Now that it’s December we can officially talk about Christmas!
(Disclaimer: I’ve been talking about it for a number of weeks already). I love love LOVE Christmas; as soon as the songs start in the shops and the little biscuit tins and chocolate bears come out I get so excited. Once I even got my tree out and decorated my house mid-November because I couldn’t wait a minute longer to get festive.
I didn’t always feel like this though – in fact, I used to actively dislike this time of year. Christmas can be wonderful but incredibly stressful and difficult to organise. It’s expensive, time consuming, and it can be complicated trying to juggle friends and family. The part that I always found the most difficult about it though, was the immense pressure to have a good time, whether I actually was or not. The thing about mental illness is, you can’t just switch it off and on. I can’t stop being depressed just because it’s December, but nobody wants to be around somebody who is depressed at Christmas. There have been years where I have ended up feeling completely exhausted at having to put on a show for everybody, or ended up feeling incredibly guilty for ruining things when I’ve not been able to.
Another aspect of Christmas that has been very challenging in the past is the food. Christmas is celebrated as a season of gluttony and indulgence – a fact which is inescapable. This is painful when struggling with an eating disorder; if I had a pound for every time somebody would say “Come on, it’s Christmas!” or something along those lines I would be a rich lady. But as with any mental illness, you cannot just switch off an eating disorder and having chocolate and crisps and goose fat and cheese thrown at you in every which direction is suffocating. Beat announced that their helpline is open on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day this year and I’m thrilled that they have recognised how isolated people can feel at these times and how difficult it can be.
Thankfully, now I am able to manage many of these difficulties, I have enjoyed Christmas more and more every year recently! I think I am making up for missing so much of the magic over so many years. However, I am mindful that this will not be the case for everyone, and that celebratory events can actually be reminders for people of how difficult things really are.
If you are struggling with your mental health this time of year, please take steps to look after yourself. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure. Take time for yourself. Be honest with people.
Remember that even though it can be a happy and exciting time, it’s also just a day, and that day will be over just as quickly as it came if you can just get through it.