Christmas is a happy time, or at least it is for a lot of people. For me, it’s a time of panic.
Borderline Personality Disorder was first suggested as a diagnosis when I was being treated at university – the first time around. I didn’t know what it was and thought it meant that my personality was all wrong. I’ve since realised that it doesn’t mean that at all, my BPD is just as an illness which I will beat eventually.
"It’s a fight that I’ll win, but it’s a tough fight all the same."
Mood swings push me through a rollercoaster of emotions, never knowing where we’ll stop next. Every small emotion is escalated out of control until I find myself upset over something as minor as a tiny tear in a piece of paper.
Dissociation battles with my brain over what’s real and what isn’t. One of the most troublesome symptoms are the extreme thought patterns, everything has to be black or white. All or nothing. For me, there is no in between.
"Everything has to be black or white. All or nothing. For me, there is no in between."
This makes celebrations such as Christmas really tough. I have to be drunk, or not drinking at all. I have to be with everyone or no one at all. I have to party constantly, or hide in my room for the entire season. At least that’s what brain tells me.
When I was younger this wasn’t a problem: Santa came in the morning to bring presents, we went to church and I stayed with my family all day long. Now I have a partner, and a choice of whether I spend the day with him, or them.
My Dad says this is a choice that everyone has to make as they grow up, and I know he’s right.
But my extreme thinking tells me that I have to be with everyone at once – and knowing that this is impossible doesn’t make it any easier. No matter who I choose to spend the day with, I’ll panic that I’ve made the wrong decision and be upset that everyone I love isn’t around.
I like to think I hide the panic well, but honestly it probably seeps through my mask. Immediately I dive in to my unhealthiest coping mechanisms, smoking and drinking, trying to fend the emotion off.
"Immediately I dive in to my unhealthiest coping mechanisms, smoking and drinking, trying to fend the emotion off."
When that fails I hide myself away in bathrooms, an empty kitchen or bedroom until I’ve rebuilt the strength to carry on. Sometimes I have panic attacks, or dissociate when I’m this anxious: quite literally switching off from the emotions and the world around me.
I used to ignore this decision for as long as possible. If I ignored the choice between my parents and boyfriend, perhaps someone would make it for me. Or perhaps it just wouldn’t happen. But that meant that the first time anyone mentioned Christmas to me, I’d be filled with dread.
So last year I tried something new. Last year I made my plans early. Christmas Eve and morning would be spent with my family, and after lunch I’d go to my boyfriend’s and spend the evening with him.
I still found the day tough, and that’s irritating at Christmas when you feel you can’t tell anyone for fear of ruining their day. As I said, Christmas is a happy time for most people and I don’t want to be the one who puts a downer on everyone’s day.
"I don’t want to be the one who puts a downer on everyone’s day."
But planning earlier did make it easier in the run up. This year I have another decision to make, and it’s just as hard as it was last year. I’m hoping, that by making plans early, and using mindfulness techniques I’ll be able to live in the moment and just enjoy wherever I end up being this Christmas.
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