The Human Christmas Cracker

It’s that time of year again, Christmas is just around the corner and whilst there are so many things I love about this holiday – seeing friends and family, giving and receiving (especially receiving) presents and the exceptional selection of festive cheeses – a lot of the time I find this time of year extremely difficult and I spend most of the season feeling like I’m about to snap like a human Christmas cracker. There is a strong social expectation to be happy and jovial throughout the holiday season. The words ‘jolly’, ‘merry’, and ‘happy’ are plastered on every card, every advertisement, pasted on the walls of every corner and when you aren’t feeling happy within yourself it’s tough not to feel like everyone is rubbing their jollity in your stupid, miserable face. At this time of year I feel a whole surge of emotions and questions surfacing, I feel jealous that everyone else seems to be having a good time – why aren’t I? Is there something wrong with me? Then I start to feel guilty for feeling this way – Christmas is a great time of year and I am so fortunate to get to spend it surrounded by family and friends, with cupboards full of delicious treats and heaps of presents. So why do I still feel so sad? Am I ungrateful? Then I just begin to feel broken, like there must be something so fundamentally wrong with me, that my brain must be so utterly fucked that the apparently simple objective of happiness seems completely unattainable.

Christmas also brings with it a whole load of fun social events, work Christmas dos, meeting up with old friends, visiting family – and whilst I do want to do all of these things I find it can be really anxiety inducing. In social situations I often feel nervous and insecure and overthink everything, worrying if I have said the wrong thing, or done something stupid. Naturally, many of these social occasions involve alcohol and lots of it. Alcohol and I have a somewhat rocky relationship beginning from when my mental health was at its worst, I used to drink a lot of alcohol and although I was not dependent on it, I used it as a kind of self-medication to help me escape my own thoughts. Whenever I drink now I think subconsciously I associate the feeling with that time in my life and those thoughts come back to me. Usually when I am drunk I feel good and almost euphoric; like I can do anything, but the next day my mood plunges dramatically. I feel guilt and shame. My hangovers are usually rife with tears and very dark, harmful thoughts. I know my relationship with alcohol is an issue that needs addressing, but I think that’s one for another post.

As I am writing this I still have alcohol in my system from last night so I’m feeling pretty crappy. I am noticing a lot of bad thoughts creeping into my head and I have a pretty much non-existent sense of self-worth. I am sorry this post has been a bit of a downer so I’m going to try my best to end on a positive note. Christmas is a great time of year to show your loved ones you care about them, and for that reason I think it can be a very good thing for your mental health. Although this expectation to be happy around Christmas can be damaging, it also provides a platform on which we can take the opportunity to open up conversations about mental health – ask your loved ones how they really are, tell people how you feel and talk to each other. It is so easy to feel alone when you suffer in silence, so if you are having a hard time please talk about it and if you are not please try and give your loved ones plenty of opportunities to open up. There really is a lot of truth in the phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.

 

Wishing you all good mental health!

A

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