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It’s the holiday season. An exciting and enriching season for some, and for others, the most difficult time of the year.

For those of us with a mental illness, it can be hard for various reasons. Being alone, or being away from friends and family is only one possible problem. There are those of us with anxiety issues that can become worse during the hustle and bustle of holiday parties, shopping, crowds, etc. There are those who suffer from depression that can deepen this time of year. There are those of us (and we are many) who isolate, and that means that invitations to parties, gatherings, happy hours, and volunteer opportunities, etc. can create stress.

I happen to love the holidays, but things at my house look very different than anyone else I know. My husband and I used to travel to relative’s houses and go to big family parties that included cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents, and the occasional friend. Now, we decline invitations to those family functions.

A day or two before Christmas we check into a hotel, and the only traditions we recognize are the sharing of Christmas stockings (I fill my husband’s Christmas stocking, and he fills mine). On Christmas day, we take a picture of ourselves by the ocean and post it to social media (if you follow me on social media you know this is highly unusual for me because I never take selfies and I am not one to post too many updates on what we are doing).

Not sharing the holidays with family has created a few hard feelings over the years, but my husband and I have become more comfortable with saying no to people and taking care of ourselves as the years have passed. I guess you could say we are more selfish now than we were the first ten years of our marriage, but selfish seems too harsh a word for something you do to avoid stress, negativity, anxiety, drama, etc.

I like the no expectations of our holidays. I don’t have to cook, or shop, or bring presents, or be involved in anyone’s drama. We celebrate a drama-free Christmas Southern California style, and I love it.

My advice to anyone who has difficulties with the holidays is to make choices that make you happy even if those choices don’t make everyone else happy. I am all for spending time with family and friends and sharing my life, time, etc. with other people, but I will no longer do that at the expense of my mental health and my husband won’t either.

So, I am sure that some people think we are Scrooge number one and Scrooge number two, but they can think that while we walk on the beach Christmas day sipping coffee, holding hands, and wearing sunglasses to keep things from being too bright.