Holidays with friends and family… Ah the idyllic images that come to mind…and if you’re lucky, the memories…

For those of us with neurodivergent challenges however, holiday gatherings present a gauntlet of impulse control related land mines. One is ‘oversharing’ or as the kids say now, providing ‘TMI’. The result can be glazed looks and post-holiday shame-spiraling. So how do we avoid ‘going there’?

When I think back to reunions with family in the past, I can recall filling my detached and frankly troubled relatives in on details of my relationships, sex life and g-d knows what else. These are people I don’t even talk to anymore, so what the hell was I thinking?

I think it was something along the lines of “if I’m totally transparent with you, you’ll finally see who I am, and love me for who I am.”

It never worked.

If you find yourself talking too much, pause. Excuse yourself from the table if you have to. Find a quiet space to breathe and then ask yourself: ‘is this someone who ever shares themselves transparently with me in the same way I’m feeling compelled to now? Do we have that kind of relationship? Or do I usually walk away feeling unseen?’ if the answer to the first two questions is ‘no’ and the third one ‘yes’, then it’s time to shut up. It’s good self-care. 

One way to do that is to practice ‘Grey Rocking’. Rightfully considered an effective technique for dealing with narcissistic personalities, grey rocking is self-protective. It works like this: Do not initiate any controversial topics. If such topics are raised, do not engage. In fact, find an excuse to disengage. If possible, keep all discourse to benign discussions like what series you like to binge watch or the weather (avoid climate change depending on political affiliations). 

This verbal camouflage, while frustrating, at least allows for gentle, congenial connection and sadly, necessary separation. 

Sorry. If someone insists on relating to the person they think you are rather than the one in front of them, there’s no Scrooge on Christmas morning epiphanies to be had. 

It is both a relief and a tragedy to realize this. Many of us, myself included, have had to be willing to mourn relationships that never were in order to have any kind of relationship at all with the difficult people in our lives. 

Even then, the heartbreaking truth is, if you’re dealing with severe dysfunction, not even that is possible. 

If this is the case, cherish the longstanding friendships, communities you feel at home in, and life-long loves. 

They are your chosen family…the people with whom you’re safe to share TMI.