Holiday Cheer, holiday blues

In my childhood, Christmas seemed a purely happy time. Growing up in Vietnam as a little child, Christmas was just a one-day holiday. My parents are Buddhist, and my family didn’t participate in the Christmas ritual of giving gifts. My first experience of Christmas was during my first in year in the United States. At that time, we lived in a small town in western Kansas, and the people of the town showered my siblings and me with Christmas gifts as a way of welcoming us poor refugees. We put up our first real Christmas tree that year, decorating it with cheap ornaments and lights. I remember the magical feeling of waking up on Christmas morning to open our gifts. Memories, of course filtered and uncomplicated.

As I have grown older, I began to see that the holidays evoke complicated feelings in many of us. For many of my patients, the holidays can be the hardest, most depressing time of the year. There are many reasons why. The holidays are stressful. We are expected to buy gifts for many people, even when we can’t afford to buy what we need for ourselves. We are expected to send out cards, call up friends and relatives, and be nice and generous to everyone. The weather can be dark, cold and dreadful.

Sometimes, the holidays remind us of those closest to us who are no longer here. Perhaps a spouse who has passed away. Perhaps a family member who has drifted away and lost touch. For many gays and lesbians, the holidays can be a painful reminder of those who used to be close but who have rejected them because of their sexual orientation.

For me, these holidays will be a difficult one, because it is the first Christmas season since I have lost my sister Rose. She isn’t dead, as far as we know, but we have lost her to mental illness. Just recently, she was a professional who excelled in her work, but over the short span of just six months, she became increasingly disconnected from family and friends.  She simply disappeared one night, 2 months ago. Though the chances may be remote, if anyone knows where she is, we would appreciate you letting us know that she is safe (or not).

To Rose, wherever you are, happy holidays

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