I’m A Black Woman Who Gets Sad Around The Holidays. And That’s Okay.

December 4, 2021

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Want to know the trick I use to cope with crippling depression around the holidays? I’ll let you in on a little secret: there isn’t one. Every year around the holidays, I silently suffer from a bad case of depression. I know it’s coming. I can see the signs. I know I will smile through it in front of family and friends. I know it will swallow me whole, from the inside out; and vice versa. I know I will swallow the tears and turkey back down my throat. I know that the combination will churn in my liver like bile, creating a thick gravy of shame, regret, and disgust that I can’t shake. I know I will cry when I think no one is looking. I know I will avoid my mother’s empathetic eyes because she will ask me what’s wrong. I know she can read me like a book, and that it’ll be hard to lie. So, I cover up my ugly with pretty. I slather on an unnecessary amount of L’Oréal True Match foundation, N8 cappuccino to be exact, and keep it pushing. Typically, I’m too tired to fight back. This year I decided I wanted to fight, even if I lost. And depression claimed victory.

Let me back up a little. In my late teens, I got adopted. It’s been ten years since the paperwork was filed and the state of Virginia accepted my decision. On the other hand, my biological family wasn’t feeling the fact I’d asked another woman to be my mother. They still haven’t come to terms with it. I’d like to think that I’ve adjusted to my new life as well as someone exposed to a ton of trauma can manage. My birth parents were married for the longest, splitting up nearly 20 years into their marriage. It was for the best, I think. Infidelity, generational curses, and chemical imbalances will do that to a couple. The holidays remind me of my time with them. Without fail, my brain plays the bad memories on repeat. We stopped going to parades. We stopped hanging lights. We stopped eating together as a family. We stopped baking cookies for Santa. We stopped making hot cocoa, with too much whipped cream, and not enough marshmallows. We stopped having Harry Potter marathons. We stopped getting into the holiday spirit. And worst of all: we stopped acting like a family. But maybe it wasn’t an act. We started making our own plates. We started eating in separate rooms. We started taking each other for granted. We started letting the tension grow so thick that there wasn’t a knife capable of cutting it. So, I shut down. And blocked it all out. That’s how post-traumatic stress disorder works. It creates an umbrella or shield, protecting you from the downpour of trauma. I’d rather be dry than soggy any day.

As soon as November rolled around, I got a sharp tap on the shoulder. It was none other than depression. She’d come to sit for a cup of tea. She never seemed to get the hint that she wasn’t invited. She had a cheap ceramic mug in her hand, fussing with my teal Keurig. Moments later it squeaked to life like a hamster on a wheel. This was how I imagined her, making herself comfortable at my expense. How did I tell her that I wasn’t in the mood for company without being rude? She let herself out, asking why I hadn’t called in so long. I told her I wasn’t at liberty to say. A few days went by and I was back to my normal self. I convinced my fiancé, Nick, to put the Christmas tree up. Before I knew it, we were listening to Mariah Carey belt out her popular hit, “All I Want For Christmas”, while we hung up ornaments the color of crimson. We slow danced in our living room, while our cute puppy, Stanley, barreled his way into our two-step.

Thanksgiving was a different story. At dinner, I fought thoughts that would have broken my mother’s heart. Depression had snuck through the back door. She told me that I didn’t belong. That I was a fraud. That if I got another glass of wine, I could make it through dessert. My moods went up and down by the minute, like a rollercoaster at Six Flags. My aunt asked my fiancé to run to the store for cash. We would need it for a dice game we were playing after dinner. I used the opportunity to take a breather because I was feeling overwhelmed. I mentioned it to him in passing, and he held my hand, buzzing around me like a bee would a flower. He knew I needed extra attention. That it wasn’t my fault depression had me in a chokehold. When we got back from the store, I forced a fake smile so I could get through the rest of the night. I didn’t want anyone to see me crack or fold. I had to be strong. Even if it killed me. The little girl who’d been neglected for what felt like forever resurfaced. She showed up at the worst times. I let her take me down for the count. Before I knew it, she slammed me to the ground. When I got into bed later that night, I fought tears in my sleep. I was heavy and couldn’t figure out why.

I let the depression ride itself out like a tidal wave; aware that I would see the beach again. I knew I would smell the overwhelming scent of sea salt soon. That pebbles and sand would crumble like dust between my toes. Depression reminded me of an ocean. It could toss you to the darkest depths. And it could be weeks, if not months, before you came up for air. About a week or two later, I had recovered. To snap out of it, I binged Tiger King and cooked new Hello Fresh meals. Cooking was a stress reliever, and allowed me to exercise my creative muscle. I kept telling myself I didn’t want to be sad for the holidays. That this year was different because I had a fiancé, dog, and a house. That I had a lot to look forward to. That if I had a daughter would I want her to be this sad? The answer was no, I wouldn’t. Instead of relying on the tradition of trauma, I decided I want to create newer, healthier ones. I’d never sent Christmas cards before. So, I started shopping for designs on Zazzle, oohing and aahing with my fiancé about each layout. Later that day, I’d been browsing mindlessly on Facebook and came across an ad for a Christmas parade in town. We lived in a small town that held 10,000 people or less. And I loved it. I’d always want to live a quiet, nice life after all the chaos I’d endured. The little girl in me was jumping up and down with excitement. I had to go. For her. And the adult in me caught between two worlds – the painful past and peaceful present. I went to the parade with my fiancé and in-laws. As floats with Olaf, Rudolph, and Santa breezed by, I cried because I never got the chance to be a kid growing up. Now was my chance. Each float had a cute, mixed girl with hair bigger than her body. Considering my fiancé was white, I couldn’t help but imagine how my daughter might look because of them. The icing on the cake was seeing the community come together, given that we spent a whole year isolated inside of our homes with little to no human connection. After the parade, my gracious mother-in-law, treated us to hibachi. I felt happy being surrounded by people who loved me without conditions. That was still new to me. When I got home, I was beaming from ear-to-ear. The lonely little girl inside of me is healing, even if it is slower than I’d like. But she’s healing nonetheless. If you’re a Black woman who gets sad around the holidays, it’s okay. If you dissociate during family gatherings because you’re fighting crippling thoughts, it’s okay. If you have imposter syndrome and feel like you don’t deserve nice things because of trauma, it’s okay. If you feel like you don’t belong because the people that were supposed to protect you didn’t, it’s okay. If you suffer in silence because you don’t want to be a burden to your support system, it’s okay. If your depression feels like a chore you have to manage, it’s okay. If you feel like you have to be strong because you’re constantly in survival mode, it’s okay.

I believe you.

I see you.

I hear you.

I love you.

Me too.

Nayomi is a poet, flower child, & healer. She believes that the arts are a healing mechanism. Her work is mainly curated from an autobiographical standpoint. The themes she loves to explore in her pieces are: relationships, healing, grief, loss, sex, & mental health. Also, she uses writing to connect with her Ancestors, paying homage at every chance she gets. Currently, she is editing her memoir, “Pretty Bird”, for publication.


Follow her here!

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