Christmas – It’s just one day after all. Why can’t they just try for one day? (1/2)

I want to do a personal post at some point, but today I want to talk about Christmas.

Mental illness does not take a break during the festive period. And as much as we would love a break, unfortunately we do not get one.

The first of two posts will be a letter to non sufferers of Mental illness.

Dear non sufferers

I know you find it hard. I know you don’t understand why your loved one cannot be happy and relax with everyone else at Christmas.

It’s just one day after all. Why can’t they just try for one day?

If they have an eating disorder you think – why can’t they just eat normally today? A few roast potatoes can’t hurt. A mince pie with coffee – what’s so hard about that? Why do they have to be so quiet when eating Christmas dinner? It’s making it so awkward. Why are they staring at that plate as if it’s poison? Do they not realise they’re making everyone feel uncomfortable? Why can’t they just pull crackers and read out daft jokes? Even after dinner it feels like they’re not there. No smiles. Or if there are – you can tell it’s forced. You think about how today is such a special day. Why are they being so selfish? Why are they being so dramatic?

It’s just one day after all. Why can’t they just try for one day?

If they have depression you think – why can’t they just be happy today? It’s just one day. Can’t they just smile their way through one day? Can’t they just be normal for one day? Why do they have to look so sad? Why are they mumbling their words and staring at their hands? Why are they just picking at their food? Don’t they realise how rude that is? You ask about how their year has been. But why are they deflecting and avoiding the question? You know it’s been hard for them – but there must have been some good things? They look so close to tears. But why? There haven’t been any arguments. There’s no reason for them to cry. Why are they trying to ruin this day for everyone?

It’s just one day after all. Why can’t they just try for one day?

I know it’s tough having Christmas with a loved one who suffers from mental illness – but remember it’s not their fault.

Eating disorders are not a choice. And the pressure of Christmas exacerbates everything. While children everywhere are fighting sleep so they can catch Santa leaving their stocking – we’re kept up at night with the anxiety of the following day. Watching everyone tucking into the food with smiles and laughter makes us feel so alone. No one else at the table is dreading the consequences of the days intake. And that’s how we see it. An intake. It’s not simply food to us. It’s a calculated energy consumption. It’s a fight to the death on Christmas. The desperation to join in the fun v the desperation to stick to our safe foods. Because even if we manage dinner – there is the monumental guilt to deal with. And that guilt will be what plagues us for the rest of the day. Making it through dinner is an achievement, yes, but it won’t make us happy. It will leave us exhausted and drain all our energy for the rest of the day. But please be understanding. We are trying. And we’re trying because we don’t want to ruin it for everyone else. We’re trying because we don’t want to be selfish.

Depression doesn’t take a break at Christmas. Depression makes you feel lonely even when there are people around you. Being surrounded by happy faces when on the inside you’re in so much pain is isolating. Sometimes we have very little to show for the previous year, so questions about how we’ve been are so difficult to answer. Our self esteem is so low that we don’t know how to tell you about our achievements because we don’t see it like that. And sometimes our achievement is simply being alive. But that’s not the sort of thing you can bring up at the dinner table. Sometimes the anxiety can become too much and we want to be alone for a bit. Sometimes we feel like crying because all we can think about is how utterly useless we feel.

Please be understanding at Christmas.

It’s not just one day for us. It is the hardest day of the year.

Thanks for reading and take care guys

xx

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