Going "Home" for the Holidays - LGBTQ+ Reminder
The Holidays can be difficult for so many reasons. They are meant to be enjoyed with the people we love... bring us close together. Often, they do the opposite. There's all the stress of planning, large amounts of food, the pressure to spend money, seeing people that you haven't seen in a long time, etc. Some of these pressures can feel really overwhelming, especially if you are already going through a particularly vulnerable patch in your life.
There can be a lot of good to come out of the Holidays, but I want to remind people to take care of themselves during these upcoming weeks. It may sound selfish... we're taught that. We're taught that we should be with our family of origin during the Holidays, that's what you're "supposed" to do. What if your family of origin makes you feel unsafe? What if it is emotionally draining? What if there is toxic patterns of behavior that are triggering to you? This isn't talked about often but is really important. Navigating the Holidays with your family of origin can be the opposite of relaxing or fun for some people. For some, it means a string of weeks filled with anxiety and stress.
So, what do you do if your family of origin makes you feel unsafe?
I think it's important first to just have an inner dialogue with yourself about the situation. Ask yourself how you really feel about being around your family of origin during the Holidays. Try to think of the people that make you feel safe and the one's who maybe don't. Who can you surround yourself with during this time that will make you actually enjoy and be enriched by this time of year. Having an ally at a gathering can be a great help. Find at least one person that you feel totally comfortable with and see if you can be near them the most. Remember that feeling unsteady or anxious isn't your fault or a negative thing, try to let the feelings be heard and then pass. You are not wrong for having these thoughts or feelings, they are nothing to be ashamed about.
What if things get too much or heavy anxiety kicks in?
Try to find a space that you can retreat ahead of time in case things get to be a little too much. Maybe it's a room away from all the action or even a spot outside... even your car works if you park it a little further away. Don't feel bad if you need to excuse yourself, just say you need a second to yourself. There is nothing wrong with taking a break from a situation that is getting to be too much for you. If you start to feel alone, have a friend that you can text. Many people are busy on the actual Holiday day, but ahead of time ask a friend if they can be a support system for you. You can text each other to keep spirits lifted and feel like you have a safety net. If a situation arises where you are directly targeted or singled out, remove yourself from the situation. It sounds drastic, but there are a lot of family's that will single out the "other". Stand up for yourself if you have the energy, but remove yourself if you don't. You do not deserve to be made to feel like you don't belong.
Do I have to go?
No. You don't have to visit your family of origin for the Holidays if it is too much for you. Do some carful thinking on it first though, really decide if it's just fear of the unknown or if it is a truly unsafe emotional situation. If it's just fear of "what might happen", try to remember that you can not predict the future or people's reactions. This is especially true for people in the LGBTQ+ community who have just come out, have a new partner, have started transition, etc. Try to be open to others reactions first. It might not be as bad as you build it up in your head. if it does go badly, you have the tips above.... and, you can always leave. If you really think it best to avoid your family or origin during the Holidays, know that the decision does not make you a bad person. Try to find time with your chosen family. Do activities together that are enriching. Spend time being grateful for who you do have in your life and make sure that you tell others you love them.
An important reminder...
If this is a particularly rough time of year for you, please set up self care ahead of time. It's not talked about often enough... this time of year can be dangerous for people with depression, anxiety, and those who are not accepted by their family or origin for who they are. If this is the case for you, please reach out... to friends - to your chosen family - even to people that you connect with online. Make it a priority. You deserve to feel loved during the Holidays. No matter your gender, sexuality, relationship, financial situation, religion, race, education level, job status, etc. To me... the Holidays are about feeling SAFE and LOVED.
💘 River Eastwood