Saturday, 9 December 2017

Season’s Greetings, by Roiben

Christmas and New Year can be a difficult time for many people, for many reasons. The pressure on finances alone can be enough to increase stress and worry. This is without factoring in Mental Illness or a Chronic Condition.

Towns and Cafes become more crowded and frenetic and can make simply going outside feel harder than normal. Then, there are the expectations to socialize – to see friends and family and partake in the celebration of the Season. A Season with short, cold, wet days and long dark nights. A Season filled with the pressure and expectation to be happy and together and well.

So what happens, when you cannot afford it? When you are separated from your family by circumstances that won’t change? When you have a Mental Illness or Chronic Condition that means the sheer pressure and stress in the build-up to The Day mean you use up all your energy, all your strength, all your will-power and social acumen just to get through the month. By the time The Day arrives, it is not unusual to be disenchanted at best, and miserable and anti-social at worse.

So, what can be done? I have learned a few tricks over the years that have made the Season slightly more bearable. Firstly: Be open and honest. If you are too tired or stressed, or your emotions feel too battered, allow yourself time away. Ask if you can retire to a quiet room for a while. I have made it the norm that I will do this.

Only join in with family games around the table if you feel up to it. If not, maybe use this as your quiet time. If you do join in, don’t be afraid to bail out if it begins to feel too much.

Have at least one contact who you can be completely honest with. Whether over the phone, online or in person. There is so much pressure to be happy that it is a relief to have someone who accepts when you say “I am struggling”. I have felt suicidal on Christmas Day before now which is the opposite of what people expect. I will be the first to say it is very hard and wearing to put your feelings aside in the presence of others. Being able to state the truth to at least one person can be a life-line.

If you can, avoid alcohol. It interferes with most medication and is in itself a depressant. If you do choose to drink do so carefully, in the presence of others who can look after you should the alcohol affect your mood or well-being.

Be sure to take your medication. If you are travelling over the Christmas period, make it the first thing you pack and make sure you have enough to last you until the doctor’s surgery opens again. They can be closed for anything from a few days to an entire week, so get your prescription sorted in plenty of time and if need be, ask for more to last you through.

I have learned to take the Season slowly, and carefully. Pace yourself is the best advice I can give. Know your limits and don’t be afraid to stick to them. In reality, no one wants you ill or suffering because you have pushed yourself too far.

Whatever you do, and however you make it through the Season, I hope you make it through and without too much in the way of pain and suffering. I won’t wish you a Merry Christmas, as I appreciate the last thing we need is more pressure to be happy and well. Instead, I wish you a memorable Christmas. Focus on making memories, any way you can.

About the Author

You can find Roiben on Twitter (@roiben).


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