It’s not that I hate Christmas; really I don’t….
Lots of people love this time of year and I don’t resent them that, but I also think its worth remembering that this is a time of year when the vulnerable in our society get that little bit more vulnerable.
I’m suspicious of any time when *everyone* is expected to be happy, that to express that yr not is ‘humbug’ (we’ll blame Dickens for that). Well you know what, some people have damn good reasons for not feeling happy right now and I worry about this pressure.
I’m one of those people that struggles in winter. I’m a creature of the light; I need warmth, so being born in England was a little unfortunate, but there we go… if you go back to the pagan festival Christmas was a celebration of fire, of feasting, to brighten up the relentless deathly freeze of winter, remind us that Spring is just around the corner. That’s a good idea…I’m into that. Then y’know Christianity came along, and though I don’t believe, Christmas is essentially the celebration of the birth of the saviour of the world to a homeless women under dubious circumstances; and though as I say I am not a believer; I do respect much of the socialist teachings of Christ.
But anyway Christmas. Somehow we got things a bit confused, or something. So that now consumerism seems to envelop everything like some kind of behemoth. And everyone is happyhappyhappy because that is the myth which sells the most. Christmas is the season to buy special things for those you love, but what if you can’t even afford to pay for your heating never mind a bunch of gifts? Maybe you have to work, maybe you lost your job. Christmas is a time to be with those you love; but what if someone you love has died recently, what happens if your relationship breaks up or you’re alone? What happens if your physically ill, in hospital? Christmas is a time to be with your family but what happens if your family is totally dysfunctional and the idea of spending days confined with an alcoholic or abusive family member makes you feel sick?
I could go on and on, but I’m turning into an Eastenders Christmas special. I guess the point of this post is basically this, there are lots of people who don’t feel ok right now, it’s ok *not* to feel ok and if you do you’re not alone. I sometimes feel like I’m living in 1950’s America being battered over the head with sparkling images of joy and excess. It’s almost inescapable. And social networks seem to amplify this, there’s so much of Facebook which feels like getting that family newsletter, you know, the one from that perfect smug family who winter in the Maldives, whose daughter always get A’s and they’ve put in pictures of their perfect Victorian family Christmas where everyone is smiling and so in love and no one raises their voices. You know what: no one is happy all the time. You can use social networks to paint a really unrealistic portrait of your life. But what’s the point? I have periods where I feel intensely happy and those where I feel intensely sad. That’s life, and for me the truth is always more beautiful. It’s the truth which sets me on fire. Always has, always will.
Ultimately I believe that feelings of isolation are THE killer. That’s why I write Footsteps in the Dark zine, because of a sentiment similar to the Bratmobile lyric ‘It’s common but we don’t talk about it’.
I’m into the idea of positive thinking (stop laughing), or a least ‘mindfulness’, as a tool for people with mental health problems to realise many of the automatic thoughts going round there head. But you know there is a limit, and it is exhausting sometimes. To feel fucked up without being able to talk about feeling that way, because you’ll ruin everyone else’s party, is kinda how depressed people feel every day. You know what, fuck that, that attitude is my fucking enemy. That belief costs lives and that’s NOT just a turn of phrase. Post Christmas is peak time for suicides, so it’s also the time of year to keep an eye on you and yours. Give them big hugs, you know?
I’m kinda still waiting for my Christmas feeling to kick in, but I’m also resigned to the fact that it may not this year, a lot of stuff has happened and maybe it’ll just be a time I need to get through this year. If it doesn’t, for whatever reason I know I’m not alone and that helps somehow. And as my good friend Emma Ledger always points out, no matter how bad your life gets, there’s always some poor sod out there who has it worse. Now is the time to look out for that poor sod. Maybe bake them a cake or something. You don’t know how much it might end up meaning to them.
Coping with Christmas (Mind):