Christmas. Need I say more? Do we really have to do Christmas this year?
This time of year can be difficult for those of us with a mental illness. There’s so much joy and excitement in the air, and people being ‘merry’, going to parties, ‘getting in the spirit’, talking about their plans.
Those with a mental illness can find it a stressful time… an upsetting time… a lonely time. I know it’s hard for some to comprehend but some of us find Christmas and the New Year…. sad. For some of us it’s a time of reflection… thinking of people we’ve lost… things we haven’t achieved… how lonely we feel. I hate the New Year and in actual fact the last few years I’ve slept through it, as I hate that moment when midnight strikes, and I think about all the people I wish I had in my life, all out there at that same moment, celebrating a new year, getting on with their lives whilst I’m still stuck where I’ve always been. I only stayed up for the New Year last year, to be with my family, as it was going to be the last one before my granddad passed away… I wanted to be supportive of my family… we’d had such a rubbish year last year and all wanted to kick that year out the door, and welcome a new one in. We knew it wouldn’t be a ‘better year’, as we knew we’d be facing that loss at some point, but it was good to start a different year.
I used to love Christmas, but now I hate the bugger. I feel I should get one of those ‘Bah humbug’ hats. For the last six, seven years or so Christmas has felt worse and worse. This is because I am chronically alone. I never have a special someone to share it with, and I’d love that more than anything. I know I have my family, and I love them more than life itself – they’re the reason I hold on to my life! We have a lovely Christmas together. I just wish for once I could be happy with someone, and he could be a part of my Christmas too. It sucks always being the single, lonely one… every single year. And feeling that because of my mental illness I will never find someone who could love me, and stick with me. Christmas reminds me of what I don’t have. I’m able to fool myself for the rest of the year, that I like being on my own, but when Christmas comes around the loneliness glares at me.
This year is worse. This year is the first Christmas since my first loss. My granddad isn’t here anymore. He was ill last Christmas. He had been in hospital for six weeks, where we almost lost him, and after that he was at home in bed, for three months before Christmas. He had changed in his mind after going into hospital. He had times he wasn’t really there. He wouldn’t always know who we were or where he was. I decorated a small Christmas tree for his room last year, so that he could still feel a part of Christmas. We knew it would likely be the last one. We didn’t know at the time, but in less than three months he would be gone.
The day before the funeral was a big fallout, that still hasn’t been resolved, and until those at fault apologise to us, it never will be. They’ve always been a problem, and this time they crossed the line. But we should have been pulling together as a family after my granddad went, and he would be so upset that his death split the family up. We should’ve been helping each other through it. I’ve not been coping with his loss at all. Along with other issues it’s led to me harming myself a lot more, not wanting to be here… my family should be a source of support. But they probably aren’t even aware how badly I’ve been coping with it. They don’t talk to my parents, so they don’t talk to me either (not that I want them to now anyway – they’re in my bad books until they acknowledge what they did and make up for it!). I even felt it at the funeral… being the youngest of the family I would’ve liked my cousins etc to be protective of me and make sure I was okay. They said hello and goodbye to me. That’s all. This lack of caring and support from ‘family’ only adds to my sense of loneliness, isolation and grief. So there’s bad blood in the family this year to contend with too.
There’s the fact he’s no longer here. The fact my nan is alone. We don’t feel like celebrating. When people think about ‘What do you want for Christmas??’ – I want him to be here again. I want to have him back and well. I want happiness. I want good health for myself and those I love. I want someone to love and who loves me. I want inner peace and to like myself. I don’t want anything that can be bought. I want the impossible.
And then there’s recent events for me – my therapy and worsening mental health. My attachment to one of the facilitators of the group. The hopeless feeling of love towards him, which I thought would get better after finishing the group, but it’s only feeling worse right now. I will never see him again. It feels like another bereavement, and just before Christmas too… makes it even harder. It’s like I’ve had my heart broken, and gone through a break-up with someone I never even had. It’s hard to recover from that, because if it was a real break-up there’d at least be some happy memories in there… I could say ‘We had our chance’… I can’t do that here. And I’m grieving for him, but he’s still living… It’s very hard to know how to process a love that isn’t real, a break-up that didn’t happen, and the death of a person still living. I don’t know how to cope with love when it is real! Or a break-up when it does happen. Or a death when they’re truly gone forever – all of these ideas are new to me!! So to have it all not be ‘real’… it’s messed my head up, and the worst bit is I’ve now been left to deal with it pretty much alone.
Therapy has ended. They didn’t really help that much. I’ve been offered two sessions with someone to work on transference, but otherwise that’s it… I’ve just been left to pick up the jagged pieces that continue to cut me, every time I think about him.
I’m going to be in pain this Christmas anyway, but with the loss of him, and missing him, it’s going to be even tougher. I would’ve loved just one Christmas where I wasn’t missing a guy, pining over a guy, crying over a guy. This was set to be the first Christmas in years that I could say that, and then I had to start this group in September and boom… ruined. So yeah…. not feeling too festive this year….
You hear all the songs in the shops, and I don’t know what’s worse for someone grieving, someone who’s depressed, lonely and hates themselves…
- “So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, a new one just begun”…. What have I done? Bugger all, thanks. Survived maybe. Oh another year is over, and I’m still in the same place I was last year… or even worse – I’ve gone backwards.
- “So here it is Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun…. Look to the future now it’s only just begun” … Everyone’s having fun are they? Well I’m not. Thanks for rubbing that in. Look to the future?? What if you see no future for yourself? What if the idea of the future fills you with pure dread?
- “It’ll be lonely this Christmas without you to hold; it’ll be lonely this Christmas, lonely and cold” … You don’t say…. two things in this one thank you…. loneliness and the fact I’ve lost someone I love. I’m avoiding this song at all costs at the moment.
- “I just want you for my own, more than you could ever know; make my wish come true – all I want for Christmas is you” … Kicks me in the heart right now, as there’s someone I wish I could have, who I cannot have… and as usual, every Christmas there is someone I do want who can’t be mine. This was going to be the first year without that problem, but now that’s ruined.
- “It’s Christmastime there’s no need to be afraid… at Christmastime we let in light and we banish shade” … For some it is a time to be afraid… afraid of our own minds and if we’ll make it out alive. I fear how I will get through Christmas and the New Year. And if you’re depressed it’s a dark place…. just having something called ‘Christmas’ doesn’t suddenly make it any lighter.
- “Time for parties and celebrations, people dancing all night long; time for presents and exchanging kisses, time for singing Christmas songs” … I don’t get invited to parties. Even if I did I likely wouldn’t go, as I don’t like them. It’s all joy, material gifts and people snogging each other. No joy here. I want things that can’t be wrapped up. And kisses… yeah, right.
- “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” … No, it’s not. If you’re happy, loved, and have hope then perhaps. If you’re mentally ill then it’s probably one of the worst.
I think ‘Fairytale of New York’ is the safest bet for a Christmas song….. Who knows what the heck they’re even singing about anyway!?
This year has been hard, with the loss of my granddad, the health of another close family member, the family fallout, friend issues, my own worsening mental health, the ‘transference’ issue – which has left me feeling like someone I love has been ripped away from me against my will; losing support of the mental health services at this time of year, whilst in the most challenging period of my life….. and now I’m supposed to do ‘Christmas’ too?? No thanks.
For me, like many others with mental health problems, this is a time of year to simply survive and get through… and then we start a new year, and have nothing to look forward to, as it’s just going to be more of the same – depression, anxiety, loss, heartbreak and suicidal thoughts.
So if you’re out there being jolly and loving Christmas, spare a thought not just for the poor and the homeless this Christmas, but also for those who cannot find a smile on even the most ordinary of days, who have to force themselves through the festivities whilst battling their own demons. Think of those who won’t make it through this time of year, and those who only just scrape by…. Don’t call us Scrooge. Don’t call us The Grinch. We’re not ‘party poopers’ … we’re fighters, and we fight our mental illness every single day, including Christmas Day… Mental illness doesn’t give us the day off. Please remember that.
And if you’re feeling low, scared and lonely this Christmas, just know you’re not alone. There’s a whole army of survivors out there, feeling just the same, just aiming to get through this time of painful reminders. We’re all in it together, and will still be here to support each other on the other side. Let’s remember each other this Christmas.