Imagine being punched in the stomach. Repeatedly. Looking up and seeing everyone, including all your mates laughing. Not at you – but obliviously, with each other. Then whilst still reeling from the indescribable pain, being dragged up by some well meaning friend and being expected to join the jokes and laughter like nothing happened to you - like the agony in your gut, making you want to pass out, doesn’t matter.
That’s what the Christmas period is like for a lot people.
In fact, I know first hand about that punch, that pain, that inability to join the party because for some reason, major life tragedies, have happened to me in the festive period.
Ten years ago my nan was diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer just before Christmas and passed away soon afterwards. Last year I unexpectedly had my heart broken and split with my long term boyfriend just before Christmas. Three years ago, three weeks before Christmas, my dad died.
So Christmas has for a good while now, reminded me of all the things it isn’t supposed to represent. Loss, instead of giving, hurt; instead of joy; grief instead of celebration. Each time, with each tragedy, Christmas rolled up inconsiderately, like an uninvited guest, with its partying and its forced fun, like an insult. An assault. A mean joke. And I just wanted it to go away.
And I know I’m not alone in this feeling. According to the National Institute of Health, ‘Christmas is the time of year that people experience a high incidence of depression. Hospitals and police forces report high incidences of suicide and attempted suicide (during this time).’ Reported in ‘Why People Get Depressed at Christmas’ - Psychology Today.
There could be many reasons for this festive sadness. Aggressive commercialism may have apart to play. Pressure to spend money we don’t have can be crippling for people, many of whom find themselves in unmanageable debt. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is also a real thing – the dark mornings, short days and lack of natural light certainly affect my mental health - and it is easy to see how it can be disabling for many people, especially when Christmas approaches in mid winter. Perhaps surprisingly, the coming together of friends and family may also cause Christmas depression. Loved ones, who may otherwise not spend time together - for good reason - are suddenly forced to spend those vital days together, with tensions and emotions mounting. Overall, the pressure over the Christmas period to be joyous and happy often serves as a stark reminder of our own problems, evoking powerful feelings of sadness and inadequacy.
No-one wants to be Bah Humbug - and perhaps that’s why we rarely talk about this - but I implore you: let’s just take a moment to remember those people struggling with Christmas for what ever reason. Let them know - we acknowledge your struggle. Let us crucially take a moment to remember those who didn’t make it to this Christmas, and let their friends and family know that we are thinking of you. I know it’s unbelievably tough; it’s surreal and unfair and I’m sorry. But the new year will come, uninvited as always, and you’ll make it through. All the love.