“What’s the matter with you? It’s Christmas!”
Heard that one a few too many times? What do you do if you just can’t get into the Christmas spirit because of your borderline personality disorder (BPD)? That’s a big problem for many people. Christmas is a loaded holiday because everyone around you is happy, happy, happy. And there you are and you’re not happy. Big problem. Everyone looks at you like you’re some kind of “freak,” a real downer. They blame you for spoiling the day. “Why can’t you just be happy for a change?” Yes. It can be terrible to be the only one who is not happy at Christmastime. This can all be very isolating for the person who just can’t get into the Christmas spirit.
Christmas is supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year. People have enormous expectations about the holiday, the way it should be celebrated and everyone’s participation in it. Many people start planning weeks or even months in advance. Christmas is a very difficult time of year for many people. Many people are filled with a sense of dread as the holiday season approaches. Part of the reason for this phenomenon has to do with seasonal affective disorder (SAD.) The days are longer and there is less sunshine and this can affect many people tremendously often without them even being aware of it.
Other people are simply reacting to the sheer commercialization of Christmas. Perhaps some of us long for a simpler time when the holiday was more about the celebration of the birth of Jesus rather than the giving of extravagant gifts. For many people, Christmas is a financial burden, fraught with negative feelings. Other people, especially those with BPD, may be estranged from their families, so experience quite a bit of loneliness during the holidays. So, what can you do about all this?
The first thing to do is to not blame yourself if you feel this way. Accept these feelings and deal with them. If you are feeling unduly depressed, seek out some assistance from a mental health provider or a mental health clinic. If you find yourself suicidal, go to a local emergency room and ask for help. That’s what they are there for.
Resist the urge to buy into the idea of a “perfect Christmas.” That only exists in television shows, children’s books and Norman Rockwell paintings. Give yourself some slack to know the holidays are not always what they are cracked up to be, and just because you don’t buy into the “idea” doesn’t mean you are either a bad person, a failure or a Grinch.
Set some personal boundaries for yourself in terms of how many holiday parties you will attend, how much you will spend on gifts and who you will exchange gifts with. Look at this as an exercise in self-protection. I like to think of it in terms of being a way to practice self-love.
Lower your expectations about what to expect and other people’s behavior toward you. If they don’t get you, that’s OK. Enjoy what you are able to enjoy and let the rest fall away. No one ever said every holiday had to be an all-or-nothing event. Volunteer at a local food bank or homeless shelter. Helping someone else is a great way to get out of your own self and your own head. Spread your own personal cheer and you will feel better.
Don’t be afraid to limit the time you spend with your family during the holiday season. When you have had enough simply excuse yourself and either go to another room where you can decompress or leave the party. You don’t need to give them any explanation for your behavior. Take care of yourself first. Always.
Remember that Christmas can be an extremely difficult time for many people. Don’t personalize it to yourself. Enjoy what you can and leave the rest. Doing this will help you survive the holidays much easier.