When Relationships Make the Holidays Worse

December 14, 2011 Tracey Lloyd

I hate Christmas. There I said it.

I don't hate the holiday - I'm a Christian and I believe in Jesus, Mary, the whole shebang. What I hate is enforced happiness and gift giving that's associated with Christmas, especially when I'm depressed and I don't feel like I have anything to be happy about. And when I'm miserable, the last thing I want is a bunch of people - especially my family - telling me to cheer up.

Alone and Lonely is Better Than Surrounded by People...and Still Lonely

Perhaps my aversion to "the holiday spirit" started after my mother died, though it became worse in my 30's, when the expectations I had of being happily married met with my reality. Yes, I had a masters degree and a good job, but my personal life was in disarray: I was a workaholic with no social life; I was single and living in a city that I hated; and my clinical depression was getting worse in spite of therapy and medication. In that mindset, I begrudgingly met my family obligations between Thanksgiving and New Year's. I went to parties and dinners, but felt all the worse for being in the presence of happy people with full nuclear families. While I'm glad that I have aunts and cousins that enjoy my company, it was really difficult to witness the mother/child connections of other people when I didn't have one of my own.

Bah humbug, indeed.

Are Holiday Presents Evidence of Good Relationships?

Now that I'm in recovery and my bipolar and depression are well managed, I'd expect another perspective on the holiday season. Yet, Christmas is equally fraught with anxiety and annoyance. Every year since my Dad retired, I tell him not to get me presents. In reality, gifts aren't that important to me and I'd always prefer a heartfelt greeting card or a handmade trinket. But my Dad is the only person in my life who'd buy me a present. I have no kids, no husband, no siblings, no boyfriend. I have far too many cousins and aunts for us to exchange gifts, and my close friends do dinners and parties together in lieu of presents.

My Christmas tree - if I decide to get one - has nothing under it. And I have nobody to decorate it with.

I know what you're thinking: the holidays are about giving and not receiving. The last time I followed that line of thought, I got the "oh my God, I didn't get you a gift and I feel so guilty" look from everyone I presented with a shiny package. That look of shocked contrition is second only to the feeling of having to accept some workplace grab-bag item someone decides to give you at the last minute.

Perhaps, this year, I'll stay at home and eat Chinese food on Christmas day. Or I'll host a dinner for acquaintances who have nowhere else to go, or can't afford the plane fare to see their families. Either way, I won't be putting on a happy face - though I may be stuffing it.

Find Tracey on Twitter, Facebook, and her personal blog.

APA Reference
Lloyd, T. (2011, December 14). When Relationships Make the Holidays Worse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Tracey Lloyd

June, 22 2015 at 10:33 pm

gifts should be given everyday, not on special occasions only! nice article though.

April, 5 2014 at 5:55 pm

I can relate.
After my divorce, I went to Myrtle Beach for Christmas for a very "Bah-Humbug!" type of Holiday.
In fact, I kind of basked in it. It almost felt like a relief of sorts from all of the pretense of previous Christmases.

Leave a reply