[I apologise that this post is quite negative on the subject of Christmas. The point, however, is to get people thinking about the pressures and expectations forced on people at Christmas. It does get a bit ranty, though. Sorry.]
Whether you’ve been celebrating or indifferent to this festive period, I hope you’ve had a good one. It’s now officially over and we can start sifting through the rubble of tossed wrapping, smashed glasses and left-overs.
On the upside, I haven’t had a Down Day! I managed to get through the whole holiday without falling apart.
There hasn’t been a Christmas where I haven’t been working for the last twelve years, so being around for the festivities has been a new experience. That’s led to its own ups and downs. It’s been nice to actually spend time with my partner. Christmas Day was exactly how I like it: quiet, relaxed and with a lovely meal (which wasn’t excessive). I’ve also had to jump through a lot of social hoops that have made me emotionally exhausted. I’ve actually developed a twitch in my right eye that simply won’t sod off. How nuts is that? If it wasn’t so annoying, it’d be hilarious.
Without going into detail and boring the snot out of you, here are the Christmas hurdles scrambled over by this depressive:
- People’s expectations
- Being the centre of attention
- Forced social interaction
People’s expectations are one of the things about Christmas that really annoy me. Those of you who have been reading Down Days for a while will know that I’m a principled and pretty philosophical kind of guy. That can be very annoying for others. Firstly, I’m not religious in the slightest and I hate the idea of celebrating for the sake of religious reasons. It’s not that I don’t think anyone should, people who believe should do their own thing. I just refuse to be a hypocrite and join in for the sake of one day. It’s the same reason that I don’t sing hymns if I have to go to church for a wedding etc. I’m happy to be there if my friends or family want to have their ceremony in a church, but I won’t hand over my beliefs. A similar thing happens at Christmas. It’s a celebration of the birth of Christ and, as such, I want nothing to do with the religious side.
I also disagree with the commercialism, the excess, the waste produced, and the hypocrisy of people who play nice for just once day a year but are bastards for the rest of it. It’s fake. And that shows through with how many families end up arguing at Christmas. You can’t pretend to be something you aren’t, and the cracks show as soon as someone gets an extra sprout on their plate to everyone else. Avoiding this kind of thing is easy at any other time of year but, at Christmas, people judge you if you don’t join in.
If I were Buddhist or Muslim or Jewish, nothing would be said. But because my belief system is my own, I’m simply a Scrooge or a Grinch (let’s not get started on that misunderstood reference. Scrooge loved Christmas by the end of the book. The fickle git. Same goes for the Grinch).
Most of my problems this year have come when kindly refusing things such as food and alcohol. I often utter the words “No thanks, I’m full” or “just water’s fine, thanks”. Apparently this is a cardinal sin at Christmas. But I won’t force myself to be “festive” by gorging myself and putting things in my mouth that I can’t stand the taste of (in-YOUR-endo!). I like a simple life with simple things. That is my choice. I don’t eat three and four course meals because I simply can’t eat that much. And I have to really be in the mood to drink alcohol. Champagne and Prosecco tastes like carbonated cat-piss. I think the same with sparkling water. I simply don’t like it. Hence, I do not drink it. I’m happy to clink your champagne glass with my tumbler of water, and isn’t the cheer the important part? Apparently not.
Now, being centre of attention. This is perhaps the part that I shudder at the most. My partner knows this by now and is pretty damned good at helping me avoid it after I mentioned it a few years back. The main time that this is a problem? Present opening time!
The very thought of sitting to open gifts with everyone sat around watching me fills me with the kind of dread that requires a mop and clean trousers. Remember, folks, that people with issues like mine sometimes struggle to emote in quote the way that people think we should. Therefore, an extended period of feigning awe and weeping gratitude is utterly soul-draining. But that’s what people expect because that’s what the world tells us we should do. But no, I am a quietly grateful guy. I open my gift, smile, and say thankya. Inside, I’m usually very grateful for every gift that I receive. You see, I think every one is a moment of someone’s time and energy, aimed directly at you. No matter if it’s socks or a golden Lamborghini (Bleurgh. But you get my point), that person has used a moment of their own life to put something into yours. That’s kind of beautiful. And that’s possibly why I would rather receive a single gift of a book that someone thinks I will enjoy than a pile of gift sets and expensive watches (Side note: At what age do we stop getting selection boxes as a viable option? I love those things!). Anyway, so I gets a teensy bit flop-sweaty when people put me at the centre of a gift-sacrifice circle. Luckily, this was side-stepped pretty damned dexterously by my partner, who has the ability to gently suggest that we open all of our gits [<that was a hilarious typo, so I left it in] simultaneously. That way, I only had to stay quiet, out of the way, and thank everyone just once, pouring as much sincerity into it as I could. the problem? That isn’t fake sincerity. I mean it. I’m just shit at expressing it.
Last but not least: Forced social interaction.
Where my socially anxious at? Give me a little nod of recognition. Oh, hi there.
I enjoy being around people, for the most part…if they’re people that I actually like. I’ve even been called the life of the party at times. But for parties and gatherings where, perhaps, I’m not so comfortable, I can usually psyche myself up. I have the time before-hand to prepare myself for festivities and larks with people I don’t know or don’t give a shit about. At Christmas, however, that is not the case. Christmas is a smorgasbord (figuratively and literally) of people and faces and gatherings and expected cheeriness. I find that utterly utterly draining. I swear, that twitch I’ve developed is fatigue-related. The interesting thing about this, is that we all feel it at Christmas. Depressed, anxious, mentally ill, and EVERYONE ELSE.
You guys know that I love to watch people. It’s one of the things that helps me write my novels, I think. But, if you look around yourself at Christmas, you will probably see some of the following from “normal” people as well as from those who admit to having problems with this kind of thing: snappiness, falling asleep, complaining/whining. It’s easier to see in kinds but adults are just better at hiding it. Over the course of Christmas, everyone you know will start to exhibit symptoms of what we struggle with every other day, and that’s because we force ourselves into grand exhibitions of emotion and excess for the sake of a day.
Why do they even bother calling Christmas “the holidays” when it’s anything but?
But, I’ve wittered on for long enough. This has become a monster post and for that I apologise. I hope that my ranting has given you some tasty thought-morsels. I’m thinking about writing a “Depressive’s Guide to Christmas” in time for next year. That could be fun.
Anyway, I hope that you have successfully navigated the festive season. Maybe we should start thinking about new year’s resolutions soon…
Thanks for reading.