This is a story that will probably hit home in some way for many people.
A young man has posed the “Am I the A**hole” question to Reddit users as he does not want to go home for Christmas.
He is currently studying at university and does not have much money – a matter that has resulted in him not eating a lot over the past few days. Furthermore, the fact that he does not have money has negatively affected his mental health.
He has therefore been “doing a lot of thinking” recently, and although has also booked to see a therapist to help with his mental well-being, he would rather work to earn money to buy a PC and join clubs to better himself.
“I thought it would be a good idea if I stay at my accommodation over the Christmas holidays instead of going home, and work through the holidays.
“Also, I can’t stand to be in the house as my grandmother is staying around and she is an awful, negative person who drains your energy just with her presence. But my mother and my sister are trying to make me feel really guilty about it.”
The student, with the username Ok-Dragonfruit8948 explains that even when they text message him, the way they construct their sentences and the things they say come across as “really negative”, a claim, he says, they both deny.
“My mum has said that I am ruining her Christmas and that I am lying about certain details, but I feel as though she is just trying to guilt trip me into giving in. Every day I wake up unhappy because I feel as though I have no purpose, and want something to work towards.
“If I can afford to join these clubs and buy the PC then I can learn coding and get new friends. Am I in the wrong here?”
Thankfully, Reddit users who have shared their thoughts on his situation, say that he is ‘Not the A**hole’ for making the decision he has.
“You made the decision of an adult. You need money because you need food, never mind clubs and things. Even if they paid for your ticket back to your mother's house, you would be losing time that you plan to spend on earning money for food. Tell them you have a job now, and block them for a while,” advises jennyislander.
Another Redditor, lollysugar, writes: “You’re an adult and not obligated to go anywhere you don’t want to. Your mental well-being and finances are more important than Christmas.”
Commentators did express concern for the young man’s mental health, so were happy that he replied to them with the news that he has booked to see a therapist. He also confirmed that his accommodation fees covered this holiday period and that he had meal plans that he could afford.
“You seem to have good insight into your mental health and a clear plan in place to get yourself healthy and happy,” writes Reasonable-Pen-88.
“Your family should be proud of you, not gaslighting and manipulating you.”
He is not alone
Being in such a situation is quite common for many people at this time of the year. Mental health struggles are rife, money is tight, and, for some families, spending Christmas together is not a positive experience.
Kerry Rudman from Brain Harmonics, a Neurofeedback organisation specialising in retraining brains, says being on leave and stuck with family can be stressful; kids are bored and need attention, everything costs money, and some family members are angry and irritable, or even abusive.
Being without family and friends though, can also be difficult.
“People who are lonely dread the lack of colleague interaction as well as being alone on Christmas and New Year.”
Whichever way you look at it, she says, people are tired.
“Covid has been the longest trauma – a collective post-traumatic stress that is still affecting people financially and emotionally. With a whole bunch of loadshedding drizzled on top of this, people are emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted.
“We’re warned of an impending recession and now we need to find some jolly to get through the festive season. So, the usual ‘New Year, New Me’ resolutions for January seem to be stacked away in the mental rollerdex. It feels to me that everyone is still in survival mode.”
While we know about balance and how we should take time to rest properly, go for a walk, or get into nature, Rudman says that, when you are stuck in survival mode, those things take a backseat.
“However, if we don’t look after our mental health, the cost is far greater than taking time out for yourself now.”
She shares these six tips to help keep your stress levels under control this festive season.
1. Manage your expectations
Not everything needs to be perfect, so don’t try to force them to be – you will just set yourself up for failure.
2. Try to set aside differences
Difficult family members or colleagues won’t change, so acknowledge this but don’t let it get to you. Go for a walk, or a drive if you need a time out, but try to set differences aside as much as possible to keep the peace in your home and work life.
3. Don’t overspend
If you need to spend money for the festive season, write up a budget and stick to it; remember that a holiday, gifts, or get-togethers don’t need to break the bank.
4. Plan ahead
Part of the stress is leaving things to the last minute. By managing your time properly, you can avoid the last-minute rush and added stress when it comes to meeting deadlines and planning festive season activities.
5. Keep yourself healthy
Remember to keep fit and stick to a healthy diet during this last part of the year. Get enough sleep as this will give you more energy to get through the season; stress and depression can be aggravated by poor diet, lack of sleep, and little exercise.
6. Acknowledge how you feel
If you’ve lost a loved one or are separated from them, it’s normal to feel grief and to cry, particularly around this time of year. Don’t bottle it up; speak to your friends and family about how you feel.
“Remember, if you are struggling and finding it difficult to cope, speak to a counsellor or therapist. Contact your employee assistance programme to find out what’s right for you. You don’t need to suffer alone.”
* The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is open and providing free telephone counselling throughout the holiday season – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including Christmas and New Year’s Day – for anyone who is in need of help, crisis intervention and support.
Anyone who wants to reach out to a counsellor can SMS 31393, WhatsApp 087 163 2030, or fill in a contact form on the SADAG website, and one will call them back.