So Christmas has come and gone for another year. It always amazes me how huge the build up is, and how short the day itself is. As much as I love spending time with my family and friends and having the time off to enjoy relaxing, it’s always a time of heightened anxiety for me. Why? Because of my social anxiety.
I have written about social anxiety before, and its not easy to write about as it revolves around the fear of being judged by others. And it is this fear that makes me so anxious during the holiday season.
Christmas is traditionally a time when you reunite with family and close friends, its a time for reconnecting and giving gifts to show your appreciation. But this fills me with fear. Social anxiety tries to stop me from connecting with anyone – it pervades every part of my life. It is the fear of being negatively judged by others. When I think of meeting up with family and friends I have a sense of fear that they will judge me. They will see my faults and flaws and think badly of me. And no matter if anyone tells me otherwise, this fear still endures.
So when I travelled home for Christmas this year, my anxiety was at an all time high. The thoughts of going out for Christmas parties, meeting people I hadn’t seen in months and spending all my time with family were scaring me. But I made myself push through. I decided that I was going to make myself enjoy myself. I went out, I met people and tried to be myself. But my anxiety made me paranoid. I was convinced that other people around me were staring at me, that they were talking about me and saying terrible things. If I said anything my anxiety made me overthink it to the point of being terribly ashamed. And then the negative thoughts would start…. “Why did I say that, I’m such an idiot, I’m stupid.” etc. etc.
During Christmas Eve mass I panicked at the thoughts of the crowds, the thoughts of being with other people. I panicked so much I nearly ran out. And on Christmas Day, I had an awful feeling of anxiousness all day, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that everyone was judging me. I compared myself to my sister, to my cousins, my aunts. It was exhausting. Why wasn’t I good enough?
It became clear that I needed some time to myself, some time to get my head straight. But that only became clear to me on St. Stephen’s Day, when I came to breaking point, and broke down thinking that everyone hated me and that I couldn’t do anything right. I was ruining everyone else’s time off by being miserable and anxious. So I finally let it out. I told my family what was going on in my head.
And the relief.
I felt so much better simply having talked about it. The relief being reassured that I could take time away to myself, that I didn’t have to go out and meet people. I could spend my Christmas holidays how I wanted. There was no pressure on me to go out and pretend to be anyone else.
Christmas is a time for reconnecting and meeting old friends and family. But its on your terms. You do what suits you. If meeting other people makes you anxious, take some time for yourself, practice self care and try to relax in the ways that suit you. Because its your time to enjoy.
If you require help or feel alone during the holidays, there is a fantastic campaign on Twitter called #joinin that allows you to connect virtually with others who may feel the same.
For more information on social anxiety search ReachOut or StepOut Ireland in Ireland.