It’s a long-standing tradition for me to cry (a lot) after Christmas. Even before I began dealing with anxiety, you could often find me curled up in bed after Christmas festivities were over, weeping. I call it the After-Christmas Crash, and I trust that it happens to almost everyone, severity varying, when everything you’ve worked for to make a perfect Christmas, religious or otherwise, comes to a screeching halt.
I don’t know if I’ve ever shared before, but “stuff” is one of my anxiety triggers. Christmas comes with “stuff.” You can’t swing a cat without hitting a gift-giver this time of year. I like to give gifts, too, but my anxieties about “stuff” usually overshadow my ability to choose gifts and my list is purposely short. It’s a complicated dichotomy and achieving balance is impossible, a rife setup for anxiety attacks this time of year.
Children increase Christmas gifting tenfold. I do not think the wrath of God will come down on anyone who chooses not to buy something for a child. I have a theory that if you see my child less than once a week that a gift is not required. I also believe if you find yourself standing in the dollar store or the candy aisle looking for gifts for children that you probably should just walk away and forget it. Am I a scrooge? Maybe. But I have anxiety and I’m allowed to play that card.
My After-Christmas Crash was pretty severe this year. I am in the middle of an anxiety medication increase, meaning I must suffer through the side effects all over again while my body adjusts to the new dose. Ironically, one of the side effects is increased anxiety during the adjustment period. We spent Christmas at my sister’s house and towards evening, I began to feel tired and anxious, ready to go home. I would liken it to seeing a freight train headlight way in the distance.
When we got home, the house was disheveled from the night before and we stacked in the new gifts from extended family, my mind buzzing as I began to think about the daunting task of homing all of our new possessions in our small house. The train’s horn became audible, it’s speed increasing. The kids were tired and a little cranky and the train wasn’t slowing down, so I hurried them off to bed and about five seconds later let the freight train hit me at full speed.
Christmas was completely over, save the housekeeping, and it felt like I’d missed the spirit of the season once again. In reality, I think I kept Christ in our Christmas pretty well, but at that very moment it felt like a sham. So much stuff, Jesus an afterthought.
The two days following my After-Christmas Crash were interesting. I stared at the stuff scattered around the house and couldn’t do one thing about it. It will just have to sit until I’m ready to deal with it. I’ll get there.
When I wasn’t staring aimlessly and wondering what I was thinking giving the kids so many art supplies for Christmas, I slept like I hadn’t slept in months. I couldn’t wake up in the morning, I dozed away many a productive hour in bed, I wanted to nap shortly after getting up. I parked my rear at the dinner table and did arts and crafts with the kids because I couldn’t muster the energy to do anything else. I served the same leftovers for supper two days in a row and invited myself to lunch at my mom’s house to avoid cooking. It’s not a proud place to avoid one’s work because “I just can’t,” but it’s my place in this world, like it or not.
I got out of the house today, which did me a world of good, whether it was the cold air in my lungs or interacting with real human beings, or most likely just moving one foot in front of the other for once. It helped that my wonderful family picked up their new toys and at least contained them in a logical way while I was napping. I am much better equipped to manage “stuff” when it isn’t chaos.
I am starting to feel normal again. I knew I would, but it frustrates me when it’s out of my reach for any length of time.
Why do I share the grisly details of the anxiety process?
To make it less awkward to talk about. To help others understand where I’m coming from sometimes. To show that “crazy” has a pretty normal face. To make a difference in the lives of others with anxiety, not because I’m some expert but because I’m trying to get by like everyone else.