Monday, 19 November 2018

Feeling lonely at Christmas

Christmas is probably the loneliest time of year for me. I thought this post might be a bit of a lighthouse for anyone else who, like me, struggles as November gets underway and Christmas starts to approach. Last year I only blogged once in the whole month of December and that was when I wrote a short story, stepping away from my personal thoughts and letting the characters speak to you for themselves. As Christmas nears I find it hard to have much to say. Mostly I feel quite low, often getting worse bouts of anxiety and depression. I don't like this time of year and if I'm being honest I just want the season over with. I'm already looking forward to April approaching. It might sound crazy but the lighter days and sunshine make a huge impact on my health. I find my SAD kicks in around this time of year and I don't feel as bright again until around early April time.
I ended up having a bit of a heart to heart the other week with my boyfriend about why I struggle so much with Christmas. There are a number of reasons. The biggest struggle for me are the feelings of loneliness and dread Christmas brings. If you tell someone you don't like Christmas you're treated with disdain, as if you're a miserable bastard who ruins everyone's fun. It just makes it even more isolating. Let's face it, the majority of people seem to love Christmas and the constant hype from August onwards can be overwhelming before the season's even kicked off. I always find it tough admitting I don't like Christmas because in truth you're made to feel like shit by most people about it. I've never really understood this as it doesn't seem to apply to all the other memorable days of the year - Valentine's is considered a commercial farce, Easter is practically overlooked and opinions seem to be split when it comes down to Halloween. No one guilt trips you if you don't enjoy any other holiday, so why should people do so when it comes down to December 25th? Perhaps I'm going off tangent a bit here, but this is a big factor in why I find it so lonely. 

Other things I find hard about Christmas are the constant crowds, our usual haunts becoming overbearingly busy, routines dashed, family gatherings you're guilt tripped into going to. The holiday never feels like "yours" because there always seems to be hassle and debate and rows over who goes where, what day you do what and who wants you to turn up when. Quite frankly, the whole holiday exhausts me. I don't want to feel obliged to go anywhere, thank you very much. I like to do my own thing, and I can't stand being expected to do something I might not want to just for the sake of "festivity". All the "traditional" food people try and force you to eat (sorry but I don't like any of the "traditional" Christmas food so why should I be expected to eat it?) The smells of cold meat and pickled onions turn my stomach. I know these probably all sound like petty reasons to dislike Christmas but it runs deeper too. I find December brings all of my anxiety and depression to the fore, already hard when SAD has usually had a good go on my well-being. I believe my first memories of anxiety come from the Christmas period and often during Christmas/New Year do I find myself feeling this panic/fright/dread that unsettles and scares me. I don't seem to experience this any other time of year and it certainly doesn't help with enjoying the holiday. New Years is the same for me, I just want everything to go back to normal and find the fact that everything shuts down difficult. 

Personally another reason Christmas isn't that special to me is because everyone it's not unique to me. I really believe that days memorable to me are more valuable. Reflecting on the year just gone I think about my own special days; jetting off to Barbados in February for my birthday, visiting the Peggy Porschen parlour for the first time in March with mum, celebrating Graham's birthday with cocktails at Frankie & Benny's in April, breezing through a beautiful butterfly house in May, getting glittered up for a shoot on the beach in June, dreaming up the end of my story in the summer, having afternoon tea with Graham then watching A Midsummer Night's Dream with pasta later on. Every December my mum and I go Christmas shopping with our friend which I really enjoy but that's more down to the company, the enjoyment of the day and the fun we have than the Christmas aspect. Days that are "mine" and not shared with everyone else's celebrations are much more important to me.
Paperchase has helped these past few years with making me feel better about Christmas. Their decorations are made up of glass gumball machines, glitzy unicorns and dolphins extending presents which are right up my street and actually make me enjoying seeing all their displays. This year they seem to have gone a step better and I couldn't resist buying the rainbow cake ornament and the pink "text me" flip mobile phone. Sass central! I've realised you can do Christmas your own way. A few years ago I bought a mini pink Christmas tree which stands in my room all year long purely because it's so gorgeous and makes me happy. Even though I find it difficult hearing a lot of people talk constantly about Christmas over social media, I've embraced Christmas my own way, ignoring things I don't want to hear and enjoying the rainbow decorations in Paperchase. Everyone's Christmas displays on Instagram cheer me up, if anything gets me in the spirit its bright, bold, rainbow and pink decorations! 

Last year was a turning point for me when it came to Christmas. I'd say last Christmas was my favourite I've had in 28 years. Graham and I went to our little "home from home", my mum's friends' lovely house which she kindly let's us stay in when she's away. Just us, away from everything doing things we love like ordering pizza and watching films, going to the cinema locally, getting cocktails and reading. That kind of Christmas was perfect to me because we actually got alone time and privacy. Living at home is difficult, there has been no escape or privacy during all of our Christmases which has been one of the hardest things to deal with. Even going to our usual shopping centre and sitting in Starbucks felt like a safety aspect which I enjoyed as it was familiar and comforting. On Christmas Eve I wore a summery maxi skirt and crop top, determined to let my summer soul shine through. Everyone thought I was bonkers but dressing so summery gave me such a lift. Graham and I went to one of our favourite haunts, and our other local branch of Starbucks gave me a brownie heated up with chocolate sauce and cream and even though they probably didn't realise it, their kind gesture actually made me feel comforted and like Christmas might be okay to get through. We went to Pizza Hut which was lovely and comforting as it's not "traditional" at all but was perfect. I put on a sparkly gold face mask later on and watched Footballers Wives. It felt for the first time like Christmas was how I wanted it. A much better improvement on the Christmas before last, where I had a god awful chest infection that wouldn't shift for months!

Most importantly of all, I think it's vital to acknowledge Christmas can be a lonely time for a lot of people. It's kind to be kind. Especially as we never know what someone is going through behind closed doors. 

Don't guilt trip people by saying things like:
  • Everyone loves Christmas!!!! 
  • How can you not love Christmas!!! 
  • Don't you like getting presents!!! 
  • What is wrong with you!!! 
  • You scrooge!!! 
I know this post isn't particularly happy or upbeat but it was playing on my mind for a while and I felt it needed to be written and out in the open. I try and be as positive as possible on my blog but as a friend told me recently "it's okay for a cloud to fall over your rainbow from time to time". I hope if you're out there and find Christmas a struggle like I then this post can help you, even if it's just a little ♥︎