Christmas means lots of things to lots of people but most would agree it is a great time of year, most people have time off work, spend time with friends and family they haven’t seen for a while or others use the holiday to relax and take a break.
Whilst there are lots enjoying Christmas there are some that find it hard for various reasons, they could be homeless, grieving for a loved one, seriously ill in hospital or individuals struggling financially. The individuals in the above situations are thought about this time of year and there are various fund raising events to help, it could be to help keep a homeless warm or bring a smile to a childs face when they have a gift to open from santa.
I could be wrong but the way I feel is that there are certain individuals that get forgotten about at Christmas when it comes to extra support and that is those that find all of Christmas overwhelming. In some kind of way I was one of those people that didn’t give others who may have ASD a thought, I wasn’t diagnosed myself and thought I just wasnt normal. Now I have my diagnosis I haven’t changed and still find Christmas all too much but I am more considerate to others.
I don’t think everybody with an ASD diagnosis hate Christmas but I am convinced there will be some parts of the build up or during the festive period that they will find difficult. I may now have a diagnosis and have some understanding of why I feel the way I do but how much of the difficulties I have are associated with my ASD I don’t know.
I can only describe how it affects me as everybody is different but there will be some similarities. Every year the build up seems to start earlier and earlier, this year the Christmas decorations and products were in shops prior to Halloween which I think is just too early. Even if you love Christmas I am sure it would take the excitement from it, if you are able to eat all the christmas food, listen to christmas music and see all the decorations 3 months prior it takes away the novelty of everything.
We are now a week away from Christmas and I just can not wait for it to be all over, I know come the 2nd Jan I will be back at work but to me that means normality. Everything at the min is all out of sorts, there are people rushing around and others that are been really noisy getting into the Christmas spirit. I am not a Grinch and I am not wanting people not to have fun, I just find it all a bit too much.
Shopping – I have my routines of when and where I go and do not vary from this if I can help it, most people understand but occasionally I have to change my routine but 9 times out of 10 something goes wrong if I have to change it. I have seen some shops have signed up to doing autism hour at their store when they have turned off music, till sounds and lowered the lighting, this is good in that it shows businesses are trying to consider individuals with disabilities. I went to one local supermarket during autism hour to find it was busier than normal, this was not the shops fault the disappointing part was the people in the shop I felt did not need to take advantage of autism hour. I know we don’t walk around with neon flashing signs on our head saying I am autistic but the shop was full of people rushing in before work, taking business calls while wandering around.
This time of year shops are always going to be a lot busier and this is why I struggle, there are people pushing past, music seems to be louder, there are noisy christmas decorations with everybody pressing them over and over again and then obviously there are the young kids racing around shouting and crying because they can’t have one of the toys that they have seen on the shelves. By the time that I leave I am exhausted and need a lie down.
Local Pubs / restaurants – This is the time that they make most of their money so in the run up to Christmas they are naturally busier and and noisier. I don’t go out very often but when I do I try to go out early doors with friends mid week to avoid been in an environment where there is so much going on, this time of year I try to avoid going out at all where most actually go out more. This causes friction amongst family and friends, over the years I have lost friends due to me declining invitations to things, it is also made worse that I have a physical condition which means I would have to cancel at short notice if I get a flare up.
My mum is a massive fan of Christmas and I do everything I can not to ruin it for her but she is always on my case about getting a tree up, visiting people, pushing me to have a drink, If I could go to sleep 1st Dec and not wake up until 2nd Jan that would be perfect. I don’t want to ruin things for other people but I do wish I wasn’t under so much pressure to fit in. I am not a massive drinker but one of the things my mum gets really annoyed with me about is not having a drink on Christmas day, I don’t drink because I don’t want to be in a position where I can’t get home and need to be able to drive. I know that If I drink I can taxi or even stay wherever I am but I need the reassurance that I can leave if I need to. This year I said that I wanted Boxing day on my own forgetting that I needed to be somewhere with my dad late afternoon, so I agreed I would stay at mums on Christmas eve. This was agreed a couple of months ago but they way she is talking to me and others she has decided I am staying on both Christmas eve and Christmas day, I understand it probably makes sense to most but I need some time on my own. I am now already anticipating the arguments when I try to leave on Christmas day, this is just increasing my stress levels and I have noticed that my weird quirks are increasing.
Then there is the gifts, this causes me so much anxiety as I absolutely hate been given presents, it is not that I am ungrateful I appreciate any gift I am given its just my face doesn’t show it. You could give me a million pounds and my face would be the same as if you had given me a smelly sock from the wash bin, I dont mean I would associate any gift with a smelly sock I just don’t react in the way that is expected. I always thank people for my gift but have been told that my face says different, this means that when I open a gift I have to build myself up to do a fake smile and feel that I am been over the top thanking people. I never sleep Christmas eve and its all down to the worry of opening the presents not that I am excited Santa is coming.
Then finally there is the dreaded New Years Eve, I can only describe this as forced fun. I have never enjoyed New Years Eve and hate the fact I have to lie each year. I have been to lots of events and haven’t really enjoyed any of them, I class it as forced fun as you can’t go home until after midnight. I don’t have an issue stopping out late but I want to have the option to go home when I want. I have managed to have a few New Years Eve’s at home alone which I have enjoyed but have been anxious due to the fact I have lied so that I can turn down invites, I have sat in the dark without any TV on in case anybody went past and new I was out which then added more stress than If I had gone out in the first place.
I am finding out more and more about myself since the diagnosis and maybe this time next year I will be able to manage my anxiety and increased quirks I have around this time of year.
Only 2 weeks to go and it will be all over. I wish everybody a happy Christmas and hope that everything goes well, just because I struggle doesn’t mean I think everybody else should stop celebrating and enjoy the time with family and friends.