Christmas time can be especially hard for someone suffering from mental health issues. It can feel like a lonely and distant time despite being surrounded by family and friends and I know that from my experience that I often find myself counting the days until it’s all over so my usual routine can be back in place again.
I love Christmas, the lights, the baking, the festive mood, wrapping presents, Christmas films. I absolutely adore it. Despite the fact I love getting into the spirit of it all, even I really struggle with this time of year.
I think one of the main issues with Christmas is that it is meant to be a happy time. People are all enjoying themselves and relaxing, letting their hair down, partying. It’s hard while everyone is having celebrations to reach out and say that you are not okay. I often hide my struggles because I would feel guilty if I were to share, as though I was ruining everyone else’s festive season. It’s a eerie feeling to be in a room full of family laughing and having fun while you feel so distant from it all, so alone but not actually alone. At nighttime after it all comes the regret, feeling like another Christmas has been ruined and missed out on.
Suffering from an eating disorder as well means food becomes another problem at Christmas time. The countdown to Christmas involves me telling myself that Christmas isn’t about food, it’s about family, having fun and being generous.
An example of how it becomes an issue is if family have got a nice box of Christmas meringues. I can eat one and deal with the anxiety, regret, fear, urges to get ‘rid’ of the food and then comes the dread of what my next meal will be. Or I can not have a meringue and feel sad that I can’t join in and envious of everyone else who is eating them. I’ll feel that I missed out as they are only released for Christmas. Regardless, I’m going to end up feeling distressed about it, but Christmas time isn’t just one box of meringues is it? It’s chocolates, biscuits, savoury snacks, Christmas lunch, meals with the whole family, edible presents like advent calendars. It’s that issue over and over and over again, a constant cycle of whether to eat or not and it becomes too much at once. It’s very miserable.
During Christmas time it feels very restrictive onto who to reach out to, everyone else is trying to celebrate and mental health professionals tend to go on leave and run a sparse service sometimes leaving patients with no one to talk to for 2 weeks. 2 weeks is a long time to struggle alone.
If you need assistance during the festive season this year, here are some contacts you may find helpful: