Dear Charlene: “I Hate the Holidays”

Every month, writer and actor Charlene deGuzman answers your questions about love, loss, and loneliness.

Hi everyone! I’m Charlene deGuzman!

I’m a writer and actor in Los Angeles. Some of you may know me as @charstarlene on Twitter, or maybe you’ve seen some of my shorts on YouTube.

I’ve teamed up with FLOOD to offer you all advice, support, and hope! Every month I’ll be answering any of your heart’s questions on life, love, happiness, and any of the deepest places in between.

Let me introduce myself. I was depressed at age eleven. I never thought I could ever feel happy or lovable. I spent my whole life trying to escape the pain. My life was a mess until I got fed up and did something about it. And now, as a recovered sex and love addict, I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.

I’m here to listen and help. Ask me anything at hellocharlenedeguzman@gmail.com. Your identity will remain anonymous.

And if you need one-on-one guidance, check out the work I do on charlenejoy.com. I would love to help!


Dear Charlene,

I hate the holidays: I’m lonely, I hate seeing my family, I’m poor. I hate when other people get me presents. This shit sucks. Tips?

I really know the feeling, and you’re not alone! This can be a very challenging time for many. Life is hard already, but at this time of year, it can feel like our pain and problems are amplified. How do we take care of ourselves amongst the holiday cheer, decorations, music, consumerism, weird family members, and cold air? It’s all so overwhelming. And during a time when things like love and joy and celebration are promoted, the only thing you may be thinking about is when it will end. You may feel like pushing everyone and everything away and isolating more than ever.

I’m not going to try and convince you to “embrace” the holidays, or show you why you should like them. But if you’re up for it, there are some things you could try to make the experience a little easier for yourself. Even the effort alone can make it feel a little better.

1) When we focus so much on what we don’t like and what we don’t want, it’ll feel like that’s all that we ever experience. That’s because what we focus on, whether it’s what we want or not, grows. While it’s easy to hate on the holidays and everything it brings with it, take the opportunity to think about what you do like and what you do want, and instead focus on that. Is there a project you always wanted to start, but never have? Is there a class you always wanted to take, a book you always wanted to read? Could your living space use a makeover? Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn? Shift your holiday-hating focus on something that fulfills you, something that feels good. This alone elevates your life already, and what a great time of the year to finally do it.

2) In the worst times of my life, I discovered that being of service to others saved me. It gave me a fulfilling feeling I had never felt before. It helped me feel purpose, value, and worth—all things I had been longing to feel, and had been seeking in the wrong places. There are several ways to give back to your community, volunteer, and support a great cause. And there are also ways to be of service in your daily life, with the people all around you. During the holiday season, commit to doing at least one act of kindness every day. Maybe you could call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time, and thank them for something you always wanted to thank them for. Maybe it’s an e-mail, maybe it’s a text. Maybe you could offer to give someone a ride where you wouldn’t have before. Maybe you can make a sandwich for a homeless person. Maybe you can give a friend a candy cane, for no reason at all. There are all sorts of ways to be kind. As you do each act of kindness, write it all down. How did the other person react? How did you feel after? Up for an additional challenge? Add a daily act of kindness for yourself. Do something nice. Treat yourself. Pat yourself on the back. Become your number one cheerleader as you get through every day.

When spending time with family, it’s important to have a self-care game plan.

3) It can be extremely hard to be around family. Not only can they push our buttons—they were the ones who put the buttons there! When spending time with family, it’s important to have a self-care game plan. Make the commitment to step away anytime it feels too overwhelming, intense, or uncomfortable. You can go to the bathroom and take three deep breaths, you can say you need to make a phone call and step outside (and actually call a friend if you need to vent) or go for a quick walk. You could even say you need something from the store, and ask everyone if they need anything. Just get out of there as soon as possible—don’t wait until your last nerve! You’re a human being with a sensitive soul and you can only take so much. Take care of yourself!

4) I always used to dread the holidays because they only reminded me of how broke I was. I was so embarrassed to not have fancy gifts for my family and friends. I would rather not exist than be the burden I felt like I was to those who got me presents. But one year, I tried something different. I didn’t want to hide anymore. I made cards—nothing fancy at all—and in them made a list of why I loved and appreciated the person I was giving it to. And on top of that, I would read the card out loud to them! It was a very fun, sometimes emotional experience. You’ll find that most people have a hard time even receiving what you’re saying. The truth is, everyone wants to feel appreciated and seen. It’s one of the best, most genuine gifts you can give, and it doesn’t cost a penny. And once again, giving this to other people will make you feel fulfilled in a way you’ve never felt before.

5) Suffering comes from resistance. The more we resist, the more exhausting it is, the slower it goes, the harder it is. Give yourself permission to allow yourself to feel whatever you feel, and allow the things that come up to come up. I know feelings can be so painful, overwhelming, and scary, but the sooner you feel them, the faster they can move through you. We live in a society where we’re told to “push through” and “man up,” where people instinctively tell others “don’t cry,” where people fan their eyes to prevent tears from falling down. But the truth is, there is a great strength in feeling your feelings. It’s the healthiest thing you can do for yourself. If you stuff your feelings, they aren’t going anywhere. They’re only moving deeper and deeper into your core, building up resentment. Cry if you need to. Be grumpy if you need to. Retreat if you need to. Let go of beating yourself up if you do. Console yourself like you would your best friend, or the five-year-old version of yourself. The holidays are full of things that may trigger all sorts of feelings. These triggers are just revealing your wounds that need to be healed. If these were physical wounds, would you ignore them? Be angry at them? Hurt them? Tend to your wounds. Listen to what your feelings are telling you. Most of the time, they just want to be heard.

The holidays aren’t for everyone, and they don’t have to be for you. But you deserve to feel good. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be taken care of. At any time of the year. That time is now.

That time will always be right now. FL

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