Is it just me, or does anyone else sit around comparing their Christmas to everyone else’s? For me it generally starts around October, when the advent calendar hit the shops, and the first friend says ‘ooh, I got most of my gifts in the sales last year’. Well f**king done, Janet*, pleased for you.
*her name’s totally not Janet.
I’ve spoken to my therapist about this subject, and it’s not FOMO; it goes deeper than that. It’s connected to achievements, lifestyles, families… it’s all encompassing. It’s anxiety, and it’s mission is to destroy Christmases everywhere. The little bas*ard.
When I was younger, Christmas was my thing. I loved waking up bleary-eyed from five-too-many the night before, and wobbling downstairs to tuts from my dad, Bucks Fizz and crumpets handed to me by mum. By 3pm, just before the big feast was served, I was half-drunk again, tucked up on the couch with dad, usually watching The Snowman, Wallace and Gromit or some classic Disney. Ecclefechans (look them up!) flew everywhere, and Quality Street wrappers were tucked into empty mugs, we couldn’t be assed moving. My wonderful maternal grandfather would be sat up in the rocking chair, with a can of Mackesons Stout, happy as Larry he was away from his sheltered accommodation for the day. We would stuff our faces, fight over the last pig in blanket, groan over pudding, and fall into food comas for the evening. It was a wonderful warm day.
My grandfather died 5 years ago, and Christmas and my life in general hasn’t been the same since. For one, we don’t care about the Christmas feast now. For the first few years following his death, we didn’t have Christmas dinner, we had an all-day breakfast and just drank. Mum wasn’t bothered about Christmas anymore, we didn’t really see anyone else, and that was that.
Now, before I say what I will, let me assure you that I love my parents, more than anything in the world. I would take a bullet for them, no questions asked. If my dad needed a kidney I’d fight to the front of the queue…
For the past couple of years, Christmas has really pissed me off. And that’s through no fault of my family. It’s because it’s not their Christmas – you know, the people with the children and the house and the mortgage, and the 5 houses to visit. The tinsel flying everywhere, the party poppers and the countless different meat and veg. That Christmas.
I go one further than that. I find myself questioning my own achievements. I fall into the well of self-doubt, and scramble for hours, even days, to climb out. I am not married, no kids, no house of my own to speak of… what the hell am I doing with my life?! You know, that train of thought that takes you places you don’t want to go, especially at Christmas.
It took 4 years and some intensive CBT-style therapy to make me realise, I am actually very very lucky. It’s my anxiety, PTSD and depression that tells me I’m not. My family is awesome, they let me do what I want. They provide love, hugs, advice, and shoulders aplenty should I need to cry. The problem with anxiety is that it likes to steal your identity. It wants you to compare yourself with all the insta-perfect family time going on around you. It destroys what is actually a bloody good day.
So this year, with the help of my lovely therapy lady, I have taken steps to fight the little bas*ard. I have already written what I call my Perspective List, given my head a shake and resolved to enjoy my Christmas day with my little family, watching shit TV and scoffing our dinner together. ‘Perspective List?’, I hear you say? Let me explain….
The next time you feel that knot in your stomach, the shaking and the sweats, that your life isn’t good enough and that someone else’s is just too perfect, write yourself one. You’ll find that you’re pretty awesome. Trust me. Here’s mine:
- I have a loving family
- I have a gorgeous set of best friends
- I have a warm house full of food
- I am (relatively) healthy
- I have a job I love
- I write, and I read.
- I am loved.
And if that’s not enough for Christmas, I don’t know what else is.
Enjoy your holidays, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas. Celebrate what you have and forget about what you don’t.
Much love, Shell x
PS: You see that lovely Christmas card in the photo. That’s from the wonderful Harriet Tyce. She’s an author, and all round good egg. Her debut novel, Blood Orange, is out February 2019 from Wildfire Books and Headline Publishing. I’m currently scoffing it, and my review will be up soon. But it’s a good ‘un. x
PPS: If you like my posts, please share them on your Twitter feeds… muchas gracias. It’s good to talk. xx