COMMENT: Why the Christmas Blues are nothing to be ashamed of
Like three-day weekends and 2 for 1 pizza deals, Christmas is one of those things you’re meant to just love.
It’s innate, it’s intrinsic, it’s Christmas, for God’s sake.
And yet for so many of us, the festive period can leave us feeling overwrought, on edge and inexplicably emotional – feelings which are difficult to articulate if, on paper, life is ticking along just peachy.
Unlike so many others, you might not have suffered a bereavement and you may not be struggling with illness – both of which justify an aversion to Christmas – and yet here you are feeling deflated, dejected and despondent.
It’s not a deliberately churlish reaction to the magic of the season; you wish you could experience the child-like awe still exhibited by so many of your peers, and yet it simply fails to manifest.
And what’s left in its place is a sense of disappointment, guilt and shame.
The magic of Christmas isn’t lost on you; in fact, it’s that very magic that often leaves you feeling weirdly tearful.
The gifts, the lights, the songs, the traditions, the customs; you know they represent all that is good in this life, and perversely your reaction to them is one of mild sadness.
For anyone who embraces the festive season with all the gusto of a seven-year-old, this response is wholly inconceivable, but it’s important to remember that for the person experiencing it, it’s just as difficult to understand.
When you’re surrounded by loved ones all of whom are happily celebrating the season, and yet you can’t muster even a fraction of their enthusiasm, Christmas can be an isolating experience.
You go through the motions, you balance your time as best as you can, and you often purposely take part in activities which are designed to make you feel festive, and yet the depth of your response is skin-deep, at best.
Psychologists have long since insisted that Christmas Blues are normal, and list the various reasons why Christmas can be one of the most depressing times of the year.
But what happens when their explanations cite circumstance which you simply can’t relate to, like bereavement, illness, financial strain, or loneliness?
Inevitably, you feel like a fraud; a self-indulgent Grinch.
You shake yourself and question why the idea of your mam on Christmas morning makes you tear up.
You give yourself a talking-to and wonder why the notion of your father wrapping your present makes you feel inexplicably tearful.
You beat yourself up and ponder why even the most cheerful Christmas songs leave you feeling vaguely downcast.
Sometimes it comes down to the fact that the intensity of the entire festive season – two and half months in Ireland if we’re honest – is simply too much.
And that’s OK.
Let’s, for a moment, suppose that birthdays are your thing.
Celebrating it for more than a day might sound appealing, but celebrating it for a month sounds absurd.
You simply can’t maintain that level of engagement, and the longer it goes on, the more time you have to reflect on the elements of the last year you aren’t happy with.
The same goes for Christmas; the longer it goes on, the harder it is to feel enthusiastic, and the more intense it becomes, the harder it is to find the joy in the simpler elements.
It can seem like an all-singing, all-dancing bonanza, and frankly you’re not about it.
Having the Christmas Blues can be a normal reaction to the fervour of the season's frivolity; and the sooner you learn to stop chastising yourself over it, the better.