I'm bipolar. It's something that I don't hide. Quite the contrary, in fact. I'm loud and proud about this unusual brain of mine, a condition which may, or may not, be the product of an overdose.
This year was my first medication free Christmas. For over a decade, I took anti-psychotic medication to balance my brain in the wake of the overdose (I had come off my medication by Christmas 2015. But those drugs had been replaced by ones to combat sinusitis so this time last year I didn't know what planet I was on. It was actually quite nice!).
To say that this December has been stressful has been an understatement. I felt overwhelmed, tired, and sick. I could barely function but had to in order to get everything done. Three days before Christmas, I was on my hands and knees, sobbing with exhaustion and stress. I wasn't sleeping. I wasn't eating. I was vomiting from the tiredness. I was hallucinating. It was horrendous.
My apartment isn't decorated for Christmas. Not because I don't like Christmas but because the addition of lights and decorations overwhelm my already tired brain. Sure, I have a few ornaments that I put up. The cards that people give me decorate the lounge door so that I can see them every day. And I decorated the microphone stand that I use for interviews (That might have to become permanent because it looks really cool!). But there's no tree, no music, and no glittering garlands.
Instead, I appreciate the decorations at other peoples houses, at work, and in the windows of shops. I love looking at photos of London's Christmas windows. But the abundance of bright lights, glittery decorations, and repeated Christmas music tires me out. The same goes for large gatherings. Anything over an hour spent in the company of a crowd of people makes my brain ache and my body weary (It's not you, honestly, it's not! Please don't take offence if I turn down an invitation. I really appreciate your love and company and would never not want to spend time with you.) And I realise that I need to have a space where I can escape from it all and get some rest.
Christmas can be a hard time for many people. There may be the feeling that they have to take part in everything that's happening. Saying no to an event or a party may be tough. They may feel that friends and family will frown on them if they decide that they need time out from the festivities.
On the flip side, they may despise Christmas and want nothing to do with it. Or have no one to celebrate it with (Thankfully, this year, there seemed to be many places that were hosting events for people who would be alone on Christmas Day. If you're alone next year, be sure to check local social media groups to see if there's anything happening).
Christmas shouldn't be a stressful time yet we seem to turn ourselves in to nervous wrecks for four weeks of the year. For some people, like myself, we pick up on the stress of those around us. When others are wound up, we get involved in those feelings, too, which only adds to what we're already feeling.
Christmas doesn't have to be perfect. It shouldn't be all about whether everyone is included. Or how many gifts are under the tree. Or how many decorations we've put up. For many people, the chance to get together with others on one day of the year and celebrate together is enough.
Wishing all of you a safe, prosperous, and healthy 2017!