“Come on, start eating.” “Oh you look so good! For a while I thought you were gaining weight.” “Are you really sure you want more bread?” “Stop shaking your leg at the table, it’s annoying.” “Is that honestly what you’re wearing?”
Over the course of 24 years, these are just a few of the statements that have been said to me during the holidays. And all of these came to me courtesy of my own family. The holidays never fail to bring me to my knees and always leave me wondering if all the pain I felt growing up was, in fact, actually my fault. I spend countless hours in my therapist’s office and am all consumed by trauma work and exposures that gift wrapping, decorating, and sledding all fall by the wayside.
I am just now learning that I am not the only one who spends their holidays like this. And in learning this, my heart is conflicted. Part of me is overwhelmed with a sense of relief; validation, hope, and belonging. But in contrast, I am deeply saddened knowing that the holidays are such a painful experience for so many people.
So whether you’re struggling with an eating disorder, sitting around the dinner table with those who have hurt you in the past, or trying to support a loved one, here are some reminders that have gotten me through many a difficult holiday seasons.
- You do not need to “earn” the food you eat. Holiday cookies are not conditional on if you went to the gym, nor do you need to “detox” from an evening of enjoying food with the ones you love. Eat what you want, stop when you’re full. Only YOU know what your body is saying, so listen to it!
- Set boundaries. You have every right to step away from a conversation you are not comfortable with. It is okay to say no. You are not selfish for setting and holding boundaries; from where I’m sitting this is the most effective form of self-care.
- Have a plan. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s to not go into the holidays blind. Identify people in your life that want to help you. Whether they’re sitting across from you at the dinner table, or across the country just a phone call away, use your support system!
- Plan time for some fun. If caroling and tree trimming make you happy, sing and trim away! If traditional holiday activities don’t bring you peace, spend time doing what you enjoy! Journaling, yoga, meditating, reading, painting, hula hooping, ukelele playing, knitting… the list can go on forever!
I have full faith that you will get through this holiday season. Those who doubt you only have power if you let them and when push comes to shove, the holidays are just a few days out of the year. This too shall pass, trust me.