Here we are - Thanksgiving is over, Christmas is coming, and
we are in the midst of all the celebration and "hype" seeping through every
pore of American culture - from television, to the billboards, to the internet.
No, Rod Serling isn't going to do a prologue, telling us we are now entering "The
Twilight Zone," (though it does feel like it at times,) but we are entering what
I (and others) call "The (Holiday) Bermuda Triangle" - the time between the
Thanksgiving and Christmas/Chanukah (and Kwanzaa) holidays, usually ending somewhere
after the New Year. Not everyone has
family, friends, or places to go for the holidays, whether miles, deaths, or
emotions separate one from that Norman Rockwell painting. This is the time when
people are struggling with their demons - the pains of low self-esteem, the dysfunction
and rejection of family, the deep seated issue(s) of the past that rear its
ugly head and often drag the person into the vortex of dejection, isolation,
and self-medication. It is also the time
where recovery and controlled consumption is challenged: You are supposed to drink to celebrate, eat
to celebrate, party your #*&%* off eating and drinking...not to mention being
with the one you love, surrounding yourself with family and friends...And if you aren't
joyous...Not full of the mirth and glee of the holidays? Grinch, Scrooge, Shlub.
During this time, clinicians of mental illness and
addictions, caretakers of the elderly to the homeless, and people interacting with
ones who are struggling with depression and trauma, become more vigilant; where
emotions related to rejection, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy become
painfully real. When I am working with people who are in recovery (from sugar,
alcohol, drugs,) I worry about the holidays.
And ordinary people aren't exempt from the "Bermuda Triangle:" Some people,
who have grappled with these feelings of loss, also struggle through these
times (and who has not gone through this at least once in their life? I know I
have...more than once.) Even folks that
present well and have "things going for them;" the white picket fence, the
partner or lover, the "two point five" kids, and a dog (or cat,) can succumb to
the "Bermuda Triangle." Anyone can crack under the pressures to perform; to get
the perfect gift, survive "home for the holidays," and be under pressure to
have enough: money, food, and presents,
this and that. Between the commercials,
the family, and the expectations - no wonder "the Triangle" is the time where
there are casualties; people "missing in action."
"The Triangle" is no joke, a real "mutha" for many.
Now you know I am not going to bring up such a topic without
opening my toolbox and pulling out some of my "tools..." Wait, not tools, but
defensive weapons, because for me the holidays can be an assault on my
psyche. I have had my share of melancholy
over the holidays; losing close family members, including my father right after
the 2005 Christmas holiday, and have dealt with the "don't have's:" No family of
my own, no one to bring in the New Year. So when the "Bermuda Triangle" comes rolling
in, I have to prepare myself for battle; set up my "Situation Room," full of
plans, strategies, and goals. I have a
four point plan I put in place that makes the holidays my own, not a "Happy Holidays, Dammit!," but a little
system that allows me to define my holiday, give thanks, and see in a new year
full of faith and hope...no matter what:
1. 1. FIND
SOME THINGS YOU MAY LIKE TO DO BY YOURSELF: Don't depend on another
person, depend on you! I look for some free or inexpensive places to
go on my own - I want to have control of when I come and go, and I want to
observe the activity and decide how much I want to be involved. I may go to the ice skating rink at Bryant
Park and watch the skaters (or even skate,) go to the Rockefeller Center
Christmas tree, or the store front exhibits that the department stores
display. No crowds, no problem, I will
go early, or look up the free day at a museum, an art gallery, first showing at
a movie (which can be half price.) All you need is a library (free access to
the internet or newspapers) and an ounce of curiosity.
This is also the
time when 12 step groups have "marathons," meetings every hour or hour and a
half. And you don't have to be in
recovery. Heck, it is a destination,
with a positive support system, a cup of tea or coffee, and takes up some time constructively. Go, sit and listen, count your blessings, and
get over it!
2. 2. MAKE
DATES TO DO THOSE ACTIVITIES: Put them
on the calendar. Schedule it. If you know that December 25th is
dysfunctional family day, why not schedule that excursion to the rink or walk
in the park on the 26th or 27th. Now you have something to look forward to as
you deal with Aunt Marjorie asking about T-cells and viral loads for the
sixtieth time. Or Cousin Edward staring
at you like Typhoid Mary.
3. 3. MAKE
A SPECIAL CORNER FOR YOUR HOLIDAY:
I take a table, get some pine sprigs, get a "Charlie Brown tree,"
decorate it with handmade (and some bought) ornaments, and put my Gumby and
Pokey (the alcoholic!) and my mini Etch-it-sketch under my tree. I even mail
myself some Christmas cards I may have seen when out and about and put it on
the table. (Yes, I mail myself Holiday cards, gotta problem?!) You can update
the toys according to your generation; Nientendo, ipod, whatever. Don't want a
tree? No problem, a Christmas Cactus, a Hanukah bush, make up whatever you
want. It's your holiday table. Lighten it up.
4. 4. GIVE
YOURSELF A SPIRITUAL BOOST: You can get (back) in touch with your spirituality
- Go (back) to a church, a temple (Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, etc.,) or a mosque.
Get in touch with your humanity - volunteer and give during the holidays, Commune
with the tourist in Times Square, be with friends who have family. Or be
peaceful by yourself and for a moment, do nothing...but don't "hide-in." Also, you
can get in an extra visit or two with your therapist over this time. (You think?)
You know there will be times that the grief may surface, or you will wake up
with the "bah-hum-bugs," but they do not have to dominate your head, and you
don't need to be "up in your head with no supervision." Whether you are indoors
or outdoors, plan something for you, because you deserve to "jingle your
bells." Or just jingle a bit.
For some of you, it may not be all that - the "(Holiday)
Bermuda Triangle" may be a "whatever" moment in time; so I only ask that you
share what makes it easy for you, you may help someone who may be struggling or
even stuck (cause you know you have had those "deer in headlights" moments before.)
If you are perfectly happy with the holidays, share those blessings, your
happiness is contagious and can rub off on one who needs a smile or a hug. (Yes, a hug - not pats on the back like
you're burping a baby, but a heart-to-heart hug.) So, if you see me about The Big Apple this
holiday, help me survive "The Bermuda Triangle" with the fifth (and bonus)
point in my plan-
GIVE (ME) A HUG FOR THE HOLIDAYS.