Yesterday saw Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind kick off their Christmas campaign #ChristmasinMind to help people see that even at the “happiest” time of the year it is OK to not feel OK. I personally think it is a fantastic campaign as being someone who is often called the Grinch for her dislike or at least her complete lack of interest in the festive season apart from the mulled wine and having a valid reason to be hungover (or still drunk) on a Tuesday, it is important that people can see behind the fairy lights, tinsel and brightly wrapped presents to what is a reality for so many people.
For those who love every bit about Christmas, I am not trying to be Debbie Downer. At the risk of sounding like a giant piece of Stilton I would LOVE it if everyone could have the same festive glow and happiness at this time of year, the same way I wish everyone had a warm, cosy home, food in their belly and the feeling of love and safety. But at the risk of sounding blunt, please, let’s get realistic. If you want to live in your little snow globe of candy canes, Christmas trees and mince pies, I urge you to stop reading now. Or at least invite us all in for a big piece of cake 🙂
Have you ever sat in a room full of people and felt utterly alone? What about at a works party, where you seem to be having the time of your life but where in fact you are drinking to numb the pain? You end up being the drunkest person this side of the equator and go down in “legend” or “joke” status for how the night ended, with your face down in your doner meat? Have you been that person that has craved attention, even of the sexual kind, and will take it from anyone, just to try and even temporarily cover the disgust you feel at yourself? ………….. I have.
Whatever it is that you are suffering from, be it an established mental health condition like me, a result of a terrible experience like bereavement or maybe having a stressful time in your current life where you just cant seem to get your head straight and have no idea whether you are coming or going, it can be really hard to admit to even yourself just how bad you feel. You might be one of those people who hide away from the world, you may get up, slap on your game face and go about your day like you are not emotionally breaking inside as you just don’t have the time, you may go opposite end of the spectrum and get completely wrapped up (no pun intended) in the season and seem like Mary Christmas in the attempt to do anything to cover up how you are really feeling. I just want to say, all of these things are completely OK. However you cope with things to get you through the day is so very OK. You being here, with us, with those that care about you and love you is all that truly matters. Not how much you might have been able to spend, or how entertaining you have been, how big and bright your Christmas tree is or how many Christmas films you have managed to binge watch in one go.
Honesty I really believe is key. There is something to be said for the whole “fake it till you make it” scenario, sometimes you can even find yourself having an unexpectedly good time. At the same time though this can be completely exhausting and if it is what is making you feel worse, please, do not suffer in silence. It is good to talk. It may not be your nearest and dearest, it could be an online group (join Run Every Day January – what an amazing group of people) it could be your GP, your significant other, your best mate or just someone that you know might understand. I always have a listening ear if someone feels lost and not sure where to go. I cant offer professional advice or diagnosis or anything like that, but what I can offer is friendship and someone who genuinely cares.
It goes a different way too, you may be completely great and going about your day in your usual jolly way, but have you noticed someone round you has changed? Are they quieter than usual? Are they cancelling plans? Are they acting out of character? Are you worried or concerned about someone even though you cant quite put your finger on why? Then I ask you, please, give them the greatest gift you could – your time. It could be as simple as a “Are you OK?” message – they might not have been asked that little three word phrase yet it could be a lifeline for them to open up. If they are avoiding social gatherings, invite them out 1 on 1 or for a coffee at yours. If they really don’t want to talk, and some people, speaking from experience, simply wont until they are completely ready, just be there. Be their friend. Send them daft GIFS, meme’s, keep them included, let them know, no matter how low they are feeling, they are not alone.
Social media, although I am using it as a huge positive in campaigning and registering my achievements, unfortunately it can be used and seen in a negative fashion. Although you want to show the world you are having the biggest, best Christmas, do you need to show the world? One, is it the genuine truth? but please, think of the people who may be struggling – financially, emotionally, mentally. I am so not saying you should feel bad about what you post, it is your social media, your life, but maybe just stop, for one small moment and think, why am I doing this? If it is to show the massive pile of presents in comparison with others you have seen?
There is a lot of pressure put on us, commercials and shops start their Christmas messages and promotions earlier every year, but I think what we are starting to lose, is genuine Christmas spirit. It is becoming so much more materialistic year on year. Little Jimmy NEEDS the brand new games console, Jane MUST have the latest trainers etc. I was thinking about this the other day. If I look back over my Christmas’s, especially as a child, I can barely remember what I got, apart from a few things that stand out as I really wanted them, but they were little things, things that wouldn’t have cost much money but that my Mam realised how much I would appreciate. What I do remember though is family meals at my Nana’s. We might have had a small family but it was lovely to be all together. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t perfect, there would be arguments, tears and the lot but we were together, Even my Grandad would come and sit at the table! That was like a MASSIVE deal. There was also a lot of love and laughter. I miss that, so much and I know now, I never appreciated it when I had it. Not really.
This Christmas, I want my children to appreciate not what has been bought for them, but how loved they are and for what they do have not what they might have wanted and didn’t get. I want them to feel safe, happy and content and I want to make memories that they wont forget when the latest model of whatever comes out next year. I want them to believe that they are worth it, that they are special in their own way.
For myself, I am going to actually try and believe that I am worth it. That I don’t just have to be there and do everything for everyone else. That it isn’t selfish to want to do something for myself, whether it be an undisturbed bubble bath, a run or just going to the shop without my rabble so I can have a bit of space. That if I want to work on my college work or blog for a little while then that is OK. That will go such a long way in helping me overcome often negative feelings at this time of year. I am not going to stress that I haven’t been able to spend a fortune, or that I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping yet as I have been so ridiculously busy building a foundation for a potentially fantastic 2018. Christmas is one day and what I do promise, is to give me, my time, to those that I love.
I am lucky that I have battled a lot of demons this year and that Christmas is hopefully not going to be the emotional mess it has been in previous years for me internally. My journey is far from over but I am strong and I will keep fighting.
For those struggling, remember, it’s ok not to be ok, even at Christmas time.