my intentions behind sharing my writing is to really help people, even if that means being vulnerable and sharing my story so that others don’t feel alone. So that’s what I’m going to do; share my story.

I want to clarify that my intention is not to gain your sympathy, as I have countless blessings in my life and there are people that are dealing with much worse. My aim is to share a bit of my struggles so that you a) can get to know me better, b) gain some light on the real kind of love that needs to be spread, and c) have hope if you’re going through a hard time, because I got through it and so can you.

Christmas was a lively time for most of my younger years as I was fortunate enough to have a big family that would spoil me with affection and gifts. I was dazzled by the decorations and would stay up all night on Christmas eve, anticipating the excitement of the morning that laid ahead.

Me, getting spoiled with clothes on Christmas morning

That all changed one year, when my dad went missing. He was gone for a few months previous to Christmas. Me, being under 10 years old and used to having him in my life, was worried about him and didn’t understand why he wasn’t present for the holidays. At the time, I lived with my stepmom(who I have always just considered “mom”) and four of my siblings.

The family festivities continued, but I could tell there was something wrong. Maybe it was the fact that my mom was stressfully trying to come up with presents for us five kids on a teacher’s salary; or maybe it was just the underlying anxiety of not knowing where dad was.

Come Christmas day, no Dad. In retrospect, that might’ve been the first year that I realized how insignificant physical presents were compared to the presence of the people I loved.

I was told a few days later that he was in prison, and that he had been fighting a drug addiction. I thought parents were supposed to be perfect, and I didn’t understand how his actions weren’t based off the fact that he didn’t love me; they were merely a reflection of his own human inner struggles. So I felt abandoned.

Little did I know that I’d face many more Christmas’ without him. Some years he’d show up, and others he wouldn’t. My uncertainty developed a subconscious fear of the holidays, because it hurt to wonder whether he was going to be there or not.

After a few years, I slightly adapted to my reality and developed happy memories with my mom and siblings, despite the fact that my dad wasn’t around. I am grateful for the amount of love that was shown from various family members throughout that time, and my mom, for holding it together and choosing to take care of me even though she didn’t have to.

Me & my sibs on Christmas morning (I’m wrapped in the rainbow unicorn blanket)

Then, the Universe knew I had a higher capacity of strength, and chose to test me once again. I was thirteen, it was early November. I was sat down and told that the woman who had given birth to me, passed away. It might have been the fact that she brought me life, but there was an undeniable feeling of belonging when I was with her. She also faced her own inner conflicts and couldn’t be there for me consistently or the way she wanted to; but she was my mother. I always had hope that she would get better so I could see her more. It hurt in indescribable ways to have that hope ripped away from me. The grief I experienced from that situation extended past Christmas.  I was fortunate enough to have another mother figure(my “step” mom) who has always loved me as her own, and my siblings who always had my back. The truth is though, at that point I was so depressed that I couldn’t see the blessings that were right in front of me. The last thing I wanted to do was celebrate Christmas.

There have been Christmas’ since where I’ve been under the impression that I healed completely. Then there have been others, including this year, where I am reminded how much of an impact those events really had on me. I am not perfect. Although I consider myself an optimistic and conscious person, I too, have had to put effort toward understanding my programs so that I can grow toward my higher potential. Healing is a messy process, one that most don’t want to talk about or acknowledge, especially during the holiday season. When I become aware of my subconscious feelings of abandonment, the last thing I want to do is reach out to the people I love and dampen their holiday spirit.

This year I’ve been feeling energy very intensely. Although it has been quite painful at times, I know that is a part of my growth and awakening. Every time I cry and analyze where my emotions stem from, I feel as though I am shedding a layer of skin. I have spent more time in my apartment than I have in years, but I also feel stronger than I ever have. I recognize the pain I’ve been feeling as an opportunity to grow and understand myself better.

With that being said, if you are experiencing stress, loneliness, or resurfacing emotions during these holidays, I want to reassure that there is nothing wrong with you. Christmas is an exciting time of the year for many, but that doesn’t mean that you need to suppress your feelings to fit in. If anything, this is the time for you to feel out your emotions and get to know where they stem from. This is the only way that you’ll grow and have increasingly better years ahead. Although the people around you might be emphasizing the importance of family events, gift exchanges, and holiday obligations, don’t forget that your mental health should always come first.

For those of you who adore the holidays and don’t get why someone wouldn’t, please keep in mind what this season is really about. It’s about love. Not just the act of showing it through buying presents or hosting parties, but the act of extending your compassion toward those who are having a different experience than you are. After all, stepping in someone’s shoes, allowing them to be heard and noticed: that is one of the most valuable gifts that you can give.

If you’re wondering how I’ve pushed through the worst of the season, and have turned it into a growing experience, all I can really say is that for once, I allowed myself to feel. Instead of pretending that I already have my life all figured out, I got in touch with my inner child and gave her the compassion that she’s been seeking for years. I also gained the courage to reach out to a few people, despite how vulnerable it made me. I calmly let them know what I was going through, and they reminded me that it’s natural and expected to feel the way I do. It empowered me to come face to face with that which has been hiding in the back of my mind for many years.   

As the Christmas illusion comes closer to an end, don’t be afraid to feel. Reach out to those who love you. Utilize your hardships to become a stronger person. In the meantime, do your best to appreciate the beauty of the season, and use it’s magic to help you heal (let’s face it, we’ve all got a little bit of healing to do).

So whether this season is your favorite time of the year or particularly hard for you, don’t forget that love is what it’s all about. The past might hurt, and the future might seem stressful, but living deeply in the moment is love, and the Christmas spirit in it’s true essence.

If you need someone to talk to, please feel free to reach out to me. My email is gabdozier@gmail.com. Whether we’ve met or we haven’t, I genuinely care about your wellbeing and hope that you continue to take care of yourself. Remain in a state of growth and grow you shall.

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