Christmas-time with postnatal depression.
Christmas for me marks my postnatal depression journey quite clearly. I am such a fan of the festive season, yet for the past 7 years have been battling with postnatal depression (which I am now recovered) and also with anxiety. (And still struggle with)
I really love Christmas and the planning and preparation. I love the traditions that I have kept from childhood and created with my family too. Stockings for everyone. Hubby is now on board with this and usually does quite well. Choosing our real Christmas tree, Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for Christmas Day breakfast, Elves visiting and causing mischief and encouraging kindness during December and visiting Santa of course. I love getting the house all cosy and festive. I admit I will always love it to look like the features in the John Lewis adverts or Country Living magazine but hey I can keep it real and know that it’s not about the matching crockery and perfection on the table. It’s not Christmas if there isn’t mismatched China on the table and the tallest guest sat on the smallest stool!.
Having a 7 yr old and a 5 year old girl, this Christmas I will have learnt that I can only give my best. I shouldn’t use up all my energy in the build up to Christmas Day leaving me exhausted on the one day that should be lovely. Should it really be that though? That this one day that should be lovely? I pose that question to my own statement and wonder if even by saying that I’m putting that pressure on myself subconsciously.
All too often we know the increased pressure and how it builds up. You over hear conversations as you pass people in the street or coffee shop: “….all set for Christmas?” You can’t escape the marketing ploys of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, 50% Sale etc almost panicking you into buying something you don’t want or don’t need only to feel guilty of you do or feel guilty of you don’t. It sucks you in. And makes me anxious. I feel it bubbling up inside, questioning; have I bought everything, it’s not enough, I should buy more etc etc.
The over jolly Christmas music blaring out of the shops music systems, on the radio, on the TV adverts. It’s Christmas and there is now escape from it. I love Christmas and all that it brings but I would rather do it at my own pace, there is always going to be the presents for our children they know Santa has a lot of presents to give to all the other children and so far during the last few years of requests they have been fairly modest gifts. A singing Santa Claus from the local Hardware shop went down a treat and has been the best present and the one always remembered too.
For me I have to curb my train of thought as I can go overboard in my planning. Feel guilty for not providing or doing what is expected of me when it is only me that expects it and no one else. This is where I have to stop and get back to the basics. Family, laughter and love are what I want on Christmas Day. Wherever we are and what ever we do that is the most important.
I certainly know that I’ve learnt this the hard way; that last year I spent most of Christmas Day in tears. I had done all the build up, got more and more manic about providing all I could for everyone despite me crunching that credit card and hoping that in January it wouldn’t be noticed by my husband. I Volunteered at every school fundraiser and got more and more and more Christmassy to the detriment of my mental health, I was exhausted. The final straw that broke me was that on Christmas morning the children woke up excited to see what Santa had left them….and my daughter having asked for the impossible “Elsa powers” i.e the ability to freeze people like the character in the Disney Frozen film. This was one present Santa couldn’t deliver, and yet hearing my daughter genuinely gutted that Santa hadn’t left her Elsa powers totally floored me. The tears couldn’t be held back, I felt a total failure. I wanted to curl up in bed and practically did that leaving my husband to have breakfast with the children and watch Christmas films with them. I remember skyping my mum so that she could watch her grandchildren open their presents and really not wanting to be in the same room, trying to hide the fact that I had tears running down my face. I forced myself to go to a family festive dinner but before I did I decided to make the best decision for me and that was to go back on my antidepressants. Popping that little pill on Christmas Day after being off them for a year was such a huge step but one I knew was the best one. That action alone made me feel like I was taking ownership of this awful awful feeling.
So this year, I’m determined for it to be different. Christmas Day is just another day. We will eat whatever we want, and not feel pressured to do anything. These are the things I want to remember and remind myself;
You are not the sole provider of Christmas cheer
You do not have to make everyone happy
You do not have to buy everything and be everywhere to have an enjoyable Christmas
You deserve to be happy.
And most of all the best present your children can have is you.
Merry Christmas everyone
If you do feel the need to talk to someone this Christmas please call the Samaritans
116 123 (UK) or 116 123 (ROI) or if you are in the USA 1 (800)273 TALK
Australia 135 247