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When The Holidays Get You Down: It’s The Season Of Giving And I Have Nothing To Give

I can’t get excited about the holidays this year.  It all just feels like too much.  And ask anyone I know, I am a master gift giver and love bringing joy to others through gifting.

But this year, I am both physically and emotionally exhausted.  I just lost my job, am struggling to find affordable health insurance, and am trying to figure out how I am going to pay back my student loans that are now looming.

Thankfully, as of now, my illnesses haven’t followed suit with the chaos in my life, which I am grateful for.  Other than my awful and sometimes disabling fatigue, my illnesses seem to be pretty well controlled (knock on wood; although that’s with seeing the doctor I want to see and having access to medications that are working for me, which might not continue given my joblessness and lack of insurance).

Over the last few years, I have moved away from getting gifts for my closest friends.  Since we are now spread out across the country, I came up with the plan of no longer giving holiday gifts, but saving that money and making a pledge that we will make time to see each other, in person, over the next year.

This has worked out very well and my friends have widely accepted this as the norm, but I can’t help feeling guilty that I’m not getting them something tangible.  In reality, I know that friendship is one of the greatest gifts in the world, and that should be enough.

But it’s not just that, other than sending out holiday cards, and getting small gifts for the closest people in my life, I just don’t have the enthusiasm or wherewithal to navigate stores or even the internet to gift people.  It makes me sad that something I’ve normally taken such joy in suddenly feels overwhelming and like a chore, rather than a fun activity.

It’s hard when everyone’s life seems to be settling down and mine feels like it’s totally in flux.

So I know it’s not the end of the world that one year out of many, and even when I was sickest, I still gifted, I can’t do it this year.  But illness is not my excuse this year.  It’s not that I’m in too much pain to walk through stores to browse for gifts, it’s that I’m emotionally stymied.

And maybe that’s where my fear lies.  As difficult as it is for people to understand when you can’t do things due to illness, how are they going to understand when you can’t do things because you just can’t?  Maybe they’ll understand that more, I don’t know.

I just wish I could get over the guilt enough to realize that there are things going on in my life right now that are difficult, and that I have to deal with, like finding a job.

I think sometimes you have to be selfish, and put yourself first.  And I think that’s how I have to be right now.  I just don’t like the feeling of taking more than I give, and I feel like ever since I got sick eight years ago, I feel a lot of the time that I am taking more from others than I am able to give.

The holidays are supposed to be happy and celebratory, and I feel like a downright Scrooge.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Rob
    4 years ago


    I’m sorry to hear about some of what life has thrown at you recently. I’ve also had to deal with some job instability and its been a very, very difficult thing to deal with. I heartily agree with Carla’s input, particularly point #2. As much as I know that I am my own person and as such get to make my own decisions and chart my own course, it’s still challenging for me not to think about the expectations or thoughts of others. You are spot on when you say you have a right to put yourself first. And the people important to you will understand and respect this. I’ll just add that I thoroughly enjoyed your article and could relate to a great deal of what you said, given my own experience. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    4 years ago

    Thanks, Rob! I really appreciate your comment.

  • Carla Kienast
    4 years ago

    I’m sorry you’re going through this. It makes it worse when you’re surrounded by all this friggin’ holiday cheer. Not only do you not feel that way, you’re made to feel guilty that you don’t. Double whammy. For my own reasons I really don’t celebrate the holidays, either and I had years where I felt like you do now. I don’t know if it’s helpful but some of the things that helped me are: (1) Give yourself permission to feel as you do. It’s how you feel. (2) Quit worrying about what other people think/expect (this is the hard part). (3) Enjoy what you can — whatever that is, whether the great food, good movies, seeing friends, the bright lights — and just get through the rest. (4) Remember the season is temporary. The new year will be here soon enough and all this frivolity will be behind us. Sometimes all you can do is keep your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel. You’ve had some incredible blows the last couple of years, so give yourself credit for being as strong and resilient as you are. Finally know that you have friends who love and support you and will help you through this if we can.

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    4 years ago

    Thanks, Carla, that really helps. I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels this way!

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