I can’t quite explain what my reasoning was but this year I decided not to take vacation for the holidays. If I did, most likely that would have meant flying to Iowa where my parents live and spending a lot of time with them at their two-story house and at their church. Lot of people are celebrating around this time and spending time with their beloved family and friends. I find myself in a workaholic, pensive mood, sorrowfully thinking of those who are coping with holiday blues. In a way maybe I have my own holiday blues to deal with as well.
For a certain segment of the population – when it feels like all of society are shouting with joy and excitment about how it’s the holidays – this time of the year is actually a very lonely, depressing time. Not everyone can afford to take time off of their work to celebrate. I mean, this year it’s probably a fortunate thing that Christmas falls on a Sunday, but still I imagine the people serving at restaurants, the truck drivers on the highways, the security guards at homeless shelters, the subway train operators, the nurses in hospitals, the soldiers at their overseas posts… While everyone is off enjoying the holidays, they still have to work. I still work – this Saturday as a babysitter, this Sunday to oversee a holiday event occuring at my worplace – and though I’ll be spending very few hours working, I find solidarity with those who will not be able to rest because they have to keep the world going.
There are also those who don’t have to work, but don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with. In my field of social work, I’ve come to meet many of them. Holidays can be hard for them. Some people have no family to turn to because they’re estranged from them, because their family was abusive, because their family are now deceased, or because of so many other possible reasons. For some people I’ve come to meet at my job, holidays are anniversaries of tragic events – when their brother died from alcohol poisoning, when they were molested and raped by an uncle, when they were arrested for sleeping on a park bench, etc. They have to cope with their memories, and probably by themselves because holidays are times when supportive/clinical staff is the least available. There’s a tenant at my supportive housing program who informed me she’ll be hiding in her apartment unit all this week because she didn’t want to show the world her holiday blues, of how vulnerable, lonely, and weak she felt.
Fortunately, in my conversations and interactions with all the people on my caseload, very few appear to be exhibiting what I think of as the “holiday blues.” Most were cheerful, optimistic, and grateful. They displayed their resilient spirit like the survivors they are.
I also get to think about people who end up really sick and end up in hospitals. I personally know some people who’ll have to spend their holidays there, and some will do so unconsciously, some will do so in a great amount of pain. If they were on my caseload, I keep thinking that I wish I could known more and done more to have prevented them from ending up in the hospital like that. I also would like to send my sympathic thoughts to their family members who’ll have to be visiting.
In a way I’m glad to have an opportunity to be at work this Sunday. If I’m having some symptoms of the holiday blues myself for whaver reason, I get to relieve a lot of it by engaging with the community of tenants at my workplace and with the kind-hearted and passionate volunteers who’ll be there. To that tenant who said she’ll be hiding in her apartment, at least I could still be available and offer my presence.
That’s not to say I’m this saintly person. This weekend I had a great time on a first date with someone I have a fairly big crush on. The prospects of it are keeping my spirits up and yesterday I was glad to have free time to meet up with some colleagues and bond over the crazy and depressing fact that Donald Trump will become our president.
Holiday blues are a real thing for some people. In some cases, like mine, it can’t be fully explained why it’s there. We’re all trying to find ways to be happy and joyful, but it doesn’t always come naturally, not even during the holiday season. So it is that I find myself working this Christmas Eve and Christmas day, hoping it helps to relieve my holiday blues.