Photo taken by me, December 2016
This Christmas has been an exceptionally hard one. It feels like everyone else is celebrating with their families, and I am not able to go anywhere for Christmas. Even if I wanted to, my family is all split apart. None of the four of us live in the same time zone, let alone the same city. This is the first Christmas since my parents’ separation. I worked almost every day for the last two weeks straight to cover various illnesses and vacations. I am exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. I worked Christmas Eve and afterward went to my husbands’ store to help him clean up and tally receipts.
I spent Christmas Eve night crying on the bathroom floor.
I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not me, it’s my stupid biology. I am trying so hard to do everything right. I am going to bed and getting up at the same time, eating regularly and well, exercising, accomplishing tons of things at work, getting everything done that I need to do. I take my pills every day and have done all my therapy homework. But it’s still not enough. I still feel like crap a lot of the time.
It upsets me so much, because it has been a nice Christmas in many ways. I don’t have a lot of the family obligations most people have, which is a source of stress for so many. My husband is a great cook and I have had lots of yummy things to eat. Everyone has been kind and generous with their presents, and I got some great gifts. I got a lot of art supplies that I can’t wait to use. I know there are so many people so much worse off than I am. Feeling sorry for myself isn’t helping.
I think the problem is my own expectations. When I was a little girl, Christmas was the most wonderful and magical holiday ever. I used to get so excited, I couldn’t sleep for days beforehand. It felt like a completely enchanted time, where nothing bad could happen and anything was possible. Many of the best memories of my childhood are around Christmastime, the food, the presents, and the family gatherings.
Yesterday, it just didn’t feel like Christmas Eve to me. It felt flat, like just another working day, nothing special. The weather was cold and grey and not very snowy. I cried because of my grief, and because of my exhaustion, but also because I was mourning missing out on what I felt Christmas ought to be.
But when I think about what made Christmas special in the past, it wasn’t even the things that were planned, it was the unexpected events that I remember and treasure the most. And maybe that’s the secret to enjoying Christmas as an adult It’s letting go of what you did before, and enjoying what you have now. Above all, it’s being good to yourself, especially if you have a mental illness. It can be hard to be away from your routine, and to be expected to act a certain way around family and friends. I think we should all find that one special thing we can do for ourselves, and make it our Christmas present to ourselves. Our health and well-being are more important than any gift we could receive this year.