Christmas anxiety. A wash of feelings, pulling and pushing in opposite directions. I’m a sociable person, I love my friends. Now it’s December and I’m all ‘hopefully we can catch up before Christmas?’
I invite, or accept invitations, with joy, and then approach the days themselves with dread. Will I spend hours on my return, mulling over a throwaway comment I made, seeking malevolence in words that were not meant to hurt? Deliberately sabotaging my own friendships, and my own fragile resilience?
So last year, I stopped saying ‘let’s meet up before Christmas’ and started saying ‘have a lovely Christmas! See you next year.’
To anyone reading this who feels anxious around Christmas, I just want to say: you don’t have to see anyone, if you don’t feel like it. Look after yourself, OK? And I’ll see you next year.
Here is an update on how I am feeling.
I am nearly two weeks into taking my daily pill. I have some paid freelance work today, and I’m driving to the meeting where I’m expected to take a minute of the proceedings.
My usual thoughts at a time like this are as follows:
‘I won’t be able to keep up with my shorthand.’
‘I won’t be able to read my shorthand back.’
‘I won’t be able to follow what is going on.’
‘I won’t make my deadline for the draft.’
‘Someone will tell me I am not dressed smartly enough for this job.’
And my personal favourite: ‘Am I heading to the right venue at the correct time?’
I am driving to the meeting.
I am thinking – ‘I’ve got this.’
It was a good call to go to the GP.
So last week, I was persuaded to go to the Doctor. I have been ‘out and proud’ about my mental health since suffering two episodes of psychosis in my late teens.
But I didn’t realise I was still ashamed. Happy to be medication free since 2003, (and not just because it rhymes), over the 14 years since I have tried a range of things to stay off the daily tablets.
- Counselling x3
- Diazepam (for the bad days)
- Leaning on friends
- Maintaining a tinylife
Last week, it became clear that my less-than-good mental health is not something that is going away any time soon. I thought I didn’t care about the stigma. I do care. But not enough to risk my health and the wellbeing of those around me.
So, I’m back on the tablets. And I’m getting on with my tinylife.
‘Do you think maybe you need to go to the Doctor?’
I have asked this more times than I can count. To friends that have seemed more than a little bit down, to family that don’t seem to be able to stop. I’m not sending them for a sore throat or a muscle strain, I’m asking whether they need some medical assistance with their mental health.
Awareness is so much better than it was, but stigma is, in my opinion, as bad as it ever was. Of course no one wants to feel that they can’t get through the day without taking a tablet, doing a meditation, knowing that another counselling session is on its way. But if that is what you need.
If that is what you need.
Last week, someone asked me. And I went.
More next week.
Ten of the Best Things About Autumn
by Penny Hext.
- Woodland walks: fungi, fallen leaves, seeing tree shapes outlined against the sky.
- Short days… longer nights. More time for a) beauty sleep b) bedtime reading c) erm… recreational activities.
- Winter woollies. Colour and texture hide a multitude of sins. Summer’s AGES away!
- Hair lasering. Start on that beard now. (Moi?)
- Night-time sky walking. The best possible backdrop for creepy ghost walks. Go on. Try it!
- Enjoying Autumn colours: reds, russets, auburns, coppers…
- Time to take stock and recalibrate – before the year ends. You’ve still got time to fulfil your resolutions!
- Wildlife spotting: squirrels, herons… figuring out where the heck birds roost at night. Nests are for fledglings.
- Mulled wine.
- Puddings. Those brambles and apples you gathered in September need eating, don’t they?
Penny is a writer who lives in Edinburgh
I open my mouth to respond to the question from my kids’ piano teacher, but my oldest gets there first.
‘I want to learn that last bit of the piece,’ they say.
And they’re off. The piano teacher and student – a conversation I struggle to follow to be honest, I’ve never been able to play the piano. They are talking over my head. I’m not required.
But I consider it. It is terrifying to think of all the conversations my children will have to negotiate their way through without me there, throughout their whole lives.
Here is evidence that it will be OK.
Here is evidence that they can ask for what they need, want, and be heard.
Here is evidence that adults around them also want the best for them.
So I listen. And I allow them to talk.
‘I’m just emailing to see if you’d like to have an event at the Hub.’
This is a special feeling. I spend a lot of our time creating my own opportunities, submitting, asking to be included. Often, the answer is no answer. Often, the answer is ‘no thank you, please try again.’ Sometimes the answer is yes – an amazing feeling. But the question coming from someone else? This was a new one, a welcome addition to my writing experience.
So I am curating an event at Humbie Hub, with writer R L McKinney. It’s just over a month away, and I’m not as nervous as I am excited. We’ve planned such a great night, of stories, songs and STOVIES*. Please use the contact page if you’d like tickets. Or you can get them at the Hub!
*a traditional Scottish dish