When the Holiday Season Becomes Stressful

So it’s the holiday season again, which means if your family is like mine, you get the opportunity to spend time with extended family that you only get to see once or twice a year.  A lot of our family lives out of town, so Christmas or family weddings are about the only time we get to see everyone at once.

While I am always excited to see everyone, it also gives me a great deal of anxiety. First, because I have Social Anxiety Disorder and I generally just don’t really like big crowds of people for any reason. I actually don’t really like small crowds of people either. Case in point, our wedding. While I loved our wedding, I honestly didn’t really enjoy it like I wanted to because my anxiety was so high all day. I was more focused on that instead of just enjoying myself. Second, because I often dread all of the questions from everyone about whats going on and when we are going to “move forward” if you will, that also creates anxiety before such events. My extended family knows about what we have been through in the last few years, but still, most people beyond my husband and my therapist, don’t really understand or know everything that has been happening. Which is fine, I don’t expect them to, but it becomes difficult to try to explain the same things over and over to people who will never understand.

My father’s side of the family is half Italian and very large. My father has 4 brothers and sisters, who each have on average 2- 3 children themselves. All of my adult cousins, except a few, are married and have multiple children themselves. It’s quite a large gathering when we all do get together. Most of my cousins went to college right after high school, got married right after graduating college and had their first child about 2 years later. Even my cousins who are younger than me went basically the same route, as did one of my younger sisters. Which of course is completely fine and is the norm in our family. But that is not the route my husband and I took and although I know no one looks down on us for it, I feel they are always just waiting for us to “do something”. We dated for 7 years before we got married, so after about 4 years, we would constantly be getting asked why we weren’t getting married yet. Now that we are married, the baby question is the one on everyone’s minds. They are all aware of my chronic illnesses, so the question doesn’t come up as often as it probably does for others in our place. But I am 31 and my husband is 29 so we are of course at that age where if you are going to have kids, you usually start planning.

And we are planning on having children, hopefully we will start trying next year. One of the reasons we haven’t yet is our financial situation and I really don’t want to discuss the huge amount of student loans or the medical debt we are paying off at the family Christmas party. Or really in any other social situation. Lately when I am asked about it, I simply tell people that we are looking for a small house first and would then like to spend some time together, alone, before getting pregnant. We have had an odd living situation for the last 1.5 years because of everything going on and although we are grateful for being able to stay with my parents for a bit while we pay some things off, we would really love to spend some time married and alone in our own space. And my health is another thing that still concerns me. Some of my issues from coming off the medications have resolved themselves after the protracted withdrawal finally eased up, while others still haven’t. My cervical (neck) issues and cervicogenic vertigo has only has small improvements and as anyone who has been pregnant knows, pregnancy obviously puts a strain on your back which is concerning to me. Along with all of my gynecological and mental health issues.

And this is why the holidays often seem stressful to me, I can’t even write a blog post without feeling like I have to ramble on and on for paragraphs giving explanations about why we aren’t having children yet. Anyone else feel like this during the holidays? Before this it was when are you going to college or when are you graduating college or when are you getting a “real” job? My family is fantastic, please don’t doubt that for a minute. But I have spent my life feeling like I am trying to play “catch up” with my siblings, my friends and my extended family because I didn’t take the traditional college, get married and have kids before you are 24 route. (P.S. I did go to college, I have a BA in Anthropology, but I didn’t go to a 4 year university until I was 25). I am trying to change the way I look at things and realize that everyone is different; I don’t need to justify my choices to anyone, outside of God and my husband, because they are my choices. Or our choices in this case. I hope that during this holiday season, you realize that wherever you are in life, it is enough, even if it’s not what your family or friends expect. And I hope if you are the question-asker, that you can find a way to ask these questions without making the person feel like you are being judgmental about their choices. I hope everyone has a happy holiday season.

 

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