You know when you have SO MUCH to do and you feel sick with anxiety and all you really want to do is sit down and write a cathartic blog post about how you used to take a deep breath at the end of November and dive into and swim below the surface of the totally legitimate festive pit of wine that was late November (your birthday) to 1st January (hair of the dog), allowing the stress and pressure of soulless consumerist bullshit to pass pretty much over your head…?
No? Just me then!
Back then, I was an (albeit half-baked) gingerbread-baking, jolly kind of mum, friend, daughter and wife during the festive period.
The rest of the year I was just plain depressed and drinking too much – Christmas time is the time when people with drinking problems blend in the best. It’s considered normal to drink heavily. Everyone seems to be doing it. There are pictures, ads and images of it everywhere. You may not even notice them. I never did until I became teetotal. Exotic brands of alcohol in overpriced, pretentiously flavoured mixers and the decadence of Christmas are synonymous.
Except…. they are not. Or shouldn’t be. That’s just what we are drip-fed currently. Perpetuating this belief around the dependence of fun upon booze consumption makes a few people very rich indeed…. and this deep yet false cultural belief makes a LOT of people very sick indeed. Physically unwell, mentally unwell, spirituality unwell, socially unwell.
I’m being a Bah Humbug. Old me would have hated my little sober rants. When I write about my sobriety (20 months on Boxing Day!), normally I hope to leave people with an inspired aftertaste, but I’m not sure that’s what is flowing through my fingers today…
So be it. Life’s not all making lemonade from lemons that come your way. Sometimes you just don’t want lemons, and you wish lemon season was over, but everyone around you is obsessed with lemons. Sometimes, you forget how the lemon metaphor is related to the point you started trying to make.
But this much is true: I don’t miss drinking (although of course, I used to!). And I certainly don’t miss that visceral fear about what I couldn’t stop doing to myself and my family, that seeped in and around my thoughts before I awoke each morning.
On the other hand, this is also true: I’m finding the run-up to Christmas incredibly difficult this year. I don’t think that’s unusual. Mainly, I’m frustrated with myself: I KNOW better than to buy into all the crap about how many presents I need to buy and what kind of beautiful food I should be preparing; I KNOW better than to compare myself to other people or to care about who’s finished their gift wrapping when half of my gifts are still with an Amazon courier; I KNOW better than to concern myself about who makes the effort to do Elf on the Shelf when even the idea of having to remember to move a toy elf around each night makes me want to dance around an elf bonfire toasting marshmallows. No disrespect to people that are into their E.O.T.S. I think it’s a lovely idea in principal, but, a bit like getting a dog, I’m not ready to commit to that level of extra work while frankly I still struggle to look after myself and three children.
I know all this… and yet, I feel sick with anxiety each morning in December that I’m “not doing enough”. I worry my children will be disappointed, even though I’ve sold out and bought way too many presents in a panic-stricken frenzy. Every Christmas card I receive sends a mini shockwave of panic through me about the fact that I haven’t sent all my cards yet. In fact, I don’t even know where my address book is, and I’m blaming it on the elves.
I’d bet that each year approximately 50% of people find Christmas hard. A time that’s ‘supposed’ to be joyful is extra hard if you’re grieving, physically or mentally ill, suffering with addiction or caring for someone who is, in an unhappy relationship, lonely, or in poverty. This is the reality for many people. Just writing this, I’m now wincing in gratitude for all that I have. I know I have nothing to complain about and everything to be grateful for. See? I knew a bit of writing would straighten me out.
So yep. There you have it. I’m a big, unnecessarily anxious, sober Scrooge. If you don’t receive a card from me or if I seem abrupt or irritable, please know that despite this, I love you all and I’m deeply grateful to know you all. FESTIVE GREETINGS. And all that.
If anyone ever needs a listening ear, I’m here. I may be terrible at sending cards and staying calm around Elves on fucking Shelves, but listening is something I CAN do. And, for today, I’ve decided, that IS enough.