The tree is up, presents wrapped, cards sent... It's definitely looking a lot like Christmas as the festivities approach at quite some speed. It's a wonderful and joyful time of the year but maybe it doesn't have to be completely perfect. Christmas is a time to celebrate, spend time with loved ones and take part in all the quirky traditions we have. It's a time to be reflective and thankful but also to have a really good time.
For that reason, it can feel like a bit of a kick in the teeth when it doesn't feel quite so perfect. The fact that we're socially expected to be enjoying ourselves and being happy can make it feel all the more wrong if you're not quite feeling that. Struggles can seem to battle with the festivities and I think it can make those negative feelings feel even worse. Mental health problems aren't all that simple, it's not always a case of just being able to put everything on hold and feel fine for one day, even if that's what you want to be able to do to keep those around you happy. Hell, I would love to way up on Christmas Day and be completely cured... That kind of Christmas gift or even perhaps a miracle would be immense but unfortunately it's probably not that realistic.
I was talking to some young people at work who were a bit stressed about Christmas and they seemed so shocked at the idea that my Christmas wasn't going to just turn out like some kind of ideal homes perfect picture of a happy festive British family. I will be having a lovely time but there will be moments where I have a panic about how much I'm eating or feel sad for those who aren't with us for Christmas... But rather than trying to block out those thoughts (which shocker... Would then probably jump out at me later on)... I will be mindfully noticing them and remember that Christmas is truly about spending time with those you care about... It's ok if it's good enough rather than Christmas card perfect! I am so looking forward to having a nice day with my family and pets and enjoying their company above all else.
I recently braved going to Church on my own, something I had been avoiding but wanting to do. Then over the following few weeks I proceeded to not only attend on my own, ask to join the choir, attend choir practice and then to top it all... This weekend I sang in my first service, stayed for tea and biscuits (where I made friends and mingled) AND offered to help wash up at the end! I feel a little like I won't need to challenge anything again for a while and have felt like I've needed to sleep for at least a week. But other than succeeding over my anxious mind, I proved to myself that not only could I fight my fears, but I could jolly well enjoy it too. Perhaps a sign that when I put my mind to it, I really can challenge those inner doubtful demons and connect with the scariness they make me feel.
Going back to Church has helped ground me in some of the meaning behind this time of year. Really when you think about it, it's not about scary indulgence (something my eating disorder likes to tell me!), it's not all about the food! It's about being thankful (whether you are religious or not!) and doing so with the people who matter the most. Of course it's a time of year that really does make you miss people who should be with you but aren't, but I think the sadness I feel helps me feel so much more thankful. There's a lovely Winnie The Pooh quote that talks about being thankful to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. So I am even more thankful that I have people in my life and have had the chance to have people in my life that matter enough that I feel sad I won't be sharing Christmas with them, they're with my in my heart and memories. And I will be enjoying making more memories and of course a lot of time cuddling my cat.
Christmas is just a day, it's a lovely time of year but it doesn't need to be scary or stressful. It will be good enough and I'm very thankful for that!
Stay strong everyone! You can do it!
Also posted on Kate's full blog!