It has been a weekend full of family and fun! I was able to have an early Christmas with my family this weekend at my parents’ new home. I come from a family of 6; my parents, 3 older brothers and me. As we’ve gotten older, we have had four wonderful additions to my family; two sisters-in-law, a niece and a nephew. My second oldest brother lives on the other side of the country, so it was a surprise when we found out he and his wife were going to be able to spend a few days with us… a most pleasant surprise. So, we got everyone together and did a traditional Porter Christmas. This included lots of yummy food, YouTube videos, Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers, presents, humor and my most favorite tradition, watching The Muppet Christmas Carol before bed.
Amidst all this fun there still was my normal anxiety. For those of you who deal with mental health you know that even when fun things are going on it is still a challenge that you continue to work at. Here are a few points that I would like to share about the Christmas Holiday anxiety in my perspective.
- Fear of ruining the fun: I always get scared that I’m going to say the wrong thing or have a panic attack strike while we are enjoying time together. It sometimes feels like I should go hide outside or in another room just to make sure everyone enjoys themselves.
- Reactions to gifts: I am thankful for any gift I get, but I have this irrational fear that my facial expression isn’t going to look right. I don’t want people to think I don’t like it, but I don’t want people to think I’m faking it either. I also fear that they might not like my gift.
- Changing traditions: This one is the hardest for me. Growing up we always had a pretty structured Christmas. It wasn’t like a strict plan, it was more like I knew the usual routine. Christmas eve was always our family dinner (with the fancy dishes) it always included Jell-O Jigglers and some sort of seasonal soda (like cherry 7up). After that we’d help with the dishes, then it was a ride around the valley listening to Christmas music and looking at the house lights, we then would come home open one present and watch The Muppet Christmas Carol and go to bed. Christmas morning the rule was we couldn’t wake up mom and dad before 6am. My brothers and I all had rooms downstairs and my parents were upstairs. Santa always put our gifts in the upstairs front room. My brothers and I would usually find a creative way to wake them up. My favorite year was the year my brothers grabbed their instruments (drums, guitar and bass) and just started playing as loud as they could while I sang. Dad would wake up and yell down the stairs that Santa didn’t come and we’d just laugh. After that it was go upstairs see our presents and enjoy the day playing and resting and watching movies. As I got older traditions changed. My married brothers had Christmas with there in-laws and things just changed. It was really hard for me the first few years (I now think it had to do with OCD and things not sticking to ‘plan’), but this year I did fairly well. I had a few minutes where I had to step outside and tell my OCD who is boss and that just because things weren’t going in the timeframe I wanted, didn’t mean it was ruined.
These are just a few things that I’ve experience. My advice for families and friends is to just be patient. If possible, I would suggest not calling people out in front of a crowd and go with what the individual needs. If they step outside, let it be. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and remember to be patient with yourself. You are amazing and as always remember You Got This!!!