I love Christmas. I am unapologetically Christmas crazy and I give no fucks at proclaiming this loud for all to hear. However, Christmas spirit used to be severely lacking in my life. I used to absolutely loathe Christmas, and dread its arrival. It was an extremely lonely time of the year, and suicidal ideations danced in my head rather than sugar plums. Meeting my husband changed my view of Christmas drastically. Through him, his family, and friends I found my love for Christmas.
Detailing specific memories for me are difficult. My brain pretty much deleted my childhood. So sometimes I have random snippets of memories, or smells that will pop up; but mostly I just remember how I felt. I know that at Christmas I always felt lonely and out of place. I never felt like I was wanted, or that I belonged anywhere. This was in large part due to my anxiety/depression I’m sure. My Dad and Stepmom tried, but when you have been told your entire life that they are the enemy it is difficult to actually trust their sincerity and warmth.
This is not to say that Christmas was absent from my house. The facade of Christmas cheer was alive and well in my home. There was never any lack of Christmas festivities, or presents. I went to Christmas parties, and my family always got together to celebrate. We sang Christmas carols in the car, and decorated the tree. Emotionally though, it never felt authentic. I always felt like Christmas was just a time where you put on a happy face and fake it till you make it.
I think that is the huge problem that most have with Christmas currently. Christmas spirit has been replaced by commercialism and obligations. Too many of us no longer just enjoy the season because we have placed so much pressure on ourselves to perform Christmas better than everyone else that it just becomes this depressing season. We believe that we have to do xyz in order for Christmas to be successful, rather than just limiting ourselves to what makes us happy. So we run ourselves ragged producing rather than just enjoying the time we have with friends and family.
It really is not surprising that so many people hate Christmas. You see the harried, stressed parents trying to make their kids Christmas ideal and perfect, while they themselves are miserable. Not to mention the people who stretch themselves thin by going to parties, and engagements where they have to fake it till they make it. I wish people saw Christmas as a time where it was about traditions, festivities, and togetherness at a capacity that you are comfortable with. I believe that people need to say no to over extension, no to overpriced gifts, and no to the taxing emotional labour people take from you. If people love you, and want the best for you then they will understand if you just can’t.
On the flipside, Christmas can be incredibly lonely for people who do not have people to spend Christmas with. Or those people may have people to spend Christmas with that are more of an obligation than an enjoyment. Christmas can be a reminder of how fucking alone you are, and how miserable things are. Now when you add mental health issues into that soup it becomes a cess pool of darkness that not even the citizens of who-ville can pull you out of. So it makes sense that so many people commit suicide around this time of year.
For much of my teens and early twenties my life I fell into the second category. The horrifically depressed, suicidal Grinch that would hide out and count down the days till Christmas ended. Then I met the husband. His family embraced me and helped me to see what Christmas was all about. I also found a kindred spirit who is also Christmas crazy, and we started our own Christmas traditions. Due to this, I began to look forward to Christmas. It was easier to deal with the trickier obligations when you had something solid to look forward to. With therapy, and medication the fog of mental illness has lessened, and I have started making the decisions for myself and my happiness – rather than what is expected of me.
I will say though, that maintaining the merriment the past two Christmases has been challenging. Losing my father in law has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with. I miss him so much, and I especially miss him around Christmas time. Whenever the stress of the Holidays had everything tipping sideways, and things got tense he always knew how to set things right with kindness, and honesty. He made Christmas merry. His energy, and spirit – he was a wonderful man.
This is our second Christmas without him, and I feel like this Christmas is worse than the last. Last Christmas I still had the numbness of dealing with his passing at the end of October. Christmas was a fuzzy blur that I just got through, because I didn’t really have any other choice. This year, that fuzziness had dissipated and his absence is felt keenly.
Due to this and other life bumps my Christmas Spirit meter has been lagging, and I am doing my best to refill it despite my grief. I am trying really hard this year to do the things I enjoy, and see the people I love. I want to watch as many cheesy hallmark movies as I can, and listen to my Christmas music. I am trying to find the energy to bake some stuff, as I have been stockpiling butter like it is being discontinued. I still have not had enough spirit to put up my Christmas tree. My apartment is pretty much a Christmas free area. I guess I still need some space free of Christmas.
So I think what I am trying to get at in this long rambling post, is that we all need to find our Christmas spirit. Even, as I say to one of my friends, it’s just a thimble full. I believe that everyone deserves to feel the joy that Christmas can bring. I believe that Christmas Day doesn’t matter. What actually matters is the memories and experiences you have during the Christmas season.
So please, take time to be with the ones you love, who allow you to relax and enjoy yourself. Do not stress about indulging in food, drink and merriment (in moderation, remember Santa is watching). Have the self preservation to say no to performing Christmas instead of enjoying it. I know that there will be times when this just isn’t possible; you will have to attend the odd event where it’s an obligation. So please, also make sure you are practicing self care, and taking time for yourself. (I am sure anyone reading this that has kids is rolling their eyes at me. I know that this is easier said than done when you have tiny people to attend to. I just hope you are able to find a balance where you are able to enjoy yourself).
If you struggle with mental health issues and loneliness I implore you to not allow yourself to be isolated on Christmas. I know that monster can sit heavily on your shoulders and whisper things to you that make you feel like you cannot possibly keep going, that you are worthless; but I promise you it’s not true. You are loved, and people want the best for you. It may just be one or two people, but there is someone.
So, if you are invited to a party or a festive gathering go. You can always leave if it gets to be too much, and no one will fault you for that (and if they do, then they are a dickbag and not worth your time). If you do not have somewhere to go why not volunteer at many of the events that are happening during the Christmas season. You could even see if your local humane society needs volunteers to give their animals some love (I believe animals are the best therapy). I always love to go for walks and breathe in the fresh air, and look at all the beautiful lights. You could even peruse the meetup.com website and see if there is any groups that are of interest to you. Try to fill that thimble full of Christmas spirit, and if you can’t then just get through the season as best as you can. Make sure you eat, and shower. Practice self care, and take care of yourself.
If you, dear reader, have made it this far in my post please let me say that I hope you have a Merry Christmas. <3