The holidays are once again upon us, and no matter which one you celebrate at this time of year, or even if you don’t celebrate at all, the forced cheerfulness of Christmas songs, glittery decorations, light displays, and other holiday hoopla can add to the seasonal blues of those who feel alone.
This can be a particularly lonely time for trans people who have been rejected by family and friends – especially for those in more isolated areas who might not have access to special holiday events or social outings planned by local centers and support groups.
There’s nothing wrong with giving in to a little melancholia every now and then. While I love the holidays, there are other times when I just want to sit on the couch and feel sorry for myself, and when that happens, I sometimes indulge. Moping has its moments, and I reject the notion that it’s completely without merit. But if the entire month of December has you filled with dread and despair, you might want to consider some tricks to get you back on top again – or at least get you through until the first part of the new year.
> Make downward comparisons. Happy people tend to compare themselves to others who are less fortunate, while unhappy people do the opposite. Realizing that there are many others who are in an even worse situation than you are at least makes you appreciate what you do have, even if it seems like very little. I realize that this is kind of corny, trite advice, but research has shown that it works, which is probably why it has stuck around long enough to be corny and trite.
> Work on your sense of control. People with an internal locus of control – those who feel that they have power over their lives and that their actions and decisions matter – are far healthier and happier than those who feel that others control their fate. Being rejected or experiencing prejudice and discrimination in your life might be beyond your control, but there are many other things that are within your control, including your responses to mistreatment.
Of course it’s difficult not to feel hurt when someone treats you cruelly or when you are alone and lonely. But it sometimes helps to think of alternate ways to respond that put a more positive spin on things – “Yes, I’m alone, but I’d rather be alone than with people who can’t accept me for who I am” or “I’d rather be alone than have to put on an act every year.”
You can also reframe the entire situation – “I’m alone because I made a decision to live my life authentically, and it’s the best decision I ever made. I finally get to be who I really am, and I get to spend the holidays with someone who accepts and appreciates that – me.”
> Examine your negative thinking. Can you deconstruct it? For example, is the entire month really bad, or is it just a certain day that you might have celebrated with others in the past? Do you really have no one, or do you just not have the people you would prefer? Is it really true that nobody cares, or are there just certain people who don’t care who you wish did? Try to see where your thinking might be flawed, and where readjustment might be possible.
> Start your own holiday traditions. I wrote about this last holiday season, but it bears repeating. Starting your own traditions – by bringing back the things you used to love, starting over from scratch with new traditions, or a combination of the two – can make the holidays seem a little more magical. And this time, you don’t have to share the holiday-meal leftovers with anyone!
> Make your New Year’s Resolutions early. If there are things you want to change about yourself or your life in 2012, make those resolutions before the holidays, then get a head start on them. Setting goals can energize you, get you through the holidays, and give you something to look forward to. If you’ve already started on your goals for 2012, it will be easier to put the last dark days of 2011 out of your mind.
> Celebrate how far you’ve come. Look at what you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished. If you can get through what you’ve already gone through, you can pretty much get through anything.
Time passes, and the holidays will pass, too. There are some things that might be just plain difficult, and there might not be any way around it – you might just have to go right through it to get to the other side. If that’s the case, then at least stock up on chocolate – it’s been known to work miracles.
Readers – your thoughts about and experiences with the holidays?
(Photo: my favorite Hallmark card)