It’s now less than two weeks until Christmas (how it’s gone that fast I have no idea) and lights are twinkling, presents are being wrapped and there’s excitement everywhere, right? When you’re living with a mental illness you don’t get a Christmas break, I wish you did. While there is no doubt there is a little more joy around Christmas time, it can also bring new pressures and strains for those who have a mental illness, things that are easy to overlook.
On Saturday I attended my first work Christmas Party. While in the car on the way to the venue I realised something, I hadn’t had a panic attack over the event, which was incredible. I’ve been plagued by panic and anxiety attacks for years, having them before any kind of night out became the norm, not having one yesterday was a huge step for me. That said it wasn’t without a feeling of anxiety throughout the evening. Big events with a lot of people are incredibly overwhelming and slightly exhausting, my anxiety peaks and I feel a little lost. Luckily Ali was with me, he knows when I need a little space from an event and we still managed to have a lovely time with my work colleagues.
Christmas can be a really hard time of year. There’s an immense pressure to be happy, upbeat and joyful but it’s a hard time of year to do that. I leave for work before the sun rises, I leave after it sets which means it can be really hard without the natural depression booster (the sun is really important in regards to managing depression). On top of that it’s a really busy time of year full of seeing people so I can quite easily become tired and overwhelmed, two things which can easily make me fall into a low. There’s also a dollop of guilt in the mix because you’re meant to be happy at Christmas time? It’s meant to be happy and relaxing and lovely right?
It’s hard when you don’t feel that way, when your illness takes over and you just don’t feel happy. When you cry for no reason and just can’t see the excitement. I’ve lived that. I was 16 and in the worse stage of my depression I just kept crying, my Mum got upset, I got upset. I couldn’t get any sense of happiness, it was just a desperate numbness and helplessness. I didn’t know how not to sit and cry. That was honestly one of the worst points in my life. There’s a pain in wanting so desperately to be happy but your mind refuses to let you.
It’s for this reason I look upon Christmas so fondly and any year that I feel well enough I get so excited. I genuinely feel lucky to have some happiness, because it isn’t guaranteed with this illness. As I’m writing this I am tired and a little overwhelmed but managing enough that I’m looking forward to Christmas. I know some of you might not feel that way though and I wanted to let you know that it’s ok. It’s ok to struggle or feel like you can’t get into the spirit because mental illness is hard and it doesn’t give you time off. Do what you need to do, feel how you need to feel because it won’t always be like this.