Why I Dread Christmas
Christmas is a time for happiness, mince pies, chocolate, sherry, family, merriment and a plethora of other great things. It’s the time of the year when we are supposed be happy, relaxed, taking time off work and indulging ourselves in cake and wine.
When I was a child, I loved Christmas and everything about it. It was a magical time of year that I’d look forward to all through winter. As an adult, I absolutely and utterly dread it.
I live with bipolar and my depressive episodes quite often align themselves with the winter season, something which I don’t think is coincidence. This winter is no exception. As the months changed from October to December I became progressively worse and deeper into my depression. By December I had no energy at all, moving felt like fighting my way through treacle and simple tasks became almost impossible.
Then came Christmas. A whirlwind of having to do things, having to smile, having to please other people and keep up this guise of my happy former self. All the while, inside me, my battery flashed red and my mind screamed STOP.
It started with Christmas Eve, dinner with my partner’s family. I slept all morning trying to gather the energy to get up out of my bed. The moment I opened my eyes, I felt that dread inside me, the one where I know I have to leave the house and interact with others. I got myself up, got dressed, lay back down and curled into a ball. I got up and went to the bathroom, cleaned my teeth, washed my face then came back to bed and curled into a ball.
The time came for us to leave, my body felt like it weighed five times more than it should, my breath was laboured, like even my lungs were tired. It was a bit of a whirlwind to me, getting up and getting into the car, driving over to their house. I don’t remember the journey, just stopping the car and seeing the lights. Christmas lights are pretty, I should have been excited or at least calm, but I started to feel intense fear.
I swallowed it down and put on my ‘happy face’, though I don’t know if I’m as good an actor as I think I am. It took me ages to get out of the car, the lack of energy and the fatigue in my muscles made my movements so slow.
Inside the house everyone was having a great time. Luckily for me, everyone else in the room was Polish so I had an excuse not to talk much. I was so aware that my brain was processing thing much slower than normal and that in turn made my speech slower.
I got through the evening and we went home to bed. I was so tired I slept as soon as I hit the pillow. Then came the morning of Christmas Day, time to visit my parents. The same process again, get up, lie down, get dressed, lie down, get clean, lie down. I think I fell asleep again at one point.
Instead of boring you will all the minor details I’ll give you the summary of the next 48 hours. We went to my parents, we ate lunch, I pretended to be totally happy to the point that by the evening I started snapping at people and being irritable. I had gone from low energy to no energy. I went to sleep, woke up, we then had to go back to my partner’s family for a boxing day meal. I had no patience left, I ended up screaming in the car, crying and having a meltdown. I don’t even remember what we were talking about. I was so angry and so tired that I just couldn’t cope anymore.
We sat in the car for a long time, we were late for dinner. I finally worked up the energy to go into the house. We had dinner and then came home pretty quickly afterwards. It took me almost a week to recover. The day after I felt so low I didn’t get out of bed. I didn’t really get out of bed for the next four days. In fact, I didn’t even have a shower that week.
Christmas is a wonderful time of year, for most people. For me, it’s a source of stress, fear, exhaustion and endless acting. I dread Christmas.