So you know that post I did last week about my holiday anxieties? Well, I’ve got some more.
This post is a part of Nicole Carman’s mental health-related holiday post series, “Taking Care of your Mental Health during the Holiday Season.” To see the post line-up for the previous and remaining posts in this series, please visit this page on Nicole’s blog, Navigating Darkness. If you enjoy this post, please comment and consider sharing it on social media!
When my family prepares to celebrate the holidays, we prepare hard. Cookies and cakes and stollen are whipped out of the oven in quick succession. Michael Buble is constantly crooning in the background, and real holly and mistletoe are placed carefully on the mantelpiece and doorframes. It’s the one time of the year where we really do go all out.
But…not this year. Instead, I’ve been invited to my partner’s parents house, where things are done very differently. Turkey is banned from the table, decorations are pretty sparse, and Christmas Eve is spent at a Thai restaurant. And that’s giving me quite a lot of anxiety.
It’s not that I don’t like their traditions – I’m firmly in favour of something other than turkey, and I’ve always wanted to play family board games – it’s that I feel like I’m interrupting them. I’ve only known them for two years, and to me that feels like a very short amount of time. I’ve convinced myself that they’d rather that I wasn’t there, and that I will offend someone by accidentally refusing to take part in one of their time-honoured traditions. And while logically I know that they most likely do not think that, and that I won’t be offensive, the anxiety part of my brain is sure that this is, in fact, the case.
It’s not just a family tradition or imposter syndrome thing, too. It’s a bit of a cultural identity thing, as well. I’m originally from Bermuda, a tiny island in the Atlantic. We’ve got a huge range of cultures, and the way we celebrate Christmas reflects that. One of the staples we have on the table is cassava pie (it’s like a sweet meat pie? Look it up!). This is only made at Christmas and Easter, and I’m actually obsessed. We’ve got pink sand Christmas tree decorations from the beaches, and Bermudian Black Seal rum for cocktails. Now that I live in the UK, I obviously can’t celebrate quite the way I used to. (There’s no Christmas boat parade in Somerset!) But being away from my family and the traditions we can do is making me feel more of a cultural outsider than ever.
I also think that part of my anxiety is that my family knows my stuff. They know I’m not drinking because of my medications, and won’t push me to drink with them. They know that I sometimes get overwhelmed when in crowds and when a lot of the day is spent socialising. If I need to go to my room for a bit to relax, they’re not worried. My partner’s family knows, to some extent, but I’ve never really explained everything to them. And to be honest? I don’t really want to start at Christmas-time.
I love the holidays, I really do. But with the normal stress of money and presents and socialising, as well as these overwhelming feelings of anxiety about this new Christmas experience? I think the best part of it will be when we go back home.