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When Mental Illness Makes You 'Bitter' Toward Christmas

There are some Christmas songs that, when I hear them, they make me so inexplicably … sad, I guess. I don’t really know how to describe the feeling. I just know that, when I hear “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” I either belt out the lyrics or start sobbing.

The past several Christmases have been rough for me. For one thing, I was raised religious, and even though I am not religious anymore myself, my whole family is. So for the sake of not fighting with anyone, I basically fake it, because I do not feel like having that fight. For another, I’ve battled mental illness for the past several years. My anxiety makes it so I can only enjoy myself for a short amount of time before my brain wants me to remove myself from the situation. My depression makes it so I can barely enjoy myself at all because I would rather be dead. Three years ago, I had a panic attack while we were at my uncle’s house. My whole, huge family was all in the living room, passing out presents and opening them, and I was having a good time … until I wasn’t. I don’t know what happened, but suddenly I had to remove myself from the situation. I ran outside, crying and gasping for breath and hid behind my now-stepdad’s truck as I messaged a friend. We left soon after. Incidentally, that was my first panic attack ever. I was 18.

For the past two and a half years, I’ve worked in retail. This year will be my third Christmas. It’s rough. When you work in customer service, it’s very hard to not hate the world and everyone in it. Especially around Christmas. Because there are a lot of really kind, wonderful people out there, but there are also a lot of horrible, miserable, selfish people, too, and somehow they always seem to find my customer service counter. If you’ve worked in retail, you know the ones. The ones who bring their young children to see Santa and something goes wrong so they want to talk to a manager. The ones who came too late for the doorbuster but they still want the sale. The ones who somehow think you, the very bottom tier of the retail empire, magically control all prices and sales and the fact some items go on sale and others don’t, and of course the item they want isn’t on sale, but they want you to honor the sale price of a similar item because “I drove a long way to get here,” and “I’m a loyal shopper” and “I’ve spend thousands of dollars here!” OK, boomer.

I’m bitter this year. I want to enjoy the holidays, because I honestly love this time of year. From October to New Year’s, this is my favorite season. I love Halloween, of course, who doesn’t? And I love the festiveness that kicks in as soon as November 1 hits. I love the Christmas atmosphere. I think Christmas decorations are beautiful. I love how Thanksgiving and Christmas are both just about being with people you love and stuffing your face full of pie and your uncle’s homemade ice cream and RumChata and giving gifts and watching your mom’s face as she opens a present you spent the better part of a month knitting for her. I love everything about the season, and I’m very bitter toward my job and the people I deal with every day for ruining it for me.

But I have a new goal for this year. I’m not going to let people ruin Christmas for me. Yes, work is hell. Yes, my coworkers are gloomy and grumpy and dramatic. Yes, people can be horrible. But this year, I’m going to do my best to not let any of that get me down. I’m going to enjoy my own Christmas shopping for my brother and my stepdad, I’m going to bask in the fact my first big knitting project was a present for my mom that turned out awesome and I’m going to enjoy the season.
Most importantly, I’m going to take care of myself. I’m going to treat myself well. I’m going to drink hot chocolate and bake for my friends and eat without guilt because it’s Christmas, damn it, and it’s going to be a fucking good one.

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