I not a fan of the holidays. There, I said it. I don’t hate them, per say, but my entire family sees me as a Scrooge. Honestly, I’m okay with that. There’s a reason behind my lack of holiday cheer. It’s not that I’m anti-holiday. It’s just that this time of year is extremely difficult for me.
I have pretty severe anxiety, and I’m in recovery with bulimia. My recovery has been an ongoing process for the last 6 years, but the last 2 years have been even more challenging. Regardless of the length of recovery, holidays are still something I’m trying to navigate for my mental health.
As a mom, I get criticized often for not being full of festive spirit, but trying to fake it only makes it worse. So, I’m trying something new this year. I’m going to be honest about my struggles with the holidays despite people’s assumptions.
Confessions of a Scrooge Mom
The thought of walking into a crowded house, even if it’s family and friends, terrifies me. My hands shake, I get cold sweats, and I feel like I can’t breathe. I squeeze my husband’s arm to let him know when I need to find a place to unclench my jaw and take a few deep breathes. Without him and the kids, I probably wouldn’t even attend holiday feasts.
Lately, I’ve been trying to explain why I may come across as “grumpy” or like a Scrooge, but I’m met with comments that don’t get me anywhere. My mother well just say, “you don’t even have to come then.” This will be followed by my father saying, “you just need to stop caring what people think.”
I beg for them to understand, but there’s no way to get my point across. Honestly, I don’t dislike the holidays. It’s the crowded nature of it all, and it’s the food guilt. There will be people discussing weight loss and eating, and someone will make a comment about my body since the family is aware of my eating disorder history.
No one will directly shame or put me down, but it’s not about that. That’s what I’ve been trying to explain for years. My lack of holiday cheer has nothing to do with anyone other than myself and my mental health, but trying to explain that over and over again gets me no where.
Holidays and Mental Health
I live for my family. My kids and husband are a big part of the reason I decided to be a survivor. There have been so many moments where I was ready to give into my mental health issues, but I was lucky enough to find reasons to fight. Now, I fight not just for them, but I fight for myself.
I’m finally at a place where I understand my worth, even if I don’t feel it everyday, I understand it. That’s progress. The holidays overwhelm me and have the ability to trigger those negative feelings, and that is why I’m not sitting here in a Santa hat blaring holiday music.
It’s not the holidays’ fault. There is no fault in this situation, really. I just struggle more this time of year than any other time, but it’s perceived as me being a hateful Scrooge. That perception doesn’t bother me, because I know it comes from a lack of understanding.
Yes, I do have triggers, and yes, I have attempted to make certain people aware. This usually ends up backfiring and making me seem impossible to be around, so I choose to stay quiet more times than not. Even “innocent” comments about bodies and appearance can be triggers, but I get tired of people attempting to tip toe around my mental health at the same time. Because at the end of the night, the guilt surrounding that makes me feel bad anyway.
Not a Lose Lose
This may seem like a lose lose situation but it’s not. The fact that I’m aware of what affects my mental health and eating disorder recovery is a major step in the right direction. This means I can remove myself when I need to. However, I still have this guilt that I’m not a super festive person like the rest of my family.
The holidays are better these last few years, because I have kids and a husband who I want to enjoy them with. Those 3 people remind me why I deserve to be here. They are helping me to learn to love the holidays in my own ways.
I might not start hosting big holiday dinner parties, but I also won’t be hiding out in the play room this year. It’s important to me that my kids enjoy the holidays and that my mental health doesn’t steal their joy so to speak.
I want them to see mommy as a fighter, not an angry Scrooge. It’s also important to me that my kids learn about mental health, and that it is okay to struggle. Being honest with family is something I will continue try to do.
Remember to Be Kind
People shouldn’t feel the need to completely lay out all of their mental health struggles to explain why they feel this way or that way. We need to work on accommodating everyone, because the holidays should be about joy, gratitude, and togetherness. Remember to be kind, because you never know the battle that someone may be going through.
People don’t just put away their depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues because there are lights around doorways and decorations everywhere. My recovery isn’t put on pause at the holidays. As much as I’d love to have a button to turn out all off, that isn’t how life works. I choose to be honest about these issues and fight them. It’s your choice about how you treat others.
From a Scrooge mom: as I continue to discover my worth and grow my self-love, the holidays aren’t as awful as they used to be. I have a ways to go yet, but there’s progress. Life is about progress, not perfection, so remember to be kind. We are all at different stages in our journey and progress, whether we struggle with our mental health or not, and my progress is something I look forward to celebrating.