A blogger I admire, and follow, wrote a piece for the BBC, this week, about coping with Christmas when you are struggling with mental health issues. She writes very well, and is very honest about her own struggles with her mental health and is very active in campagining for awareness of mental health issues.
Last year, we cancelled Christmas. That sounds dramatic. It seemed so at the time. We didn’t actually cancel it, we just toned down, very drastically, our plans and activities. My father was away, for the first time, in a long time, and my brother and I decided we wanted to have a quiet Christmas time, then celebrate together, for Big Girl’s birthday, but we basically retreated and had a very quiet Christmas week, just the four of us. No frills, or fuss, no charging around trying to fit friends and family in and no entertaining in our home. We told everyone we were exhausted after a long, busy year, which was true, but what we didn’t tell people was that I simply could not cope with the idea of anything other than a quiet, non festive, simple time. I didn’t want to see anyone, cook masses of food, wrap or shop for gifts during the week leading up to Christmas, dress up, pretend to enjoy things. I was not well, my anxiety issues were at their peak, and the very thought of trying to cope and pretend to be enjoying myself, sent me into panic attacks. I didn’t want to have to explain myself to anyone, or try and justify myself, and the mental health issues I was struggling with, to skeptical friends and family, and my typical “tough it out, grin and bear it” boarding school mentality had vanished. A sentence from the article “It’s common to feel under pressure to create a magical Christmas but if you are already stressed, anxious or depressed, that pressure can be magnified” really rang true for me.
A lot of people didn’t understand this, and I know there was some hurt feelings and unmet exepectations. I am hoping that this article will explain a little bit to those who haven’t suffered any form of mental health issue or crisis, will be able to read it and get it a little bit more.
This year, I am doing so much better. We chose to go away, and it’s going to be a very different and fun time, for our family. I don’t have the terrfiying feeling of panic, and inability to cope, that I did last year. I still have the odd moment of anxiety, but nothing like last year but for thousands of people, this year, Christmas is a time they dread, and fear, and struggle to cope with. Christmas and all it entails can be terrifying. Christmas isn’t fun for everyone. Hopefully Charlotte’s article will help those around them, understand a bit.