I have a complicated relationship with Christmas.
Christmas’s growing up were blissfully traditional. Stockings from Father Christmas, mum’s home-made mince pies, trips to relatives and Terry’s Chocolate Oranges. Yum.
But then I grew up, went to University and gained employment in retail. And for me that kind of killed Christmas.
It was working in retail that I became aware of how stressful preparing for Christmas was for some people. And how the purchasing of ‘things’ would make or break their Christmas.
My part-time retail job at University turned into a full-time ‘proper job’ when I graduated and achieved a trainee management position at a very well known chain of department stores
who are never knowingly undersold. Christmas began in July, when we saw the stock lists from the buyers, progressed into August when we planned shop floor Christmas layouts, jumped into September when stock arrived in stores. By October when the Christmas push began, I was done.
Customers in November were relatively calm, but by December were a sweaty, angry mess. The worry of purchasing everything needed to make their Christmas materialistically perfect turned them into Very Angry People. And that made me very sad.
I left the retail industry in 2008 but the effects were lasting and I am very cynical about Christmas. I feel the important reasons for why we should celebrate Christmas have been overshadowed by the commercial side. My issues with low mood and anxiety do not help with my feelings.
But why should we celebrate Christmas? Well, there are the obvious religious reasons (another complicated relationship for me there as well I’m afraid). But spending quality time with family and friends is for me the truly important reason. Ironically, the pressure of trying to achieve the material side of Christmas makes it harder to achieve spending quality time with family and friends.
Christmas for me with low mood and anxiety is hard. I find the pressure of trying to give my young children the magical Christmas we see on TV very great. I worry about achieving the ‘tick list’ of requirements. I worry about affording it all. I worry about choosing presents. I wonder how we are going to get through to the 1st of January. And I worry about becoming one of the customers I experienced above.
My children are slowly helping me grow to love Christmas again. And both my husband and I draw on our own childhood experiences to help create the new ones for our girls. And I am trying to find the balance between the more relaxed Christmas I would like us to enjoy versus the ‘Tick List Christmas’ that is easy to fall prey too and begins in October according to the retail industry.
And this year I do not have the same tense knot in my chest that was with me throughout previous Decembers. The medication I am on has helped reduce my tension and allowed me to enjoy the season more than in the past. I find it strange sometimes to think that a simple tablet each day can make this difference. For me, it really has, but I hope and dream that one day I will find the strength to achieve this feeling without them.
Enjoy a peaceful, restful and Happy Christmas folks!