Christmas falls on a Tuesday this year.
It’s very important to remember this fact.
Christmas is one day of the year. It will be over as soon as it arrives and we’ll be into January before you know it.
Christmas hasn’t always been a difficult time for me: I used to love, love, love it. Everything about it: the presents, the chocolate, the seeing lots of people, the pigs in blankets.
However, as it stole everything from my life, Anorexia also stole Christmas. There were years of panic over Christmas dinner and Christmas Day and hoping against hope that I’d be able to avoid living up to the hopes of my family on Christmas Day as they pleaded with me to just eat the food.
For me, it’s not like that anymore. I do the hard work every day of the year so that Christmas is not completely horrendous: I am well enough to eat a proper Christmas dinner and probably even enjoy it; I can walk to the restaurant on Christmas morning without my legs feeling like jelly by the time I arrive; I can cope with the anxiety of seeing people for long enough that I can enjoy spending time with them.
Christmas – although it often feels like the last bastion – is do-able. It’s possible to survive Christmas, even to enjoy Christmas, as part of life after Anorexia/Anxiety/Depression/whatever bugger is living in your head.
Here are the things I do to cope with Christmas:
- Know which week day it is. Christmas can seem like it stretches on into the distance forever. It does not. It is one day. So is Christmas Eve. Technically, Christmas festivities begin this year on a Monday and they’re over by Wednesday. You can survive that time: it’s not impossible.
- Don’t push yourself to do anything you’re not ready for. I wasn’t ready for traditional Christmas dinner last year, so I didn’t have it (we go out for Christmas lunch, making it somewhat easier because we can all choose different food if we want to). This year, I’ve practised a couple of times (I recommend it) and I’m ready to take the roast plunge.
- If you need to take some time out, do it. Watch a non-Christmas film. Have a shower. Do some colouring. Go out for a walk. Whatever helps you to get through non-festive periods is just as useful on Christmas day. It’s not wrong to spend part of your day doing something to look after you.
- Talk to someone. Have a person who understands if you need to remove yourself from a situation for a while. Have a code, if you need to. ‘Mother, the chickens have flown’ might be a very good way of telling your Mum that you’re going to lock yourself in the bathroom for half an hour and do a jigsaw puzzle.
- Don’t force yourself to enjoy it. I know that one of the biggest things I struggled with at Christmas when I was ill was feeling that I had to enjoy myself. It’s rotten when you’re miserable and trying to feel Christmassy. If you’re just not in the mindset, it’s OK to feel a bit rubbish. It will be better next year. Christmas is not the be all and end all.
- Eat. You will feel better for it, even on Christmas Day. Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you’ve got on an excuse not to stick to your meal plan/eat a normal amount of food. If you’re at the stage where you’re comfortable with it, have a Quality Street. It’s the little things that can make a huge difference.
So, there we are. I’ve shared all the festive wisdom I have. I think, mainly, for me, it’s about remembering that Christmas isn’t about anything that you aren’t ready for it to be. You might be inundated with messages about enjoying yourself and finding peace, true love and happiness but, when all is said and done, it’s just a Tuesday.
And after Tuesday comes Wednesday, then Thursday.
You can make it.
And, if you’re ready for a the perfectest Christmas ever, that’s OK too.
Wherever you are, I hope that this Christmas week is one that is OK.