Putting yourself first at Christmas
By Ella Taylor

The last 6 months have been a roller coaster for me, so much has happened; After years of being single I met an amazing man who seemed to worship me. A few months later he ended it, but we kept toing and froing for a few months after. He didn’t want to have a relationship. Ever. But then he met someone else and is all loved up. You can imagine what this did to me, what with the paranoia and fears of abandonment and worthlessness that can come with many mental illnesses! He tends to be my main trigger for my deep depressive episodes.

As well as that, I’ve been in two car accidents, my self-harming has come back with a vengeance, I’ve been diagnosed with Cyclothymia, and I’ve planned to take my own life on more than one occasion. A pretty eventful year!

Putting yourself first at Christmas

Dreading Christmas

I’m never sure what my mood will be from day to day at the moment. I can be buzzing, too much energy running through me, getting things done one minute, and the next BANG! Something happens to make me spiral all the way down into a dark depressive episode. I won’t get out of bed, I’ll be crying so much my face is badly swollen and I’ll be cutting my arms to ribbons whilst willing myself to cut deep enough…..

Every year part of me dreads Christmas as it is. Partly because of things that have happened in my life at that time of year, and partly because of the pressure to be ‘happy’, the constant family bickering over silly things, and the constant need to please everyone even if it’s to the detriment of your own, already fragile, mental health.

I stay at my Mums every year for Christmas. Christmas Eve hadn’t been brilliant, I wasn’t really low or anything, I just wasn’t really feeling it. I hadn’t slept the night before which didn’t help.

Christmas Morning

On Christmas morning I woke up and watched my daughter open her presents. It’s so lovely seeing her little face light up. Once that all of the presents were opened, my brain decided it needed some entertainment and suddenly thoughts of my ex started creeping in. ‘He’s over there now, opening presents with her, playing happy families. Why wasn’t I good enough? What’s wrong with me? He adored me once.’ From that point on my mood went from bad to worse, especially when I realised I’d left my medication at home! My family were bickering with each other on and off as well. I just needed to get out of there. I drove home to collect my tablets, and decided that I would go to the gym to try and improve my mood. My Mum didn’t sound over the moon about my decision, but I knew I had to go.

The gym is my sanctuary, the only thing that makes my mind quiet. The only thing that goes through my mind when I’m there is the weight I’m lifting and how much weight I may be able to lift today. It’s my therapy.

When I returned to my Mums, my daughter was out front playing on her new scooter happy as a kid at Christmas! My Mum didn’t look overly happy in the kitchen though, and her husband and my brother were at the pub.

Christmas Dinner

When the men return we start getting ready for dinner. The guys are merry and my Mum is stressed out. I’d really rather be anywhere else right now, I just want some quiet.

1in4 mental health anthology

We enjoy Christmas dinner (my Mum makes an awesome roast dinner!) and I get my daughter ready to go to her Dads house for the evening.

As I’m driving her there, I realise that I really don’t want to go back. I can’t face sitting there with my family just drinking, arguing and stressing out about what we’re going to watch on TV or what game we’ll play.

I knew that I’d be unpopular for not going back. There seems to be a worldwide rule that you shouldn’t spend time alone on Christmas day! I drove straight home and text my brother and told him so that they wouldn’t worry about me.

The Evening

I then proceeded to have possibly the best Christmas evening I’ve ever had as an adult. Then I got into my PJs, grabbed some chocolate and a bottle of prosecco, and watched rubbish TV in bed. I did have some dark moments and some tears, but overall, I had a lovely night with my own company.

Reflecting back on the day I began to wonder why on earth we jeopardise our mental health for all of this forced ‘fun’. I’m certainly not saying to shun your family and friends at this time of year. Family is important. I’m just saying that if we put ourselves first for once, rather than worrying about making everyone else happy, we may find that our mental health doesn’t suffer quite as much at this time of year!

Reproduced with permission, originally posted on ellas mental fitness

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