Well here it is the time of year I love to hate and hate to love – Christmas. I love it in so many ways but add in the chemical fuck up of Manic Depression and it’s a veritable smorgasbord of confusion and awkwardness.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy seeing the kids’ faces lighting up once Santa has been or the music, decorations, pantos and merriment but it’s tough to find a balance that I can cope with. Maybe it’s the enforced fun I struggle with. We all have to shout and cheer and smile because it’s Christmas – well I don’t feel like it. In fact my head is just full of the dead family members I’m missing around the table and the inevitable new spaces that will open in the coming years. Cheery I know but death is usually at the forefront of a depressive, just be glad the carving knife is out of my hands before I do myself an injury.
Dark I know, but that’s where this time of year can take the best of us. I do want to be happy but the more it’s forced on me the more the inner bastard emerges and wants to cancel out the whole thing. It’s like an inbuilt safeguard or firewall to stop me from kicking off. Worse than the feeling of misery is that you feel nothing at all – just an unending emptiness again brought on by the tinsel and party hats as someone tries to work out which emotion the stupid red fish is predicting.
You see the mania is difficult. At a time of year when overspending is the norm, a Bipolar sufferer can be camouflaged in the crowd. We spend more than we can afford; we blow money on the ridiculous – even more than every other shopper. You get an idea in your head – usually four hours before the shops close and then go on a mad adventure to buy something no-one needs, wants or could ever guess. A manic episode leads to so many impulse buys online it’s a shame the internet exists sometimes. Most people will think about something, price it up, speak to their partner about it and then make a balanced decision on whether to get it or not. During this time the manic shopper has a full box set of a programme they can watch for free on Netflix, clothes they will never fit into but they like the design and a lifesize cardboard cut out of David Tennant.
It truly is one of the worst times of the year for me. The lows are lower and the highs are higher because your behaviour is under the spotlight more than ever.
“Why you not drinking?”
“Why didn’t you go to the panto?”
“Open your presents then!”
“Let the kids see their toys before you tidy them all away”
“Don’t sit with a face on you like that”
“Where do you want to go to today?”
“Smile! It might never happen!”
So many other things are said to you and you just want to lock yourself away from everybody – it’s difficult enough most days to “put your face on” but add the enforced glee of normal celebrants and you are trying your hardest not to punch them. Generous gestures are rewarded with sarcastic comments instead of facts, your kids are berated because they are excited and your wife wonders why the fuck she married you in the first place. You also wonder why she did but hope she’ll still be there once things return to normal in January.
In the end you’re crying, skint and wondering why no one bothers with you. It’s one of the most lonely times of year to live inside the head of a Manic Depressive. You are surrounded by people but you are on your own in so many ways. People might understand that you suffer from the illness but can’t understand it unless they’ve been there first hand. You yearn to return to “Normal” but you know that doesn’t exist – the only benefit of an ordinary day is there are less expectations on you.
And you are acutely aware people are watching you and wondering how you will react in these celebratory situations – the truth is I don’t know until I’m there. Sometimes I’m fine and will enjoy myself, other times it’s overcrowded and I feel a panic/anxiety attack coming on because I can’t find a bit of space for myself. Then everyone looks at you as if you are being antisocial – but that’s as sociable as I can be I’m afraid.
I force myself to go out to parties and events because I don’t want to be beaten by the diagnosis, but sometimes you have to hold up your hands and admit defeat.
When I wish you a Happy Christmas I mean it – well not the Christmas bit because I’m not religious, and if I’m honest the happy bit is subjective. Okay so Enjoy Yourself is probably a better thing to say because I do want you to Enjoy the festivities and whatever that means for you. For me it’ll be another struggle and many others who are living with mental health issues. Don’t worry about us though, we’re fucked up all year round – only now it’s just with added glitter.