Christmas lovers, rejoice! It’s that time of the year again. A time for frolicking into packed high street shops, looking for that special present for that special someone – or just a boring yet handy box-set of fancy socks and luxury body wash for that cousin of yours you see once a year.
For many, it is a period of bliss and magic with hints of mulled wine and blinking lights, or at least a welcome occasion to get your hands on prized goods. I do not count myself among that lot. I have had depressive episodes for many, many years, and a wobbly mood ever burdens my daily life. However, I feel there is a special place in hell for me during Christmas.
Truth be told, I hate Christmas. I am not sure why. I used to like it a lot as a child, but then, some will say that you just happen to grow out of things as you age. Enduring fondness and interest in something does not mean it will last forever. One day it was here, and the next day it was gone. As I was close to my sixteenth birthday, a few days before Christmas, I suddenly felt down and lost. I remember entering the kitchen and bursting into tears in front of my puzzled mother, unable to express anything else than “I don’t like Christmas. It is not the same anymore. It’s not the same.” This is how I broke up with Christmas, as smoothly as it was unexpected, as if it simply was meant to be. A fatality of life, but one that felt like a rite of passage.
Christmas means that it is time to go home. I have now been in Glasgow for just over three years. However much I miss my family and friends, the trip back home always proves to be an ordeal, and an especially tough one. The trip to the airport, the wait before boarding the plane, landing in the grimly overcrowded Roissy airport, commuting to central Paris to catch the coach that will take me to my central France hometown – a lengthy journey, giving me more than enough time to reflect on my reluctance to spend Christmas back home.
I see Christmas as a truce. Families reunite in a spirit of bounty and love. Issues and tensions, jealousies and discords are swept under an ephemeral rug of good intentions. It is a paradoxical thing to feel lonely at Christmas, when the people you love the most surround you. I felt as if they were in an unattainable bubble of delight, a pretend one that I could not reach because I did not want to be part of what seemed to be a make-believe celebration. I spent most of the festivities as a wallflower, stuffing myself with celebratory treats, feeling sorry for myself, and being riddled with guilt that I was, indeed, whimpering when I should have been beaming with joy.
Going home, I also found myself going back to a place that I had a very special picture of, painted in my mind. In a pure fairytale of Christmas fashion, I imagined time would freeze the instant I left my hometown, and it would all come back to normal when I would return. As years went by, though, things increasingly changed. Time never froze. Friendships ended, couples broke up and the magic of reuniting with dear friends vanished. The beloved Norman pine Christmas tree shrank a little more each year passing, until it was replaced by a dull plastic replica. Life happened, simply, yet I still cannot accept it and every Christmas feels like a heartbreak.
So, going home. I have decided it is not for me, not this year. What is the use of crying over the spilt milk of times that are memories and will remain memories? I have learnt that I cannot choose the issues that are thrown the way of my mental health. I can, however, try and make it easier. I will spend this usually dreaded holiday miles and miles away, in Jordan, where people are predominantly Muslim and therefore do not celebrate Christmas. The prospect of travelling to a new land and uncovering a different culture actually makes me look forward to Christmas – something that has not happened in years. Running away from my problems, quite literally, might not be the solution, but it will do me for now.