Holiday Blues

Anxiety, Depression, and the End of the Holiday Season

I have abandonment issues. It began when I was a little girl when my father left us to pursue his life. My father was a huge man, over six feet tall, with a thick build. He was dark brown with a bushy black beard and a thinning tuff of hair on his head. When he spoke, his voice was deep like the deepest part of a cave. I wanted a dad, but I got a monster.

Our father terrorized us when he was around. Dad was Gozilla and we were Tokyo. He would yell at my brother and me and beat our mother for every little thing. If dinner wasn’t ready or if the house was a mess that was a beating. Then like the behemoth, he was dad would disappear for days, weeks, or months at a time. I was glad when he wasn’t around. Dad wasn’t a father figure. He was the monster from every creature double feature movie I had ever seen.

Despite his absence or because of it, we were poor. Mom worked, but it wasn’t enough to make ends meet even though it was the 80s. Yes, everything was much cheaper back then than it is today, but it didn't matter if you didn’t have a lot of money anyway.

So we dealt with food and housing insecurity for much of my childhood. Mom received Section 8 rental assistance, food stamps, and government cheese. She also worked for the school district as a cafeteria worker. So almost every day she would bring home breakfast and lunch leftovers from the kitchen. That helped a lot when the food stamps ran out and it was the middle of the month.

During the holidays, mom always managed to work miracles. Mom was a saver. She would squirrel away a few dollars every time she got paid to give us a great Christmas. We would decorate the living room with bows and tinsel. The Christmas tree would be decorated with decorations like a garland. And around the base of the tree would be lots of presents.

When it came to Christmas, mom made sure my brother and I got what we wanted. We’d spend the day unwrapping gifts and sometimes it would be two or three days of unwrapping. We would watch cartoons and Christmas movies during the break and then celebrate the beginning of the new year. It was the best time of the year.

My father was rarely around during the holidays. If he did come by, it was usually after Christmas was long over. Sometimes we wouldn’t see him until after the new year. Dad would come by giving mom a few dollars, have sex with her, and then he was gone. Dad barely spoke to us or hung out with us when he was around.

When I lost my mother to cancer four years ago, I was devastated. The loss of my mother stunned me into numbness for several months after her passing. I couldn’t get over the fact that she was dead. I blamed myself (a part of me still does) and played out in my mind ways things could have turned out differently.

When the holidays came around that same year, I couldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. I spent that holiday at my sister’s house. Being surrounded by friends and family was comforting. When Christmas came, I was able to decorate and layout a nice presentation for my family. I was determined to celebrate Christmas since it had been my mom’s favorite holiday.

But now, things have changed once again. We are in the middle of a pandemic that seems to be getting worse. All week, during the break, it's been cool and rainy. My sisters have moved to Tennessee, so I wasn’t able to spend time with them for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I miss them, my mother, and the happiness the holiday usually brings.

My friends have been dealing with drama in their lives. One friend lost a childhood friend to cancer. Another friend was hospitalized with COVID for nearly a month. Another friend’s mother was just released from the hospital after being there for over a month. Another friend is tending to her sick husband and thinking about moving. I can’t bear to lose more people in my life. Like I said before, I have abandonment issues.

With 2022 just hours away, I want to thrive in the new year. I’m tired of just surviving. But it’s been hard. Every time I feel like I’m making progress, something comes along to derail that progress. Right now I’m worried about the IRS taking my home because of my child’s father not paying his taxes. I can’t afford the rent in my city. Now I need multiple streams of income to prepare for possibly homelessness.

2021 has been full of ups and downs. I am sad to see it go. I wish I had more time to do what I wanted to do in 2021. I’ll try to cram as much as I can today. The last day of December and the last day of this year.

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Shirley is a poet and writer. Ms. Luke enjoys reading, fashion and travel. She is working on a manuscript of her poems and an essay collection.

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Shirley Jones Luke

Shirley is a poet and writer. Ms. Luke enjoys reading, fashion and travel. She is working on a manuscript of her poems and an essay collection.