All I want for Christmas
A short blog this week for two reasons, firstly its Christmas and people won’t have much spare time to read it. Secondly I am absolutely snowed under with walk planning, packing up my flat ready to move out on Christmas Eve (tomorrow!) and general last minute panic with just over a week until I start.
The title of this blog is ‘All I want for Christmas’ but what people with some mental health conditions may want is to just get through the period with as few issues as possible.
There are many reasons why people with mental health issues may be affected adversely at Christmas, I will list a few of them:
- Money – a lot of people feel the need to spend too much money on food, presents, decorations, gift wrapping etc. at Christmas, and if they don’t have enough money this may increase any anxiety issues
- Alcohol – everyone drinks more at Christmas. But someone with a mental health issue who may have struggled to get out anyway, may become overwhelmed in any social situation and either just leave or decide to drink to much to try and reduce the anxiety. The problem being that alcohol is a depressant and may well make their mental health issues even worse.
- Food – is a more specific issue for people with eating disorders, as around Christmas and especially Christmas day food is offered almost constantly. These people may just accept the food to appear polite and not a grump on Christmas day but it may cause their anxiety and mood to decline.
- Social anxiety – There are more social situations around Christmas, whether work Christmas parties or large family gatherings. For anyone with social anxiety these can be very hard, especially at Christmas when everyone around them will appear even happier and even louder.
- Loneliness – Someone who feels lonely, will likely feel even lonelier around Christmas, as it may highlight/reinforce the feelings they are feeling due to the thought that everyone else is out having fun over the festive period.
I think it is more than the specifics above that affect some people with mental health at Christmas. I think the perfect images shown through adverts, the feeling that everything needs to be jolly and festive at this time of year, the feeling that you must buy presents, must gorge on food, must enjoy yourself and must get out and take part in things just exacerbates the mental health issues that people may be feeling. The festive season can also throw people out of their routines that they have built up to help them through their own issues, and may also highlight the contrast between their situation now compared to possibly happier Christmas times as a child.
Essentially the things that make Christmas so great and an important time of the year for most people, are the things that make it hard for some people with mental health issues.
I think apart from one friend (you know who you are), I probably love Christmas more than anyone I know. I love all the creative things; making Christmas cards, creating decorations, going over the top on the Christmas tree, cooking mince pies & Christmas puddings. I also love all the outside things; street lights, carol singers, markets and Christmas songs. There is very little I don’t like about Christmas apart from Brussel sprouts, and also the ever increasing level of festive consumerism (I know very Scroogey).
However the past couple of Christmases have not been like that at all. I have felt completely out of the Christmas loop, due to my mental health. Whilst others were at work Christmas drinks, out Christmas shopping, ice skating etc. I was sat at home wondering how I had managed to get to the position that I was in. When I managed to occasionally get out and see friends, I felt so guilty/selfish about feeling gloomy at this time of year, that I would try my best to seem artificially cheerful and think I succeeded, the problem is then I would drop instantly on the train home as knew I was returning to my festive prison.
Regards actual Christmas Day the previous two have been spent alone, partially down to my own thoughts/choices. Weirdly the day itself wasn’t as bad as the period surrounding it, as I had done so much to mitigate the effects on Christmas Day. By that I mean actually forcing myself to go out and buy all the normal things to cook for Christmas dinner, and to eat and drink for the rest of the day, as well as treating myself to one thing I might enjoy (one year that was the GCHQ puzzle book). This may not seem like a big thing, but for someone who at that time often didn’t leave the house, and rarely cooked, this preparation was a big thing. On the day itself, I got up, had a good breakfast, went for a walk alone along the Thames, put my dinner (poussin as just for one) in the oven, prepared the table, ate lunch, watched lots of Christmas TV, had a few glasses of wine, so on the face of it a normalish Christmas.
Two things stand out from these two Christmases spent alone. The first one is a nice thing, I got a call from a friend on the first of these Christmas days that I really wasn’t expecting at a point that I was feeling very lonely, and it really turned my day around making me feel that bit less lonely. The second is the almost sense of irony, that I made a Christmas twig to make the table nice, plated up my Christmas dinner nicely, tried to make everything look and feel normal but no one else would ever see or know any of these things. Looking back it appears that even though I felt like I had lost all pride (and all hope) I must have had some remaining just to make sure everything was in order on this one day.
Twas (the night before) the night before Christmas
Hopefully people are enjoying reading these lead up blogs, I can assure you there will be less words and more photos once the walk starts. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope you all have a great Christmas day.
One small thing, if you know someone who may be alone or in a place they might not be comfortable on Christmas Day, do try and give them a short call or at least message them. It could really make a difference to their day.
This year I am really looking forward to Christmas Day, and will not be spending it alone. I am looking forward to lots of food, Christmas walks and all the other festive treats. It will actually be nice to have a day where I don’t think about the walk preparation at all, and once it rolls over to Boxing Day there is less than a week till the walk starts!