Have Yourself a Mental Little Christmas

by Sara Lomas

I know the holidays are near by the state of my skin. Stress makes me pick at any bump real or imagined. Right now I look like I’m going through a particularly awkward stint of puberty. Red marks cover my face neck and shoulders, and I catch myself scratching at them unconsciously. Dermatillomania is the fancy term for compulsive skin picking. I call it soothing-yet-gross.

Anxiety is my backseat driver. She sometimes brings her sister Depression along and I end up taxiing them around because they keep giving me wrong directions. Throw in adult ADHD and you have a bunch of mean people cat-calling behind my head. Hilarious, ladies. Laugh it up. They can be especially cruel around Important Days like birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. The pressure of trying to keep it together for Special Time X often has the inverse effect. Holiday Madness is a real thing that has little to do with 50% off Made in China.

So far, I haven’t totally crumpled under the strain of Impending Christmas.  I know this can be a stressful time of year for a lot of people. Planning, organising, trying to get out cards to friends and family, get shopping done, or just cleaning the house for incoming guests can be daunting for anyone. Doubly…no triply…ok, infinitely so for people suffering from one or more of myriad mental health issues.

I’m learning to choose my battles. I have to prioritise, write things down, and take on one task at a time. So far, I haven’t done any of this, so of course my guts are churning and my head is a scramble of noise.

I want to send out cards to everyone. I intend to hand craft dozens of individual gifts. I hope to bake up a mountain of goodies. The reality is, if I can make sure the kids get new underwear and perhaps send a mass holiday email, I’ll have to call it a victory. I’m learning to let go of my fear of judgement. I don’t want Long Distance Friend to feel slighted because they sent me a thoughtful card last year and I can’t even find my stamps. I don’t look forward to So-and-So thinking I’m an insensitive flake for not making time for them or having something to exchange with them when they show up at the door. I know some of this will happen anyway. I’m not very good at social graces. I’m working on it, but essentially, this is the way I come.

I don't always look like I was raised by wolves, but when I do, it's probably Christmas.

I don’t always look like I was raised by wolves, but when I do, it’s probably Christmas.

There was a time when it wasn’t so heavy —The Time Before Children.  The fact is, you can’t forget your kids at Christmas. You can’t hand them a last minute gift card from the Bulk Barn and hope they’ll be cool with it. It is a special time for them (at least in our family) and that matters to me. On the other hand, my kids make Christmas special for me too. Their excitement creates a heavy sense of obligation, but also a thrill when they go bananas over a single string of coloured lights. I’m sure it will pass…they’re not teenagers yet.

So, to all my mental sisters and brothers, may you have a peaceful, tear-free, hiding-under-the-covers-less holiday.  And if you don’t, it happens, and it will pass, I promise.

Now I have a list to make.

Much Love,

S

This post was written by an easily distracted writer-artist-miscreant-freelancer. Hobbies include marathon coffee guzzling and angry fist shaking. Currently in recovery for ellipsis overuse…
 
Laments and Lullabies is a blog with more cobwebs than words.
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31 responses to “Have Yourself a Mental Little Christmas

  1. “The reality is, if I can make sure the kids get new underwear and perhaps send a mass holiday email, I’ll have to call it a victory.”

    I love that…it fits my over stimulated brain so very well. Great post.

    Like

  2. I always feel so inadequate around the holidays. I see all these photos on Bookface of people with huge trees, tons of decorations, mountains of baked goods…I’m proud of myself when we can get the 3 foot tree out of it’s box and up a week before Christmas itself.

    I would LOVE to be one of “those” moms, all organized with garlands and lights and yummy smelling deserts available at all times. But just thinking about it overwhelms me and has me wanting to hide in a corner. Thankfully both of my mothers-in-law are “those” moms, and now they are “THOSE” grandmas too, so I’m kinda off the hook, for now at least…

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    • My mom saves Christmas too. I don’t know what I’ll do when the Holiday Torch gets passed to me. I think it will end up looking like a potluck with balloons. Sorry in advance, future grandkids.

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  3. “Anxiety is my backseat driver. She sometimes brings her sister Depression along and I end up taxiing them around because they keep giving me wrong directions.” THIS. So much.

    I am always surprised when I read these personal stories of yours because they describe a person I don’t know. I’ve always seen you as a bright, caring, warm, funny and smart woman, not someone riddled with anxiety and noise. Perhaps that’s because we are all represented by our whole, and not our pieces.

    I hope the rest of your holiday seasons goes as smoothly as possible.

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    • I make it a rule to never fall apart on Skype. Unless you’re my mom. She gets no filter. Someday, over coffee, we’ll swap some crazies. Until then, I’m keeping my ugly-crying face under wraps.

      Like

  4. Christmas is tough for those with brains going in a million different directions all the time. In some way, kids keep you wonderfully focused on what’s important; the joy in small, unexpected things and anticipation. Forget everyone else, although I will always cherish my Christmas Bee card. You’ll notice that you didn’t get one in return though, because I am disorganized. Not because I don’t love you. I do.

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  5. I love love love ellipsis. Crap! I do that and I didn’t know there was a name for it…just Crap! Ah well… We have taken the pressure off of ourselves this time of year we just sort of do what we want…but our kids are grown so we can. 🙂 I am trying to get out my handmade holiday cards though…

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  6. I used to try to do everything at Christmas until I realized none of it was fun, and I was completely stressed out. Now I cut myself slack and don’t feel guilty if I didn’t get something done. I haven’t sent out Christmas cards in years. And the earth still rotates on its axis despite that… 😉

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    • I did feel the earth move slightly when you stopped sending out cards….
      I don’t know what’s changed in these few generations…or maybe nothing has, and we just get the highlight reel of Christmases past, while in secret, our moms and their moms were also dipping into the eggnog before 10 am just to keep it together.

      Mmmm…eggnog.

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  7. Sister, I see your panic attacks and raise you a psychosomatic burn/itch on the back of my right shoulder.
    You hooked me by mentioning The Time Before Children. Oh, those heady days of New York city, cocktail parties, gift-giving with friends, a wicked cocaine habit and maxing out the credit cards for no good fucking reason.
    My daughter is in college now, and she still loves Christmas and Hanukkah. And Yule. Anything with food which does not contain Ramen,
    As for me, the Mom Ranger? The heavy depression and panic begins with Halloween and continues through mid January. Family who have died, Marriages and love that have died. The joy and rush that came with preparing the house and entertaining long lost friends.
    Though no longer hell-bent on providing my daughter with a fantastic and magical holiday, there are too many days when I am unable to answer the phone, return texts or write.

    Your post made me feel better about dealing with this special goddamn time of the year.
    It sucks ass to trade in the eggnog for a cocktail of medications instead. Luckily there are friends to live through vicariously. You’re correct… this too shall pass. Like an elephant through a needle!
    Have a beautiful holiday and stay mental

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    • This comment is rife with gems. I feel like “this special goddamn time of the year” should be on my next Christmas card. And I want “It sucks ass to trade in the eggnog for a cocktail of medications” in needlepoint on my bathroom wall.

      The kids will survive…though not quite on ramen alone.

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  8. Amen. To all of it. I’m in the same boat, struggling to get through.

    So far, I’m failing and trying to be okay with it. I’m not really okay with it. Meh.

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    • It’s a long path from crazy-and-sad-about-it to crazy-and-cool-with-it. I think I’m somewhere in the middle. I’ve managed to lower most people’s expectations of me, which helps a lot.

      I like to open with “I’ll accept your invitation to dinner/party/coffee/beer but I may cancel at the last minute because sometimes the world is to loud and big”.

      Some people get it. Some people don’t, and they never invite me anywhere again. Win-win.
      Love you and your mental face.

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  9. Consider yourself wholly excused from holiday cards! Hope you like the holly-hornet anyway. Obviously it was inspired by last year’s Holiday Owl, but is nowhere near as wise. 🙂

    We have no kids – which makes it easy to do a minimalist holiday season – and we no longer visit family during the winter months because it’s so not worth it when we can visit in July instead. I try to make gifts throughout the year, usually while bathing in the loving blue glow of Netflix, so there’s less end-stage pressure for gifting. We do not decorate – at all. There are no sugar cookies, no frosting, no candy, no stockings, no Advent wreath.

    Without all that extra crap, it’s not much of a holiday season at all, which can be a downer – except for the non-stressing part. The big challenge for us has been figuring out what to do with ourselves on a major holiday when nothing is open and the weather is usually yucky.

    Also, I think I’m starting to get the hang of crazy-and-cool-with-it and it’s a much better way to live, so keep at it!

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      • I thought of that, and then realized I don’t know anyone I could ask without it being uber-weird. But I can ask the Internet!

        Yeah, it’s a brilliant kinda day, can’t you tell?

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      • Shit. That looks like I called you a huffalump. Which I didn’t That would require a comma. Not even sure what a huffalump is, but clearing that up. I did not call you a huffalump.

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  10. I never did get excited when I was a kid. I do now, but people still can’t tell. I see myself as one of the world’s best gift-giver…and I’m sure people see me as one of the world’s worst gift-receiver. I get excited when I can find the perfect thing for someone else, but fail to show excitement when i receive the prefect gift. I only think of it as “stuff” when it’s for me…but as great things when it’s for others. I think this probably drove my mother crazy, so I shall get off of here and call her to make up for it. Great post. (Did I mention how humble I am?)

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  11. Sara,
    I love your way of thinking, and yes, holiday madness IS a real thing.
    I think Christmas is a winter holiday so the other three good seasons wouldn’t be tainted.
    I will think of this post for the rest of the month, especially while under the covers.
    Thank you for making my mind right.
    Red

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  12. This says it all! I stopped sending out christmas cards years ago. It was too much. The funny thing is, once I stopped sending them…I basically stopped receiving them as well. which I am completely fine with because it took the pressure off for me. I think most people only sent them when they felt like they had to return the favor. Not only that….I suck at baking. So really I am giving everyone a gift by NOT baking for them.

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