Dear Christmas Lovers,

I know I should be excited that Christmas is here — sleigh bells ringing, Santa Claus is coming to town and all that — but I am not.

Yes, I know my children are young and I should step back and appreciate the joy they feel, but I don’t. I never have and, as sad as it is, I don’t know if I ever will. I know you mean well, all you excited jolly Christmas people, when you explain to me sometimes in words of one syllable why Christmas is fun, but you’re not helping.

My dread of Christmas has nothing to do with the fact I don’t get why I could be excited. I get it; I just don’t feel it. The more you explain to me why Christmas is so amazing, the more I realise just how much I have missed: the family, the love, the joy. And the more I realise this, the more pressure I feel to up my game for my children. This pressure just compounds the problem.

The more you explain to me why Christmas is so amazing, the more I realise just how much I have missed

I do get that you look forward to Christmas, that you will go to see your parents and you will feel the warmth of their love. That the family jokes you share with your siblings remind you of the happy days when you lived together as children. I can imagine it. I spent many years imagining I was having your childhood. I am older now and I accept things as they are. I am one of the other people — the ones where every year Christmas is a challenge to be overcome before you can enter the possibility of a brand new year.

Sometimes Christmas is so challenging I forget that I ever got up and looked forward to starting the day. But get up I do. I smile and I do my best. I want my children to enjoy and look forward to Christmas. They are smart and they know I am faking it, but all the same I hope they appreciate my efforts.

Today I must face the living hell of putting up the tree. I hate the tree with such a passion. It is the big reminder of all the reasons I find Christmas so difficult, sitting there covered in tinsel and lights in the corner of my lounge room. It feels as though it is cheerfully taunting me with Christmas past — Christmases I would rather never think of again. The violence, the abuse, the nasty comments that cut me to the core of my being… This is where you take me when you cheerfully remind me that I am a Christmas Grinch.

So, I thought this year I would be brave and instead of smiling sweetly at you and thanking you for reminding me of the absolute joy of Christmas, I would write this letter to you. Hopefully in doing so I can speak for the others who feel like me.

Maybe I can explain it this way: I love to run marathons. I know that it really isn’t for everyone. I can see it in people’s eyes; they just don’t get it. Why would a person want to run 42.195 kilometres? I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. So if the thought of running a marathon leaves you cold and you know that no matter how many times and however many ways I explained to you that they are great fun and you should want to do it, you would dread it. Now imagine you have to do a marathon at the end of every single year. There was no getting away from it. You are dreading it. The thought of it makes you nauseous. What makes it worse is everybody keeps telling you it’s great, and explaining to you in detail how much they enjoy it, how blessed they feel. Everywhere you look there are people excitedly preparing. How much worse would that make you feel?

imagine you have to do a marathon at the end of every single year. There was no getting away from it. You are dreading it… What makes it worse is everybody keeps telling you it’s great, and explaining to you in detail how much they enjoy it… Everywhere you look there are people excitedly preparing. How much worse would that make you feel?

So, stop and think of something you find really difficult and instead of trying to make me a socially acceptable happy, clappy Christmas person, maybe (just maybe) you will find some empathy.

To all the people like me who see Christmas looming like this big black cloud, I feel you, I honour you, and I admire you, for you will do what you need to do to get through. I will do it my way and you will do it yours. But I hope that together we can claim the right to do Christmas our way. I know we are seen as the ones with a problem, but go to any shop at Christmas and see the manic buying of things people don’t even want or need. Witness the dissociation between the human spirit and the frenzied consumerism and it is not a big surprise that a great deal of people feel disconnected and discontent at Christmas.

To all the people like me who see Christmas looming like this big black cloud, I feel you, I honour you, and I admire you, for you will do what you need to do to get through.

Maybe — just maybe — it is good thing that I don’t get caught up in the madness. It is a time for me to remember the pains of the past, honour them and appreciate they are as much a part of me as my successes. For I am a high achiever; if I want something I go for it. Most of the year I am happier and more positive than most. I laugh a lot and I laugh loud. But at Christmas my laughter is dimmed as I go into a period of mourning. It is no longer a period of mourning for the abuse I was subjected to, but for what was missed out on. For where there is abuse and neglect, there is an absence love and laughter. Where there are put downs and cruel comments, there is an absence of compliments and loving words. Where there is punching and kicking, there is an absence of loving hugs and cuddles.

So, for all the people for whatever your reason find Christmas tough I admire your strength and I will hold you with love this Christmas. I promise you I will feel no guilt this year for not feeling the joy of Christmas. I will love myself and allow myself to laugh or not laugh, compliment myself with loving words, and I will hug, cuddle and love my children.

I hope you will find a way to love yourself through this ‘festive season’.

In health and happiness,

Lisa McAdams