Last year, I posted that Christmas isn’t fun for everyone, and today I am thinking again how that is true. And not only Christmas, but other holidays too.
Thanksgiving is just behind us, and to be honest, I am glad. Mine was fine, very lowkey– I spent it with my sister and brother, eating pizza and banana cream pie, watching the Dallas game and hushing my voice when the Cowboys fell behind the Redskins and my brother raged at the TV screen. It was fun, very chill, lazy, and we all met up at Mom and Dad’s house, even though the parents were in Missouri to see Grandma and the rest of Mom’s family.
But it’s these winter holidays that do me in. While everyone else is giddy with anticipation, I am anxious mostly for them to be OVER. Somehow there is an expectancy surrounding the actual holiday, something that stresses me out and makes me just want to return to normalcy.
I think, for me, it’s a combination of the cold weather (it snowed all afternoon in Minnesota on Thanksgiving), the claustrophobia of bundling up in jackets and scarves, real or imagined seasonal depression, and memories of high school, when the holidays were the hardest.
1997. Thanksgiving. It was the first real breakdown of my life. I can remember it like it was yesterday and not fifteen years ago. Was God real? How could anyone ever really know? And if I didn’t know, then wasn’t I hellbound? (Such a paradox, I know– if there was no God or heaven, then there would also be no hell.) I was in 10th grade, and OCD was swallowing me whole, and it would still be another seven years before it would even have a name.
I was in Missouri with the rest of the family, breaking away from the games and conversation and cooking upstairs to retreat to Grandma’s basement, lock myself in the bathroom, and sob. The ground had been taken from underneath my feet, and all I could do was weep– all while hiding it from the rest of the family, all those happy Christians upstairs, secure in their beliefs.
I can picture myself now, doubled over on the bathroom floor, lost and sad and scared and not understanding that God Himself could supercede my disbelief and make Himself known to me. It was a dark year that followed. I was scared of everything, especially of dying without knowing that God was real. I held my breath when I’d pass a car on the highway, knowing I was inches from my death– and maybe eternal death.
OCD, you thief. I hate you with such intensity.
For years after that, I could not return to Missouri without being triggered into a complete relapse which would take weeks to recover from. Once I went to college, I refused to return. I wonder what my mom’s side of the family thought– if they wondered if I was stuck-up or selfish for not making that 11-hour drive to see them. It was only once a year, for goodness sakes. They didn’t know any of the background, didn’t know the way that just crossing that state border into Missouri had become the instant switch for me to question my faith.
Christmas stumbled along after Thanksgiving, and it was just as hard. And so, these holidays over the years cemented themselves into difficult seasons that I would have to survive. And even though November and December are nothing like they were even ten years ago, those memories are strong.
I know there are a lot of people out there who will have such a hard time this season, those of you who have Christmas hang over you like a stormcloud, who will breath a sigh of relief when you return to “life as usual” on the day after New Years. I’m so sorry, and I totally understand. I hope that this year will be different for you– that God will supernaturally supercede your painful memories and depression and general feelings of wrongness, and that He will give you joy in your hearts instead of these.
As Christmas approaches, my prayer for you is this: Jesus Christ, You are the Word that became flesh, a holy incarnation that blows my mind every time I stop to consider it. Please overwhelm us with the sacred mystery of it all in ways that memories, depression, OCD, anxiety, and other mental illnesses can’t defeat. Jesus, be the mighty redeemer that You have been and continue to be and REDEEM this holiday season for those of us who need a rescue. Hold us in real ways that we can feel. Amen.