My kids have been so incredibly sick this winter, and it's really put a damper on the time I can spend blogging. But, that just means that you get the final 2 "things people with anxiety wish you knew during the holidays" at once! Happy holidays! The cool thing about my kids being super sick this last month is that it has distracted me from my "normal" anxiety I feel during the holidays. However, now that we're at Christmas Eve eve, I feel it closing in around me.
#2: We Don't Want to Be This Way
One of the hardest stigmas I've had to battle with my anxiety is the idea that I'm anti-social or stand-offish. People perceive my disengagement as apathy at best or callousness at worst. I want to be careful when I say that I "don't want to be this way" because I have learned to embrace my anxiety and use it to strengthen my psyche and ability to empathize. **It took me YEARS to get here. If your anxiety is still debilitating, don't let that be a statement that frustrates you. You will get there.** I enjoy my anxiety in that it often allows me to see the world as it really is (even though it often causes me to read into situations way more than I need to). However, I do have to address the ideas that 1) we didn't choose to be this way and 2) we don't want to be this way.
When everyone is seemingly able to laugh and ignore the fact that there are tiny pieces of wrapping paper embedded in the carpet, our quirks are exemplified. We ask ourselves, "Why doesn't this bother anyone else?" "Am I crazy?" We don't want to be so distracted by whether or not our child loses the pieces of his brand new toy that we miss the joy in his face as he pretends he's a fireman. We don't want to be so worried about food borne illnesses that we can't enjoy the cookies our niece made. We don't want to be so overstimulated that we have to "go to the car" to "look for some gum." We don't want to, but sometimes we have to. Any guilt you place on us for "missing out" only further perpetuates our idea that we aren't worthy of the experiences everyone is sharing.
#1: We're Still Having Fun
With all this being said, I want you to know one very important fact: We're still having fun. The good news is that most of us are aware of our triggers, and the really lucky ones among us have perfected our self-care techniques. We've started preparing a long time ago to address all the possible hiccups we could face as these next few days approach.
Even if we have a "bad" anxiety day on Christmas, we're still enjoying your company. For some of us, we feel safest with our families. For some of us, we feel most exposed with our families. Regardless of where your loved one stands on that spectrum, they still appreciate the effort and love that goes into preparing for a holiday. The only thing I ask is that you remember that "fun" looks differently for everyone. Some people thrive in chaos - an intense game of charades, drinking, everyone opening presents at the same time. And, some people thrive in the more quiet moments - a private conversation with a loved one they haven't seen in a while, eye contact after someone has opened a thoughtful gift, the drive home when the kids are finally asleep. Be sensitive to the different ways your loved ones thrive. What works for you doesn't work for everyone else, but that doesn't mean they're not sharing in the joy and fun with you!
I will be thinking of all my fellow anxiety warriors as the holiday season comes and goes. I want to add one more caveat to all of these tips: I addressed people with "normal" family situations. I'm also aware some of you are estranged from your family, some of you are geographically far away from your families, some of you are battling through a season of loss, and some of you may be in a season of anxiety that is greater than your will to combat it. If you fall into any of these camps, it's okay to "just survive." It's okay to put your head down and just get through. Fill your own cup if you are able, and if you have any left over, fill the cups of the people who mean the most to you.
Happy holidays, friends!