Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Difficult families

November onwards seems to be the time of year where everyone gets misty eyed and nostalgic about their childhoods, conveniently forgetting that not everyone has a good relationship with their family. Christmas and New Year can be particularly stressful for anyone whose family is abusive, or whose family members struggle with substance abuse, or who have to return to a conservatism they have managed to escape for most of the rest of the year. If you're someone who has a difficult family, for whatever reason, this post is for you.

If you're LGBT and not out to your family, stay safe. If you feel like you want to come out and that your family will accept you, that's great; if you feel this would put you in danger, assess the risk. If you decide it's worth it, more power to you! If you decide against it, that's OK. Some high profile LGBT activists are in favour of everyone coming out no matter what, but it's far more important for you to come out of this season alive. No one important will think less of you if you choose to keep certain information to yourself for the moment.

If you're a survivor of abuse, I hope you can find the kindness and compassion you deserve. Don't let anyone make you ashamed for doing what you need(ed) to do to survive. If you are surrounded by your abusers, my heart goes out to you. I hope you can reach out to people on the outside to keep you safe and grounded. Be extra kind to yourself before and after the main event. You are loved.

If you suffer from seasonal depression and/or the noise and expectations of the season are adversely affecting your mental health, please remember that it's OK to not be OK. This can be a particularly difficult time to be around family, especially if your family doesn't understand your illness. You are not your illness. You are a whole and complete person, and the people around you cannot reduce you to medical words on a diagnosis sheet. Take time to yourself if you need to, whether that's a walk in a nearby green space or just an extra long bathroom break during the meal. Hang in there. The best thing about Christmas is that it's temporary.

If you are spending Christmas with in-laws you don't get on with, I hope you can find a team of people who love you to rally around once the difficult family meal part is over. Even if they can't be with you in person, consider scheduling a group Skype call with friends. I hope you can find the time and space you need to get yourself together.

It is not OK for people around you to comment on your eating habits or food choices. Blogs like Captain Awkward are a treasure trove of advice on dealing with intrusive questions or "concern trolling". The link specifically addresses a person with diabetes who is struggling with insensitive diet talk, but much of the advice is applicable to other health problems or being fat, and Captain Awkward is one of the few places on the Internet where it's worth reading the comments for validation and more advice. If you are fat, bookmark a blog that reminds you you're fabulous. My personal favourite is Arched Eyebrow - while you're there, have a look at her post on being fat around the New Year.

If your relatives have a tendency towards bigotry, the inimitable Franchesca Ramsey has just put out a new video on her YouTube channel about comebacks for your racist relatives. Most of them can also be applied to other flavours of bigotry. Check it out!

As always, this is a discussion. If you like, feel free to share experiences in the comments, and I'd love to hear any advice you have about navigating the choppy waters of complex relationships. Remember, above all, that you are loved. Stay safe, and keep swimming - it's almost done.

No comments:

Post a Comment