Monday, 16 December 2013

Brace yourself: Christmas is coming

Christmas is generally accepted to be a wonderful time of year, full of peace and joy and goodwill and so forth.  But for a lot of people, it's actually a bit rubbish.

For a start, Christmas is supposed to be all about family and being around the ones you love.  But sometimes, we don't have a family, or we're estranged from them, or said family is so toxic that spending time with them is painful or even dangerous.  Or, through choice or circumstance, we might be so far away from our families that we can't be together for Christmas.  So the constant reminders of what everyone else seems to have, but you don't, can make this time of year really quite painful.

(Of course, everyone doesn't have a large, loving family - but when that's the image you see over and again, it's easy to think you're the only one whose life is different.)

Christmas poster featuring a koala dressed in Santa hat and boots ca 1920

Christmas can also be a really expensive time of year.  It's a very heavily commercialised holiday, and there's a lot of pressure to keep up with presents and fancy foods, not only for your own family but for whatever work/church/club/other group shindigs you're socially obliged to attend as well.  If you're single and don't have much in the way of family you can largely opt-out of Christmas for yourself, but expect funny looks if you tell anyone else about your Yule Avoidance Strategy.  But if there are kids, there's probably a strong urge to give them a "proper" Christmas, or at least a better one than you had when you were their age, and a lot of guilt tied up with not delivering that.  And if that means breaking out the credit card, that can be an expensive exercise.  Combine that with workplaces shutting down or reducing their hours over Christmas, or the post-Christmas lull that hits some businesses as their customers save to pay off their Christmas bills, the back-to-school bills, and the rates, and you've not only got a credit card bill, but less money to pay it off.

And that's before you get to the mechanics of why Christmas can be uncomfortable for autistic people - the changes to routine, the sensory overload, and the complicated social manoeuvring.  That's a post for later this week.

But please remember, if you're one of these people full of the joys of the season, that it's not a hugely happy time for some of us.  Don't mock us if we don't share your good cheer - we feel quite bad enough already without you reminding us that we're Doing Christmas Wrong.

And please remember, if you're one of the many for whom Christmas isn't a great time of year, you're not alone.  There are a lot of us in the same situation.  Do what you need to keep yourself safe, sane and as happy as possible.