I always loved Christmas as a child but like many people the novelty wore off as I grew into adulthood. Battling with Schizophrenia for years, especially in my early twenties I struggled to put on a smile and join in with the festive fun. The day always served as an unwelcome reminder of not being where I wanted to be in life. However, two years ago, I had my best Christmas yet. The build-up was magical and the day was perfect. I now know that day will probably be my last happy Christmas, at least for a while anyway.
Last year turned out to be nothing like the Christmas I had imagined, I thought I would be spending it on a beach in Sydney. Instead on December the first I was unexpectedly packing up my life up in Australia and jumping on a last-minute flight home to be with my Mam. I thanked her for being the best mother while Christmas songs played on the radio. I kissed her forehead and told her I loved her while she sat in her wheelchair in the middle of a department store surrounded by Christmas shoppers rushing past. I spent the next few weeks holding my mother’s hand while saying the most painful goodbye I could have ever imagined. She slipped into a sort of coma on Christmas week and she was laid to rest the day before Christmas Eve. Understandably, we pretty much skipped the festivities last year. Here is something I wrote about that experience previously on A Lust for Life.
My fiancé and I couldn’t move back to Oz long term, we came home at an awkward time in our visa so we saw in the New Year with no home to call our own, no jobs and no money left from the sudden move back home. I thought that was rock bottom but if I have learned anything in 2016, it is that you always have further to fall. We have recovered somewhat, I won’t go into details but let’s just say we have had many more unhappy surprises thrown at us and it has been a difficult year. But I was determined to not be all ‘bah humbug’ about Christmas. I should be able to celebrate getting through the toughest year of my life. But truthfully, this month has not been easy so far.
Christmas serves as a cruel reminder of my Mam’s up-coming first anniversary. Every Christmas song, every advert on the television, every decorated shop window takes me back to that painful place we were in this time last year. I have full faith that as time goes on things will get easier, I am getting married in few months and hopefully one day in the future we will have our own family to create new Christmas memories with.
The festive season can be a sad time for some, especially when there is extra pressure to act cheerful and happy. Isolation, grief, family troubles, estrangement and financial worries are some of the many factors that can cause the Christmas blues. Not everyone has a loving family to share dinner with. Some people are struggling to cope with their feelings of loneliness. Some cannot afford to celebrate the day. And some people don’t even have a roof over their heads.
Christmas can be an emotionally charged time. A lot of people can feel depressed or suicidal, if you are worried about someone be sure to check in with them and if the festive season is becoming too sad to bear please reach out to someone and ask for help. There never has to be what you think is a solid reason or explanation for your pain and you are not alone in this situation. Help is at hand should you be in need of it.
On Christmas day, this year, I want to focus on appreciating all the good things I have in my life and try my best to make the most of them. We just had a family wedding on 17th December and despite the expected bad weather the sun shone down on my brother and his new wife, reminding us that our mother is looking after us all in her own special way which is definitely something that gives us hope.
Merry Christmas one and all and if it is a sad one, well then that’s okay too.
Nicola Hynds’ blog is prettysane.com
To learn more about See Change, that national stigma reduction partnership, visit seechange.ie.
If there’s something on your mind you can call Samaritans on 116 123 to talk about it. To find support services near you visit yourmentalhealth.ie