This is to those of you for whom Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas.
I’m sorry that you are hurting.
I know that the ‘merry’ in ‘merry Christmas’ can feel as though it is mocking you.
When the whole world feels as though it is laughing, smiling, and celebrating, but those are the last things you feel like doing.
Crowded rooms can feel the emptiest.
Hugs can feel like they’re not quite tight enough, not quite long enough; never quite reaching you.
You smile but it doesn’t reach your eyes, and your own laugh seems distant and far away.
The pressure to be perfect can press down on your chest until you can no longer breathe and the number of people around can make your head spin. Occasionally you feel your mask slipping and you have to run to a bathroom and fix it before anybody sees.
Everybody wants to know what you’ve been doing all year and what your future plans are. That can be hard to answer when you’ve spent so much of the year in doctors appointments, hospital visits, and counselling sessions. It’s hard when your test results are medical rather than academic, when so many of your peers are patients or services users not students or colleagues.
It’s okay if your biggest achievement this year is survival. Fighting against the crap in your head, the illness that is determined to infiltrate your body, or the general difficulties that life insists on constantly throwing your way, is huge. It’s hard, brave, and courageous to continue to get up and dressed every day (or most days), when circumstances seem determined to destroy you.
Maybe you’ve lost someone this year. They might have died, or might have just exited your life. Maybe you lost someone last year, or the year before. Time doesn’t heal it, it just gives you longer to attempt to get used to it. Sometimes it makes it harder because the longer they’re gone, the more they’ve missed. Christmas can feel like it’s shining a light on the space that they’ve left behind.
It’s okay to miss them. It’s okay to grieve for them. The fact that they have exited your life doesn’t mean that you have to erase their existence entirely.
Be kind to yourself this Christmas. Let yourself have some time off. It’s absolutely okay to cry if you need to. If you want to laugh, then laugh – nothing in your life cancels out your right to feel happy. Let people in; if you can, and if you want to. Let them hug you. Let them be at the end of the phone. Let them text you. Let them listen. Let them be there.
Maybe you’re feeling just fine. If so, then please: try to be considerate this Christmas. Please understand that not everyone will be happy, not everyone will want to share copious amounts of food, not everyone will be able to manage being around large groups of people.
Christmas is only one day, but it can be incredibly stressful for those of us who don’t feel able to tackle it. Mental illness, physical illness, or other things, can all affect people’s ability to ‘Christmas’, and more often than not, we’re not trying to be difficult, we just can’t do it.
I hope that you all have a peaceful Christmas this year. I hope that it’s as stress-free as possible. I hope that you get a little time with your family or friends and that it’s as enjoyable as it can be.
I’ll leave you with some Winnie the Pooh wisdom:
“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”
― A.A. Milne