– Gina Delaney, Development Officer
So, Christmas is coming fast and I’m doing some reflecting, looking inwards, sitting with my feelings! And I’ve realised that I’ve always had a bit of an issue with Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I love it; the decorations, the music, the gift giving and receiving, the visiting, the buzz about town, all the usual Christmas traditions. BUT, Christmas day itself and if I’m to be really honest the following week, falls a bit flat for me. Up until now I’ve been contented enough to let each year come along and hit repeat even though I know each year it happens. Now is the time to change this.
Growing up was difficult at times. My mother was a wonderful woman; a strong independent single parent; a kind caring intelligent person who loved nature, animals, having fun, being creative and so much more. But sadly, she had some healing to do and didn’t know how. And during times when she wasn’t coping so well, we faced many issues and uncertainty from one day to another. So, I developed a coping mechanism to help me survive; I learned from a young age not to have too many expectations. When you expect the worst you don’t get disappointed.
But still the lure of Christmas magic came every year and I guess I secretly hoped that at Christmas things could be perfect, like they were in the movies or like they seemed to be for other kids. When this didn’t happen, I suffered a sense of sadness, loss, regret and its hard to admit it but I felt anger and resentment too, there I said it. We usually relied on extended family and local voluntary groups to make sure there were gifts under the tree and Christmas dinner on the table. We were grateful and to this day I admire what was done for us, but relying on others made me feel like we weren’t good enough. The other kids cycled around on shiny new bicycles, wearing cool new clothes, and asked me what I got for Christmas. Another coping mechanism developed; I learned to hide what was happening at home, I told people how great Christmas was, fudged the details and changed the subject.
So, that’s the reason why Christmas falls flat for me, and why I struggle with the day itself and the week afterwards. I know I can’t change the past, but I can change these old coping mechanisms. I can deal with the sad memories. I can address the negative feelings that creep up on me every year. Now I’m in a space to be able to do something about it. I have developed new tools and techniques that I have gained from counselling, from lots of recovery education and from personal development. Now that I have decided to accept that there’s an issue, I can work on it, and that is very empowering.
Here’s what I’m going to do to make my way through Christmas;
- I’ve developed a plan to look after my wellbeing; in it I list my triggers and have some ideas ready for if things start to get tricky for me.
- I will talk about my feelings- yes I said it- I’ll express my feelings so they don’t take over. I’ll create opportunities to talk with family and friends and if I need to, I’ll phone one of the amazing groups and organisations that are out there to listen.
- I will make time to listen to my children, to make sure they have opportunities to express how they are feeling during walks, and board games, and snuggles with hot chocolate.
- I will go to my mother’s grave and I will tell her how much I admire her for being as strong as she was and I will forgive her for not being able to do more that she could. I know she did her best.
- I will allow myself to be grateful for what I have achieved, how I am able to support my family and make sure we have a good Christmas together.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, there’s no such thing.