Christmas + mental health

Not another mental health post, some of you may be thinking. Where are the pretty travel pictures and travel stories, others of you may ask.

They’re here. I’ve got them. I cannot wait to share them, but with only nine days to go until Christmas I have something else on my mind.

Mental health. Not mental illness, not mental disorder, and certainly not mental problems. Mental health.

Christmas to my family is incredibly important, we love Christmas. We love being together and cooking and sharing thoughtful gifts, blasting Christmas music and wearing silly hats and telling terrible jokes from our Christmas crackers. My favourite memory of many of my christmases will always be that moment when I simply could not continue, I was full and exhausted, I’d had a day of fun and it was finally time for bed. I will always hear my mum and dad saying Merry Christmas darlin’ as I headed to bed each year. That is my favourite Christmas memory.

The holiday season is not always a happy time for some, for some people it brings with it memories of loss, a time of grieving, feelings of sadness and confusion. For some it means nothing but anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts.

Christmas is hectic. The holidays can be a real trigger for many people out there and we have a responsibility to check in on others.

For one of my friends, she lost her Mother on Christmas Eve. Another lost her best friend to depression on Christmas Day. Some people no longer have anyone to put their tree up with them. There are families who cannot afford to eat. Families without homes. Families doing their best to keep everything together, even though it seems impossible.

My favourite Big Issue vendor in Brisbane, Nathan is someone who stands outside of the 7/11 on Adelaide Street and wishes a Merry Christmas to ever single person who walks past him. I always make the time to stop and ask him how he is and have a chat. December brings with it a lot of hurt and sadness to his life. Not only is he homeless, but he lost his Mother, Step-Dad and his brother in various December’s. Still he wishes you a Merry Christmas. When I see people ignore him or even scowl at him I feel nothing but disgrace for the human race.

Last year, the week before Christmas, Nathan was telling everyone it would be his last week in Brisbane, he was moving to Hervey Bay to be with his son. His happiness was contagious, he hadn’t been that genuinely happy in months. I was silently rooting for him.

When I saw him on that same corner in January, my heart broke for him.

Missing out on the Portman’s dress you wanted for Christmas is not a tragedy. Working Christmas Eve instead of partying with your friends is not sad. Spending Christmas with your family-in-law or annoying Uncle / Cousin / Sibling is not depressing. They are all circumstantial situations.

I want you to enjoy your Christmas, be kind to everyone. Forget misgivings, remove toxic people from your life. Remember the reason for the season and practice kindness. Smile at your Big Issue vendor, if you have $7, buy a magazine. Chat with them. Ask how are you and be ready to listen and to mean it. Be socially aware.

Christmas is not shopping. Christmas is not presents. Christmas is not enduring Christmas with family, it’s an honour.

Christmas is love.

Practice love, always.

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