Trying to Make Sense of Feeling Alone During the Holidays

On Friday, I got my first dose of winter.

A friend and I headed to the EY Centre to check out the Signatures Originals Christmas Craft Show.

We saw some great handmade items, and I bought a few things for Christmas presents. One for my mom, and I let my friend choose something for himself from one of my favourite artists/vendors, Pop Fiction. You can check them out on @pop_fiction_art on Instagram. I also picked up a few drawings to add to my collection.

Next, I need to head over to Michael’s to buy some frames for them. First-world problems, right?

I’m more than happy to support artists. Enough about that, though.

This week, I want to talk about mental health, especially during the holidays. It’s a topic that gets overlooked. We all see pictures on social media of people celebrating with big trees and decorations, and we see the best parts of the season. We rarely see the struggles that many people face during the holidays. For example, loneliness is a prevalent problem at this time of year. The more we pretend it doesn’t exist, the more it affects those who experience it.

A common misconception I come across is that lonely people are lonely simply because they don’t have any friends. While that’s true sometimes, it is not the only reason.

I could be in a room with ten, twenty, or more of my closest friends, but I could still feel lonely. Some of that could be because I’m suddenly not in the mood to be around people or missing someone who can’t be there for whatever reason. It could also be due to being bombarded by pictures and news stories of people’s lavish decorations and telling others to get out there and spend until they go bankrupt. If you don’t do the same or live by their standards, you’re not worth mentioning.

Yes, as mentioned, I did buy a few gifts for a few people, including myself. However, I made a point of keeping it simple and not breaking the bank.

And then there’s ODSP. I’m on ODSP and have been for many years. The holidays are a more challenging time for us. Every December, we receive our payment at the beginning of the month and also around the middle of the month. We don’t get paid in January.

Each month, ODSP recipients struggle to make ends meet, with many of us being forced to choose between food and heat. On top of that, now we have the added stress of buying gifts for loved ones, decorating the house, and purchasing food for the holidays. How are we supposed to do all of that?

The mainstream media doesn’t tell you this, or we’re presented as charity cases and have others feel sorry for us.

No, we don’t want that, at least I don’t. The worst part is that it doesn’t need to be this way. If our government cared about everyone, and I mean everyone, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Of course, there’s also the rising cost of food. For much of that, we can blame greedy grocery store chains for choosing to feed themselves money rather than feed the people. We all know the story by now.

Everything I’ve stated gets in the way of feeling festive. I know a lot of people are struggling right now. Sadly, many people choose not to ask for help or even talk about it. Whether it is because they are ashamed or don’t know how to ask, or they are afraid to ask, it is a huge problem. We need to change this, and together we can.

We can start by being kinder to each other. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. It can be a simple gesture of kindness, like hello, how are you doing today? Or are you doing okay? You’d be amazed by the impact of a simple question on someone, and not just in that moment.

Loneliness isn’t just about not having anyone to talk to or someone to be with, it also has to do with feeling included and valued. It’s about realizing who your true friends and loved ones are. Do they care about you? Do they appreciate you?

As far as mass media telling US how WE should feel about this time of year, ignore all that. They don’t know you. They don’t know your struggles outside of a two-minute news story.

We all have a story, and it’s called a story of our lives. By being kind to each other, we can help each other add the missing pieces to our stories.

Photo: iStock