Ok so I haven’t written in a while so this is long overdue. Sometimes it can be hard to find the right topic and other times I think of the perfect thing to say but just don’t get round to actually typing. So here I am actually typing.
With Christmas around the corner, people arguing about when the tree should actually go up and the fact that there are Christmas cards in the shop in October. I’ll be honest, as long as it makes people happy it doesn’t bother me that one person puts up a tree in October or another person December. What actually makes me sad at Christmas is happiness. All those that can’t relate right now are thinking ‘OK that’s a bit weird’. Hear me out.
It’s not the happiness of others that makes me sad, it’s my own happiness. It’s a really difficult one to explain really and I’ve spent years trying to understand it. Is it my OCD and being terrified of loosing what I have, maybe I feel I don’t deserve it when so many others struggle, maybe it’s unmet expectations of being able to be with all family members all the time, is it the break in routine and a fear that Christmas traditions won’t be kept? Or maybe it’s all of them put together.
For me, and many others I know with mental health difficulties it can be one thing or memory that brings on that emotion. I remember being about 17 maybe one evening late in December. My mum called me to say we’re going Hamleys today and to look at the Christmas lights in London (something we do together every year) this year it hadn’t been planned and my parents had decided at that moment that today was the day. They asked if I wanted them to pick me up from my boyfriend’s (now husband) house. I thought about it but answered too quickly perhaps.
I said No.
That year I missed the trip to Hamleys.
Even typing that makes me cry. Who says no to spending time with family at Christmas? Who says no to keeping a family tradition? In truth lots of people do and it doesn’t mean they don’t care about family it just means they have to skip this one event this year. Unfortunately many people like myself with OCD or other mental health difficulties will hate themselves forever. I’ve never gotten over that and I don’t think I ever will. From then on my feelings around Christmas time changed. To me it became a time of year where I let people down and don’t do enough to bring happiness. To me I broke my mum’s heart and to her she probably doesn’t even remember it and probably didn’t even mind. My mind tells me that it taught me I was capable of choosing doing something else over being with my family.
As a person who’s OCD tells them they are going to loose everything all the time and everyone is going to die, knowing that you just rejected your last trip to Hamleys with your family is like living in hell. I instantly knew I had made a mistake and spent most of the evening crying.
Top that off with the fact that emotionally I believe every Christmas is the last. And not my last. I wouldn’t be nearly as concerned if it were my last. It’s the belief that it could be my husband’s last, my mum’s last, my sisters last, etc. And because OCD tells you something WILL happen, not that it might, it means I’m already grieving for a loved one every Christmas. And how selfish is that? So many people actually ARE grieving for a loved one and here I am with mine unable to fully appreciate it – that makes me feel pretty selfish to top it all off. Sadly I can’t control my OCD or irrational thoughts because, well they’re irrational!
As I walk down the street I see people sleeping out in the cold and I wonder what I have to celebrate. How can I celebrate whilst there are people sleeping alone outside on Christmas day? Guilt. Again everything is about why I should feel bad and why I’m selfish for being happy.
It’s a difficult one to tackle because let’s be honest, feeling responsible for those less fortunate than us is not irrational and is actually very helpful in society because we should be caring for others. Unfortunately for me, coupled with everything else above, I spend an awful lot of time hating myself for any kind of happiness. When in reality I should be appreciating it.
It seems in life in general the happier I am or the better things become, the more terrified and ill I become inside, because now I have more to loose. The more in love I am the harder it will be when I fall, the better my relationship are with friends and family the more crushed I will be when that person’s gone. So what do you do? Hug less? Try to see things more rationally and less emotionally? All easier said than done and neither of them very healthy.
So I ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ I build every relationship, try to maintain every tradition and convince others to understand why it’s so important to put the time in, to make the effort, attend the family traditions because one day they will all be gone and all we’ll have left are our memories. Pretty awful outlook to have on Christmas I know. So this year, if you’re like me, try to be a bit more forgiving of yourself. Do the things you’ve always done, and spend time with the people you need to. But remember your life, love and relationships are not defined by that one moment, that one evening or even present. They’re defined by the small things, the Monday morning ‘how are you’ text and the Friday afternoon coffee, the ‘ill he right there’ when you’re needed. That’s what people remember and that’s what matters.
Buy breakfast for the person sleeping outside and give to those that need it most. Just remember that you do deserve some happiness. I’ll be honest I’m still working on taking my own advice but I’m sure I’ll get there.
For those friends and family that don’t experience Christmas the same way and that don’t suffer with mental health. Know that when I get upset that you don’t want to keep the tradition this year, or your too busy to come to Hamleys or to have Christmas dinner. When I get upset and probably come across as pushy and mean it’s because it means something more to me.
It means more to me than I could ever explain and more than you could ever understand.