Can I just hate Christmas? Please?
Every year no matter what I do, I go to bed December 23 full of tension and anxiety. I wake up with my stomach in knots and will continue to feel that way till after December 25th. I hate it.
I lay in bed last night breathing deep and trying to concentrate on the feelings that were bubbling up while trying to stave off a complete panic attack. I did reach a small point of success when I found another unconscious idea I had about Christmas.
I found that a lot of the anxiety was rooted in fear about not being able to predict what would happen, and fear about needing to be a certain way, be in a certain place or something really bad would happen. This would make sense if the magical spell of Christmas was predicated upon my parents moods, and how they thought we were behaving. Libby Anne has written about how in fundamentalist Christian families you must go cheerfully and willingly with a smile on your face. If you were angry, grumpy or anything else you could be said to have a bad attitude that was displeasing to God and disrespectful to your parents. In reality when it came to Christmas a bad attitude could very well be punished with no presents, being isolated from company etc. I believe this was very much a reality in my home, you just didn't know if you were not perfectly well behaved. And with abusive often vindictive parents what this good behavior looks like depends on their mood and whether or not you've pissed them off.
So imagine a mini version of me going into this holiday with all of the following things: I must have a good attitude, be obedient, not be hyper or obnoxious, I must be grateful. Then add onto that the probable rejection of my Christmas present to Vaarsuvius, and the disappointment and broken heart from getting gifts from them that were unkind, or seemed to show they didn't know me at all. That's what happens when a Narcissist goes gift shopping. Then also imagine that I am starved for attention and affection and this may be the only time of year were I get to have other family or friends visit. I was also starved for love and kept hoping to get that out of all our Christmas festivities. And with Christmas being one of those few special times during the year were things might be cheerful I was so starved for that I would try to hang onto it for dear life. But as I mentioned above imagine that this one super sacred thing is predicated on the whims of two narcissist abusers, and their interpretations of fundamentalist parenting. Then imagine that they stir up drama and strife and even potentially pit myself and Other child against one another or potentially one of them will try to pit us against the other. Christmas was better than most of the rest of the year, but it didn't change my parents into saints and angels either. There was still all those abusive dynamics.
So even though I have seen Christmas through rose colored glasses as this one magical time of year, I think I see now how much it could also be miserable. I used to think that my anxiety stemmed from over excitement, but I am starting to re-consider. I think the excitement portion is completely eclipsed by the all out panic. I have been going through this panic/anxiety attack about Christmas since I was five or younger. And the issue was only added to by the ongoing shaming by Vaarsuvius for having a problem, and for not being able to calm down and relax. They treated me as over emotional and were practically rolling their eyes. And then I also became an inconvenience from being distressed.
I also had to hide the mess, anything they did or said that was hurtful or disappointing had to be hidden or I risked being punished for reacting or having a bad attitude. And the anxiety around gifts and trying to mask disappointment was huge. Opening gifts you are on show in front of everyone, so you better believe I pasted a smile on my face and feigned nothing but gratitude no matter what I got or feigned grace when Vaarsuvius was unkind about the gift I picked for them. The underlying pressure comes from the fundamentalist parenting philosophies as well as trying to avoid setting off two narcissist abusers, you had to walk on eggshells. And part of being able to walk on eggshells well is to know where they are, and to try and predict things as best as possible. You can't predict what is in an unopened present, you have to be prepared to just react with a smile. Then while I could predict a lot of my parents moods and whims, their own issues/holiday stress could set them off and they could lash out or be controlling, and unpredictably so. So I think I did the best I could or shrunk into a tiny anxious ball. I wonder to how much this is some crazy self protection program- be sick, anxious, and curl up into a ball. I would not have been much of a threat or target to pick on.
I did feel a lot of pressure release as I figured some of this out, but the anxiety program is strong. It gets set off by the mere fact that it is an anniversary effect/ seasonal. I keep doing everything I can to shift it, to change things so the program does not run like it has. I opened my last few presents this morning instead of feeling like a little kid having to patiently wait and repeat all those feelings I would have had growing up. It helped quite a bit, but there is still some lingering anxiety and panic. I keep trying to dig through it and see what it is then shift accordingly.
I wish anyone else going through this the very best, and my complete empathy. You are not alone! Merry Christmas.