Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Gifts of the Season: Depression and Guilt

The concept of loving the Christmas/holiday season is so foreign to me, it may as well come from another planet.  I don't understand people who really love the holidays.  As far back as I can remember, this time of year has always left me depressed for one reason or another.  Since being a little girl, nothing about the season has ever met my expectations--I've always felt as if 'something' was missing.  Even though I have never experienced the perfect Christmas, I'm at a loss to explain what the perfect Christmas is like.  I guess the Rockwell painting images are what I expect, but not consciously.  If I could KNOW what I want, it would be so much easier to try and replicate it.  Alas, I haven't found the answer to what a perfect Christmas is.

Becoming an adult just made me more determined to make things perfect for myself and those around me.  I did my best to give/make the perfect gifts and decorate my house perfectly.  I baked and cooked and crafted until I couldn't see straight.  I never wanted my kids to know how I felt about the season--and I think they didn't until they grew up.  Still, each January left me more depressed than the year before, as I couldn't come close to what I wanted--even though I didn't know what I wanted.  On top of not getting what I 'wanted,' I also felt like a failure because 'something' was always missing.

For years we went 'back home' for the holidays--and we brought all of the gifts for the kids and everything else we needed for 'the day,' to The Parent's house.  We spent part of Christmas Eve with the in-laws, went to Christmas Eve church services, had gift opening at The Parent's, and completed everything with the kids getting their Santa gifts on Christmas morning.  And throughout the time I spent there, I had to try and make everyone happy.  We didn't spend nearly enough time with the in-laws as we should, because The Mother didn't want us to enjoy ourselves away from her.  I felt disloyal if I had a good time with the in-laws, so I suppressed any happiness there and limited my time with them.  Of course, spending most of my time with The Mother didn't help me, as she has ALWAYS been depressed during the holidays.  Not only couldn't I make everything good for myself, I couldn't even do for others.  Just another example of me not being good enough.

I finally decided that it was too stressful for me to keep going home for Christmas, so we started to build our own traditions in our own home.  This should have been a good thing, but I was then placed under so much guilt for not spending time with family, that I couldn't get out from under it.  I not only was dealing with The Mother about this issue, but the in-laws, as well.  And the beauty part of all this was that K was the one who would always tell me in November that we were staying home, and so that is what I told everyone.  Of course, as the middle of December rolled around, he would always bend to his mother's will and change his mind.  He didn't tell her this, usually, but it was made very clear that we COULD go there if only I would agree.  Of course, by that late in the season, it was too much MORE work to change all of the plans, so we stayed here and I piled a bit more guilt onto myself.

Things might have been less depressing for me if the rest of the family would have come to US every few years.  But we were the ones who had to haul our two kids, luggage, gifts, etc, etc, etc, 100 miles when it would have been so much easier for The Parents--for example--to come here for a few days.  After all, there was just the two of them.  But no, they wouldn't do it.  And so I took us out of the family circle and made us outsiders.  MORE guilt.

Throughout all of the preparations and celebrations, I was a complete and total bitch--especially to K.  I worked myself to death and was so sleep deprived that I probably was a danger to myself and others.  Of course, I couldn't take out my frustrations on The Mother--heaven forbid--or any other family members, so K got it full-force.  And I KNEW what I was doing as I did it--and couldn't stop myself.  I had such inner turmoil that it was a wonder I didn't sprout a dozen bleeding ulcers every year.  The wicked witch of the west was a pussy cat compared to me.  I don't think I can EVER properly do enough for him to make up for how I was--and I still feel guilty.

Many years have now passed and I'm not dealing with the same things as I once did.  I see how circumstances shaped my perspective on the season and I know what I did right and what I did wrong.  And I still can't shake the hatred and depression.  Oh, I put on a good enough act--even though most people KNOW how I truly feel--but if I'm smiling at this time of year, rest assured it IS all an act.  I'll play along just so others won't be brought down to my level, but I am never truly comfortable around people who are having a good time--it just seems foreign to me.  And as soon as it is all over, I will face my disappointment once again, because this year won't be any more perfect than any other.


ordinaryjanet said...

That's sad. I can't think of anything worse than bending over backwards to please so many people for so many years and not getting any pleasure out of it.

I don't much care for Christmas either, but I don't have your good reasons-I just don't like being forced to be full of joy and happiness just because it's Christmas. Especially when the sun hardly shines this time of year.

cmk said...

It took me way too many years to realize that I DIDN'T need to try and please everyone--especially considering it never did any good anyway. I am a much more content person since breaking away from my family--something they COULD or WOULD never understand. {sigh}

I think far more people feel the way you do, but force themselves to be jolly anyway. And I don't think that is particularly healthy, either.

meleah rebeccah said...

I love you. That is all.

cmk said...

Love you, too, sweetie! xoxoxo

ordinaryjanet said...

It makes me kind of glad I'm not married and don't have kids. I don't know how married people decide which family to visit with at the holidays. Especially if they don't get along with their in-laws. I can't think of anything worse than being forced to spend Christmas with a bunch of people I don't like and who don't like me either. *shudder*

cmk said...

That is why I have said more than once that our lives would have been so much easier if K and I were both orphans--no family to muck up our lives. And I was only half joking whenever I've said it.