I recently posted some tips on how to have a stress free christmas, but for those who suffer with mental health issues, the holidays can bring more than just worries over timings of the Christmas dinner or if you forgot to send a card to the family from three doors down that you can never remember the name of.
Anxiety can cripple even the most organised of people, especially at Christmas when expectations are high. I know this first hand having had a anxiety attack late last night, the thought of another christmas going tits up had me curled in a ball sobbing. My partner, trying to help ordered pizza and ice cream to be delivered at 2am, thank goodness for living back in the city where there is life after dark! He did what he could to help, he listened, provided food and blankets, put on cheesy movies and just let me have my moment. There was no judgement, no suggestions that I am overthinking or just being silly, and he knew that was not the right moment to try and fix things. Anxiety can make even the most logical of solutions seem like the impossible.
For me, I know my triggers, which is a good start to understanding the patterns in anxiety and panic attacks. Though, sadly it does not mean it’s a fix. It is still there, and will probably always be. Sometimes we can get away with ignoring it, putting it in that cupboard under the stairs and forgetting about it. Other times it sits on your chest, crushing every breath you try to take, letting you know that its won you over, this time.
For the last few years christmas has been a non-starter. I’ve either been ill, unable to do much as I have been in hospital, or last year when I was already not great, we had the kitchen fire and no way of cooking properly. I had every intention that this year, things will be different, that I will have a tree, I will cook christmas dinner, I will have my birthday not sat in bed eating mince pies alone watching back to back episodes of Greys Anatomy. Maybe I over thought the whole thing, because with seven days to go, it’s unlikely that my envisioned Christmas will happen.
Of course this is my trigger and no matter what rational thinking is put in place there is always anxiety, just there, in the background.
Here is what anxiety is currently whispering to me;
What if you don’t get paid and your online shop doesn’t come?
What if the new cooker doesn’t work and then you can’t cook the food you ordered?
What ifyou have a bad flare and are too sick to cook?
What if you end up in hospital?
What happens if you have forgotten something?
What happens if you have forgotten to buy a gift for someone and they get you one?
What ifmy son doesn’t like his gifts, or if everyone dislikes their gifts? Have I over thought the whole gift giving thing?
What if we get unexpected visitors?
What if I just want to curl up and eat mince pies alone in bed and watch back to back episodes of Greys Anatomy?
I’m sure plenty, if not all of these sound like first world problems with everything else that’s going on in the world, and on our doorstep just now. But this is the face of my anxiety. Now throw in some grief and missing loved ones who have sadly passed and you have a melting pot of emotion just waiting to bubble up. I completely get why people want to go on holiday for christmas, it makes sense. Maybe that is what I should do next year and take the worry out of everything? It is my 40th after all.
Do you suffer with anxiety and is it made worse over the holidays? Do you have coping mechanisms in place? If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone, anyone, even me, as we all know that it can be overwhelming and very isolating, even when surrounded by family and friends.