Someone on Flickr asked me about my plans for the holidays and I realize my response may have sounded bitter. I think it's important for folks to realize not everyone has a good relationship to the holiday season, it would never be an assumption I made, not saying this person made that assumption.
In my Googling "depression rates during the holidays", this is what I found.
"Social isolation is one of the biggest predictors of depression, especially during the holidays. People who have feelings of disconnectedness often avoid social interactions at holiday time. Unfortunately, withdrawing often makes the feelings of loneliness and symptoms of depression worse."
This mirrors what I heard on my podcast The Hilarious World of Depression. Where they were having a special episode on how people who suffer from depression use different coping mechanisms to deal with the holidays. I would love to say I deliberately isolate, but that isn't where it started.
When I was a kid and I still had a mother, and my mother made the biggest effort to make Thanksgiving and Christmas a big deal. At this time I lived with my two brothers and Christmas would usually be an affair for the extended family including loads of cousins and Aunts and Uncle. I just read my mother's mother's obituary she had seventeen grandchildren and at the age, before my mother died she easily had ten or twelve.
There is a picture of me with my cousins and my brothers standing in front of a Christmas tree in my house. It's one of the few photos I have of me and my siblings together as children. When my mother died seven days before my eleventh birthday things would never be the same.
The first thing that happened is all that family I had I wouldn't see for the next fifteen years. I would also for the first time in my life be separated from my brothers. This is something my mother never wanted she wanted her boys to stay together, but she also knew it was unreasonable to ask someone to take in three boys under the age of twelve. So we were split up. I went alone to stay with my paternal grandparents and my brothers as a couple was sent to live with a cousin.
That simple move severed our brotherly bond forever and in 2017 I can say it was never rekindled no matter how hard I tried the other two were closer to each other. There isn't a need to get into the reasons behind that but let's say its a loss that still hurts me because that wasn't what I remembered and it wasn't what I wanted.
My grandparents had raised their children and frankly weren't very festive around any holidays. I have a photo from my first Christmas in my grandparents home, its a stark difference from the photo in my mother's home. It's me alone in a striped shirt standing by myself next to a Christmas tree, this photo embodied my new relationship to the holidays. In my mother house putting up the tree was a family affair in my grandparent's house my grandmother told me where the tree was and where the decorations were and I was left to assemble it by myself.
This lackluster approach to the holidays was driven I would like to say by my grandmother who frankly didn't have a nurturing bone in her body. She did the basics, food, shelter and, clothing but physical intimacy wasn't her thing. She loved me by providing for my physical needs not really considering my emotional needs a lot. To be fair I think she did the best she could do, but I feel she could have done more.
The only family member on my father's side who did holidays similar to how my mother did it was my aunt who curiously shared the same first name as my mother. Her thanksgivings were rich and family filled. Her Labor Day parties were epic with usually several generations being represented. But alas I didn't live with my Aunt Mary I lived with her sister and her brother-in-law where holidays were always more reserved.
Another curious thing was happening during this time period post my mother this was the development of my depression which like me was just a little kid at this point, it has now grown to a fully unfunctional adult.
My mother's approach to the holidays was anti-depression my grandparents approach fed the depression this was a very unhealthy balance and emotionally quite problematic. As a young adult, the holidays became moments of lethargy. I recall I was production-assistant on my first Broadway show working under a woman I genuinely liked but I was so depressed my memories of this time were foggy, to say the least.
This cycle of deep depression continued until my former friend Adam who also despised the holidays suggested we go to Puerto Rico for the Xmas season. I agreed and found the sun and the warm weather and excellent treatment to my winter blues. I would pick up his ritual with trips to Belize and Mexico during this time and found relief in getting away from it all.
Then in 2003, I was in a relationship and I knew it wasn't fair to my partner for me to disappear emotionally so I willed myself to be present and came up with new rituals to not only celebrate the holidays but celebrate my relationship. This lasted for the four years of the relationship, but when it ended I was on my own again and as I told the person on Flickr, I have no children and I have no parents the holidays are meaningless to me.
In this context, it's clear this is where I have been lead to and frankly I don't mind it. I would love something different but that doesn't seem to be my destiny so I will continue my boycott of all holidays until there is a time they seem worthy of celebrating.
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