Let’s face it, Christmas isn’t always joyful.
I don’t think I had really ever grasped that until just over a decade ago, 2006 to be exact.
There are lots of reasons why people struggle at Christmas; why it’s not the joyful occasion we are pressured to experience.
For some, it’s experiencing grief & loss.
For some, it’s a reminder of trauma, and perhaps a day filled with triggers.
For some, it’s being alone – no family or friends to spend the day with.
For others, it’s mental illness: Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addictions, schizophrenia, personality disorders.
And still, for others, it’s chronic pain, chronic illness and the fact that we can’t switch them off for the day to have a truly joyful experience.
If you’re unlucky, there may be a combination of the above happening. I know there will be for me this year.
Many people will tell you that it’s all about your attitude; that you get out what you put in; that you need to practice mindfulness – be in the moment, and enjoy it for what it is. But the truth is, for all those reasons above, and for many more, you can’t just set aside what’s going on.
You don’t get to choose to not be sick that day.
You don’t get to choose to not experience gut-wrenching grief at the loss of a loved one, either recently or in the past.
We don’t get to choose those things.
We can choose to try and see the good; we can choose to try and see things positively; we can choose to make the most of things despite what’s going on for us. But we can’t just flick a switch and eliminate all that is going on.
And, about those who expect us to, I have one thing to say: THEY DON’T GET IT
They don’t get what it’s like to spend what is meant to be a happy, family day, without someone you loved so deeply, that it feels like a part of you has been amputated. They don’t get what it’s like to be hit with a wave of grief when you walk into a room, expect someone to be there, and realise they’re not, because they’re not with us anymore.
They don’t get the idea of triggers; the fact that a smell, a place, a voice, a comment, a gift…. anything, could be a trigger for a trauma memory that one had hoped would lay dormant this year. That even the mention of a name can be enough to render one unable to speak, breathe, think, function. That it’s sometimes the little things that trigger us the most and can take us right back to the traumatic incident (which could be anything from someone dying, to being sexually assaulted, emotionally abused, acts of domestic violence).
They don’t get it if they think a victim of abuse, or a victim of a traumatic event, has any control over their ability to be triggered or not. One cannot just hold their hand up and say STOP. It doesn’t work like that.
They don’t get it if they think that depression can be snapped out of for Christmas Day, or that anxiety in all its forms, can be put on hold for such a special occasion. They don’t get it if they think psychosis, dissociation, self-harm,
They don’t get it if they think psychosis, dissociation, self-harm, or suicidal thinking goes away, just because Santa came and put presents under the Christmas tree. They don’t get it if they think that someone with an eating disorder should be able to sit at the lunch table and eat with the family, just because it’s Christmas.
They don’t get it if they think that someone with an eating disorder should be able to sit at the lunch table and eat with the family, just because it’s Christmas.
They don’t get it if they think that someone’s unrelenting pain can magically be manageable for the day, or that someone’s fatigue can just be put on hold.
They don’t get it if you think someone with POTS can just go out in the summer sun all day for an Aussie Christmas at the beach.
They don’t get it if you think someone can ditch the wheelchair for the day because it’s a special day… and they don’t want the wheelchair in the photos.
We would, however, like to help them get it. We would all love people to understand a little more about our realities….
So I’ve made a list of what I think we need this Christmas:
- Understanding & empathy from our loved ones – December 25th is NOT going to be easy.
- To be included in the plans that are made for the day
- For people to ask us how we are feeling about Christmas & on the day
- To be listened to when we say we’re not coping
- To be respected when we say we can’t do something, or we don’t want to
- To be helped when we need to calm down or have some time out.
What do you need people to understand & do for you, this Christmas? Add them ASAP and I will pad them out for a blog post that you can share with friends & family before Christmas.