When the Festive Season is Difficult and Painful

Someone Has to Say It

The people who feel the pain of the pressure to have the ‘perfect’ festive season often remain silent. How can they speak up and piss on your chips when everyone is apparently having such a great time?

But are they really?

Maybe it’s time to give those who struggle with the festive season a voice.

Oh go on then. Ranty but compassionate Lisa rides again…

The ‘Perfect Family Christmas’

Sad Story - Painful Festive SeasonApparently it exists. The television says it’s so. Christmas movies provide the vomit-inducing evidence. Adverts dictate that it’s what we all must aspire to.

But do we?

Show me a perfect family and I will personally put myself up for adoption.

The festive season is often deemed as the time of the year when families must congregate around the fire, sharing the love, the presents, and saccharine sweet smiles of bliss.

Call me a cynic (oh, you already have, four blog posts ago) but it doesn’t happen like that for many families.

I am originally one of five children. Christmas was chaos. If someone wasn’t crying from being slapped by a sibling who’d had their selection box ransacked by another sibling, my parents would rush into the room to check we were still breathing.

I can guarantee that most families ride the festive roller-coaster; beginning with sentimentality, ‘Isn’t the kid cute in her Christmas outfit?’ moments, to kitchen meltdowns, ending with, ‘Next year we are going to a restaurant’ outbursts. This is normal.

It is when families are disjointed and estranged that the festive season gets difficult and painful. There is something odd in our genes that makes us melancholy and feel more pressure over the festive period to evaluate our relationships. The ‘perfect family Christmas’ advertising mocks us when we have not spoken to family members for years. I know from experience.

Some relationships cannot be fixed. It’s a shame but blood isn’t always that viscous fluid that is seen as superior to the transparency of water. Give me clarity any day.

We aren’t living in a Hallmark movie, thank goodness. Who the hell can keep up with all that dental work required for the pinging, shiny smiles?

This is a season of a few weeks of faux family perfection. We will all be the same people, in the same messed up families, with the same issues when it is over.

Hold on tightly to those that value you. They are the ones who deserve your love and attention, all year round.

Consumerism and Debt

Jesus got some amazing gifts aparently. Gold, frankincense and myrrh weren’t cheap back in the day. No one was fobbing off this kid with a knock off version of a Nerf gun from the Pound Shop.

I don’t think the baby Jesus begrudges your gift-giving. It’s what Christmas is about; giving and receiving, although you will never top God’s offering of the Son of God. Show off.

However, I don’t think the intention was for some of us to get so deep into debt, that we had to live on baked beans for the rest of the year or hide from the bailiffs. I’m making light of this but it is a sad reality for many, particularly low-income, families.

I know there is pressure, mainly on kids who want to fit in. They want the latest gadgets, trainers etc. Their parents don’t want their family’s meagre income showing in their discount store purchases.

I don’t have the answers and I have no right to tell you how to raise your children. I just hope that common sense and ‘imperfect’ family values win out over keeping the dodgy loan lenders in the dubious style in which they are disgustingly accustomed to.

The Elderly

Broken bauble - Painful Festive SeasonGo and check on an elderly person who lives near you; not just this festive season, but any time.

If you know they will be spending Christmas alone, could you pop round on Christmas Day? Could you invite them to dine with you?

I know that not all old people are benign and sweet. I was whacked across the head by an old lady once, with an umbrella. Long story.

If the elderly person who lives near you is a bit crotchety, maybe consider leaving some shopping on their door step and we will call that generous ‘Granny Knocking’ (a game played by naughty kids knocking on doors and running away. Not that I’d know). Or put a card through the door.

There may be a reason why Percy across the road is miserable. Perhaps it’s loneliness. Or maybe he is just a nasty piece of work. Don’t forget though; you will be old one day and then you have every right to be a cantankerous blighter too.

The Mentally Ill

Having a mental illness can be an isolating experience. As a person who knows more than she wants to about depression and anxiety, I know that the festive season can be hard. I know depression. The Enemy Strikes Back and Then Some…

If you find it difficult, don’t push yourself. You cannot be all things to everyone. Instead, be everything to yourself and practise the self-care that you so fully deserve.

Find the people in your life that understand why you cannot do the festive season. That said, try not to shut yourself away too much. Of course, have your time alone to rest.

I know how enticing a blanket fort can be. If you cannot come out of the fortress, try to let someone in. If they love you, they’d be more than happy to spend the festive season, wrapped up in the security of a duvet with you.

The Suicidal

The festive season is tough on the depressed. Even more so if you are feeling suicidal.

Please consider reaching out to someone before you make that final decision, be it friend, family or a support line. Try to challenge the lie that no-one cares or wants to hear from you in the festive period.

Lonely man at Christmas - Painful Festive SeasonI know. I have been there.

I have been in that dark place framed by shimmering festive lights and also bright summer days. I am so thankful that with medical intervention and steadfast love, I am still here.

It will pass.

It cannot pass though if the final decision to end your life is taken.

I am not judging anyone who does. My brother did so in January, ten years ago. I don’t know if the festive season added to his burdens. I have a suspicion it may have.

All I ask of those who are struggling with mental illness is to know that this is just a season and you have a whole life ahead of you. It may not look like it now but hindsight is a beautiful thing.

To those who know someone with a mental illness, please step up and show you acknowledge them; at Christmas and beyond. You could literally change or save a life.

The Sick and the Dying

This one is tough. Disease and death have no part in this festive season. This is about birth, new life and rejoicing.

Not for everyone.

Illness and death are no respecters of what time of year it is. They couldn’t care less that you’re trying to have a happy Christmas. They don’t care that the New Year will be marred by the death of a loved one.

I am thinking about this a lot given my own circumstances with my Mum: A Letter to My Loved One’s Terminal Cancer

For the chronically ill, they may feel forgotten and a burden. Christmas is a stressful time. Let’s try to remember those that cannot do the shopping, the decorating, and all the trimmings. We may already be helping them out but let’s also try to consider how they are feeling in their limitations.

For the terminally ill; I honestly just don’t know. This is tough.

The truth is that I am lucky in that I do not know how a person with a terminal illness feels.

I can say that the festive season has become for my family and me, a goal we hope we can reach. I try not to see the festive season as that ‘golden bullseye’ that if my mum manages to hit it and be here for it, we have won. I want her to be here for that and beyond, way into 2017. But there are no guarantees.

Can Christmas ever be the same in the future? No. It will evolve into something else. Festive seasons where loved ones are no longer with us take on a new meaning.

The Singletons and the Recently Dumped

Nothing takes the piss more than the festive season for highlighting your singleness or your recent relationship break up.

I was dumped over the telephone on Christmas Eve. It later transpired that he couldn’t afford to buy me a Christmas present. He then had the flaming cheek to ask me to take him back in January. Let’s just say my reply was far from festive, although it did have the letter ‘f’ in it.

Shattered bauble - painful festive seasonI have had festive seasons when it was a joy to be single. I loved being free to go to all the parties and pub outings. I was young and enjoying my freedom.

I confess it got a little harder as I got older and spent Christmases alone. I went anti-Christmas. I slumped on the sofa and binged on box sets and junk food. Not a turkey or TV Christmas special in sight.

It was when I had a word with myself that for the first Christmas ever I was doing what I wanted, when I wanted, that I started to enjoy myself. The Bailey’s and chocolate hangover the next day, however, was not as delightful.

I do understand how hard it can be to feel alone over the festive period. It’s tough when all your friends are getting hitched and sprogged up. Don’t get desperate though. Resist the temptation to accept pity invites to other people’s homes over the festive season, unless you really, really like them.

You have only yourself to blame if you spend Boxing Day with a toddler screeching in your ear, whilst witnessing a marital spat, and suffocating in the haze of their Aunt Mavis’s flatulence.

May You Have the Best Festive Season That You Possibly Can

I genuinely wish this for all of you.

I hope none of you will find this festive season to be a difficult and painful time. However, if you do, my wish for you is that you will be supported and surrounded by the true meaning of this season; love.

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer and blogger. When not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, the cat, and the Husband. Not particularly in that order.

24 comments on “When the Festive Season is Difficult and Painful

  1. Very well said, my friend. I am not a fan of this time of year for a few reasons, my mental health playing a large part. Thank you for writing this, it’s nice to know there are people who understand.

  2. “I hope none of you will find this festive season to be a difficult and painful time. However, if you do, my wish for you is that you will be supported and surrounded by the true meaning of this season; love.”

    Well said.

  3. I’m just grateful that all families are messed up.. and I think we put to much pressure on ourselves.. to make everyone happy but us.. so yes a person suffering from chronic depression and pain.. we need make sure we take care of ourselves.. wishing you a blessing through the holiday season..

    1. The sooner we realise perfect families don’t exist, the easier it will be upon us.

      I hope that you have comfort and peace in the festive season and beyond Angy.

    1. Ha ha! Bless you lovely lady!

      Having people like you who have been consistently supportive and encouraging means I can keep doing this.

      Merry Christmas Christine!

  4. Happy Christmas, Lisa!

    You’re right, society perpetuates a myth about the perfect Christmas. I have run myself ragged in the past trying to do everything to make it that way! And usually ended up with a bad cold following all the stress.

    Also, a shout out to all the retail staff who spend their holidays working. My husband got out of retail this year and he’s having the first proper Christmas break he’s had in years.

    Love to you and yours 🙂

    1. I used to work in retail; both as an assistant and manager. It’s incredibly stressful and tiring at this time of the year. Glad your husband can enjoy time off this year!

      Merry Christmas Elise. I hope it’s stress and illness- free!

  5. I’m glad to have seen this, given how much I empathise with many of these various categories. Thanks for talking about it – I’m still determined to make this festive season as festive as I can make it in spite of all that. I would say I’m making plans, although I’m more making it up as I go along, although I do it brilliantly…
    Hope you have a good Christmas.

    1. Good to hear from you Toby. I’m genuinely sorry to hear it’s a struggle. I understand, as much as I can, although your pain is your own. I hope that you can see your way through this festive season with support and what sounds like inner strength.

      I wish you the best of it and a safe and supportive 2017.

  6. This is an amazingly hard hitting post and brave of you to share how some of these points relate to you. As you know I have no sense of smell or taste and with so much celebratory food around and the scented candles that are burnt, this is a challenging time of year for me too. I make a point of focussing on the things I can enjoy, and I hope you find good things you can take some pleasure in as well Lisa.

    1. Thanks Debbie. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you to not be able to smell and taste things.

      Thanks for sharing and always being so supportive.

  7. Thanks for opening my eyes on this one. It’s hard for some to face the music, but the truth is, not everyone has many things to be thankful for.
    And I’m sorry you got wacked with an umbrella. OOf.

    1. Thankfully the umbrella incident was 25 years ago, so I’ve got over it!

      Thanks for being honest about having your eyes opened through this post. We all are oblivious to others’ pain and hurt in some ways. We sometimes need reminding that it’s there; me included.

      Thanks for reading and commenting Blossom.

  8. I really appreciate the section on mental illness and suicide, since those are conversations often ignored during this time of the year. I blogged about the holiday season and living with a mental illness, so seeing this really inspired me! I love the other sections you included as well. Wonderful writing!

    1. Thank you Arien!

      I’m going to check your post out now. Whilst not wanting to put a downer on things at Christmas, it does need to be acknowledged that it’s a difficult time for some.

      I’m grateful to other bloggers who write about mental illness, so thank you!

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