• Christmas isn't so merry for everyone 

  • Leanne Brookes shares her personal story of why the time of year makes her so anxious

  • If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, you can find a therapist here

Bing Crosby delicately sings that he’s dreaming of a Christmas that he used to know and for so many years, this longing for a reenactment of the past has kept me down.
I’ve set myself up for a fall, over and over again. Christmas seemed like angels and gingerbread men dancing in my heart when I was a child. This is probably the most obvious statement I could make, of course Christmas was better when I was a joyful tot who hung on to Santa’s every word. My problem is that I haven’t been able to leave this in the past.

Every year I gear myself up for the ‘perfect’ day and it never comes to be. The pressure that I have put on myself over my twenty-nine years is unrealistic, emotionally damaging and discouraging. This isn’t just the thirty-one days in December, this is every day. I have made it my daily mission to make a conscious effort to better my mental health little by little. This is a relatively new concept for me but now Christmas has reared it’s ugly head it has brought a totally new challenge my way.

I like Christmas, I love it in fact. It’s just a scary time when you’re on the road to recovery.

I like Christmas, I love it in fact. It’s just a scary time when you’re on the road to recovery. I tend to become a bit of a recluse so I don’t have to venture into large crowds. The very thought of the meat aisle at Tesco on Christmas Eve is enough to bring me out in a cold anxious sweat. When it comes to Christmas nights out, I either don’t go or I really have to force myself as I can become self-conscious to the point that if a stranger raises their voice or directly looks at me in the eye, it leaves me fearful, which then activates my very vivid imagination. I currently have an ‘all or nothing’ mentality, which can negatively impact my experience while purchasing gifts for family and friends. I say currently, because it’s a characteristic that I am desperate to change. I have really grand ideas when it comes to gifts that are usually extremely personal, creative and time consuming to see through until the end. I will spend hours slumped in front of my Macbook researching and (almost) purchasing until I get so fed up with my indecisiveness that I give up and end up leaving everything until the last minute, which I then beat myself up over and brand myself as ‘good for nothing’. 

Society has taught us that Christmas is a joyful time for everyone, that even if you are a person who has depressive or anxious tendencies, this magical holiday can surely keep those emotions at bay. Carve a turkey, pull a cracker and watch the John Lewis advert and all will be ok. Everything about this season is telling me how I should feel, from the greetings in Christmas cards to the colour of my coffee cup. This time of year heightens and magnifies emotions, not all bad, but for a person who is attempting to be mindful and self reflective, it can be discovery overload. I don’t want a fairytale, I’m not asking for chestnuts roasting on an open fire, I don’t even need chestnuts or a fire for that matter. I just want a Christmas that I can get through without a ten tonne weight dragging down my shoulders, disappointment around every corner and headaches brought on by anxiety. Christmas isn’t going to make me happy, only I can do that. 

Further reading

What if christmas makes you feel bad?

Everything you need for christmas wellbeing

Finding joy and peace in the christmas season

Self-care for the christmas period