Anxiety and Stress in one’s chosen career

I moved to the UK to be a social worker, but I lasted in the career less time than it took for me to complete my higher education combined.  I trained to do more therapeutic-type social work; ideally this would have been in a school, focusing more on group and individual work with children and adolescents.  When I arrived in Britain, I found that such roles didn’t really exist for a social work degree (needed a counselling qualification separately) and my first job was in a very busy Children & Families team.  My levels of anxiety and stress were through the roof when I worked in social care – the unpredictability of every day and the high risk of conflict with service users made me incredibly anxious and stressed, leading to periods of being signed off ill by a GP. Since working in SEN, I’ve only been off work when I’ve been genuinely unwell, because I feel far more relaxed and content in this type of work. I still have intermittent ‘spikes’ of anxiety when a case becomes a bit more challenging or complex, but it’s far less intense than when I was a social worker. SEN is much more structured and predictable, as the Code of Practice is quite prescriptive and I like working within clear bounds.

  • Many of us will become interested in psychology and the helping professions along the way, either because of our diagnosis or in search of it. We find we want to nurture and help others in their journeys because we know how hard it can be.
  • Because of a combination of high intelligence, low self-esteem and eagerness to begin our new careers, we sometimes bite off more than we can chew.
  • One of the key things to realise about female AS is this: Society expects us to handle things well based on our intelligence and appearance of normality. Unfortunately, we often demand the same of ourselves.
  • Even if we can handle it academically or intellectually, it doesn’t mean we can handle it physically or emotionally. We need extra time, extra patience, and more sensitivity than most people. Full stop.
  • Of course we must, but we’re not told how in a way that we can actually manage. And unfortunately we find that other people don’t always try to get along with us.
  • Less tolerance for stress also comes with age, but even that has its positive side. Since our anxiety levels have always been very high, and our nerves have been a taut thread pretty much forever, we will now find we have to do something about it or the thread will snap. That means clearly defining to ourselves and others our needs and our boundaries.
(all italicised bullet points quoted from Rudy Simone – Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome) [UK Kindle Edition])

I live to fall asleep

When I was a teenager, I’d end up staying awake quite late into the night and sleeping in very late, especially during summer holidays because the lack of structure and regular activities made me feel very disengaged and I thought I might as well sleep.  At university, my erratic sleep pattern continued because there were always far more interesting things going on with my hall mates, so again I’d survive on only a few hours of sleep.  By the time I made it to grad school, I needed to have more discipline with my sleep routine, as my classes were more regularly timed and my work and internship patterns were more consistent.  In the US, Melatonin is available to buy without a prescription, and I started to take this and found it helped my sleeping pattern significantly.  I brought a bottle over with me when I moved here, but when I realised that it was only available on prescription, I panicked.  I have since found that a supplement that Holland & Barrett sells (5-Hydroxytryptophan) mimics the effects of melatonin, so I’ve been taking that for years – almost as long as I’ve been in the UK.

I feel that I would benefit from a melatonin prescription, but felt like up till now that I wouldn’t have been taking seriously and would have been prescribed sleeping pills, which I do not want to take; melatonin and 5HTP help me to fall asleep without feeling groggy or drugged in the morning.

Also, since about 2010, I’ve been using a white noise app to help me get to sleep and stay asleep.  I cannot sleep in a quiet room, as I end up hearing every creak and groan in the house, which keeps me awake and alert, and my brain is constantly running, thinking about what I have to do over the next few days, and I need the white noise to drown out the running commentary in my mind about what’s to come.  I put the timer on the app to turn off when I want to wake up, and I’ve naturally been able to wake up like this for the last three years with no supplementary alarm.  I also have to sleep with the window on the latch and a fan going to move the air around in the room because otherwise, I wake up with a headache due to the stuffy and stale air.  Also, I have to sleep with the sheet tucked up under my chin, because I don’t like the ‘draft’ created by my breathing on my skin.

…but it’s routine!!

I have a very deliberate sequence for doing things and get quite upset when I can’t follow it through… e.g.  running out of a particular product for the shower (I always pack my own toiletries whenever we go anywhere because you can never be sure of what a hotel will offer; one will have shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel, while another only gives a measly bar of soap, which I don’t like using anyway).  I worried that I was actually OCD or something, but then would move away from that thought because I’m not super-rigid in that I’d cease to function, but I do like to have a certain level of control over things… does that even make sense??  When I’m able to have control over my surroundings and what products I use and what sequence I use them in, I feel secure and at peace.  When things are out of place or I run out of products I like to use and don’t have more, then I feel a bit cross and off-kilter, but then the more rational part of my mind says I’m being absurd, but it still doesn’t shake the feeling of being off-balance and annoyed.  There is so much in life that we have little to no control or influence over, so being able to have some level of control over certain aspects of my life makes me feel a little less helpless.

The several changes of jobs over the last few years was nearly enough to throw me into a tailspin, but because I knew that we wouldn’t be able to achieve our goal of buying our house if I wasn’t in work, so despite my significant difficulties, I built myself up and persevered, though it was extremely challenging.  I found it interesting to read that there’s a significant number of people with diagnosed autism who are not in work (n.b. I don’t know how much of that applies to those with high-functioning Asperger’s)… I can certainly see how it would be explained by being unable to conform to workplace cultures, finding the demands of social interaction within the workplace absolutely exhausting, and just being unable to find something which matches our unique set of skills and needs.  I consider myself lucky and fortunate to be in work, but it certainly doesn’t mean that there are times that I wish that I could take a break when I’m feeling overloaded without any negative consequences of needing that break.

It’s not that I’m impatient…

…I just have to recalibrate my expectations when things do not come to fruition the way that I want them to, or at least expected them to.

It’s hard to adult. It’s even harder to adult when you suspect you have Asperger’s/Autism.

We started the remortgage process back in June. Paul just kept telling me that it moves at a glacial speed and to not expect it to go quickly. The mortgage advisor said that all going well, it should complete by the end of July, mid-August at latest. So, my mental goal post of the 1st of September, I thought, was a reasonable deadline to have this all complete. Just over two weeks ago, we had to take in yet another piece of identification to prove who we were and our address (regulations changed at some point in July and we had to provide it, so we couldn’t really complain), and she told us that the mortgage offer would go out to the solicitors on Monday and that we should hear back from the solicitors by Wednesday to arrange the completion date. I don’t think I’m wrong to take someone at their word, so I did. The rest of that week went by without word. The majority of the following week went by with no contact from the solicitors. So, I decided to ring up and find out what the situation was. It did not appear that the solicitors received anything from the bank. Now, things had already been delayed slightly because our mortgage advisor had been on holiday for a few weeks and nothing had been done in her absence. I emailed her to find out what’s happened, and it seemed to me like she’d only sent it across to the solicitors that day (judging by the date on the electronic documents sent to me). It all seemed so, “Oh dear! Did that not come through?” so casual and cavalier and I’m just thinking, “this is my life here. Please do not just treat it like a little miscommunication. I’m less than impressed. Now, the 1st of September is tomorrow and I have to completely recalibrate my mind into thinking it’ll all be completed by the 1st of October. I don’t like this feeling that I’m being an impatient brat, but I have been very patient living in this situation as long as I have done and I’m ready for it to be over already, and when it feels like the motion in the process is under someone else’s control and I am completely powerless, it’s extremely frustrating when it feels like no one else is treating it with even a shred of the urgency with which we would like this to be completed. I don’t even know if what I’m saying makes any sense; I’m just decanting the thoughts out. It’s been a busy week and it’s taken me a while to write another blog because my energy reserves have been tested to the limit at work and when I get home, I need quiet and non-thinking time to recharge. I’m hoping that now that I’ve prodded the process along that we’ll finally get a completion date soon and I can relax a bit, knowing that the end is in sight. I’m keen for Paul’s and my life alone with each other to begin, and I’m losing patience that this hasn’t happened already. I don’t need a lecture or anything… I just needed to rant and that is what I’ve done.

Sorry that this post isn’t probably the most engaging or interesting… hopefully my subsequent posts will be a bit better.

It’s been a while…

…and a ridiculously busy and hellish month.  My life is not that interesting to divulge all here but I felt I needed to “check in” as it’s been a few weeks since I last posted.

The month started in a pretty standard way, and the first weekend saw me attend my first “proper” hen weekend [n.b. my own hen do was VERY low-key because I knew that the usual shenanigans weren’t for me and I am a bit of a control freak and did not want to relinquish responsibility to someone else].  I was borderline petrified because I went into it really only knowing the bride-to-be and her soon-to-be sister in law, and was pleasantly surprised when I found that I got along really well with most of the other attendees (there was one girl who had a serious grump on the whole two days and I gravitated away from her), especially one of the bridesmaids, the bride’s sister, and the honorary “rooster” – a good friend from Sixth Form who happens to be a guy.  He got fully into the whole thing, wearing custom t-shirts, a hot pink tutu, fishnet gloves and a hen party headband with springy boppers on them.  It ended up being a lot of fun… we started off all meeting up in Bath and having a spot of lunch, then a ridiculous uphill walk to the hostel where most of the party were staying (the rooster and I were both going home and coming back the next day), getting into our tutus and other gear, then going back into Bath town centre for a crafty session making fascinators (for those who don’t know, they’re delicate hair decorations which women in the UK wear to weddings).  After beautiful fascinators were made, we went for a drink then dinner at a Thai restaurant and finished the night off at a pub with an open mic night.  The next day we had a spa day with half hour treatments and time spent in the pool and sauna, followed by a late lunch at Prezzo before parting ways to end the weekend.  I was looking forward to the wedding even more following this weekend because I would know more people there and knew that we’d have a great time.

The wedding was yesterday, and even the officiant said it: “I’ve never seen a couple more excited about getting married.”  The bride and groom were both bouncing with excitement and absolutely radiant.  The ceremony was beautiful, the meal was delicious, and the evening entertainment was fantastic.  The groom’s dad’s band played a few cover songs to warm the crowd up, followed by Paul’s band (the groom is the drummer) playing a few songs with the groom himself on the drums, later filled in by the drummer from the first band so the groom was able to enjoy the evening entertainment with his new wife.  It was just a super fun evening from start to finish and I’m glad I’ve got a quiet Sunday to myself today – Paul’s gone off to watch the F1 with some mates.

We’re still not done with the remortgage either… though finally the solicitors seem to have gotten their act together and are speaking with each other.  Annoyingly, we’ve been sent through loads more paperwork for the Land Registry, a lot of which required our signatures to be witnessed… again.  We had loads of paperwork initially to do for the solicitors which required witnesses, and it just boggles my mind, that if all this was going to need to be done anyway, why were we not asked to do all this at the BEGINNING of the process!?!  It’s just so frustrating.  I’m so over all of this and I need it to be done sooner than later.  It looks like at this rate I’ll be lucky if we get this sorted (including the work done to MIL’s flat before she moves in) by my birthday in November!!  It’s been a very long process and I’m just exhausted and sick of it.

OH.  And I nearly forgot.  So, back on the 17th of July, I finally mustered up the courage to take my ‘manifesto’ to the GP to request a referral for an assessment for Asperger Syndrome.  The same day, I was called back by a lovely receptionist to say that my GP agreed to refer me and that she had a form for me to collect, fill in and return.  I went back the same day, filled it in, and returned it on Monday the 20th.  Amongst the paperwork given to me, it said that first contact would be made within four weeks.  Back in my post on the 8th of August (Am I or am I not?), I mentioned about the anxiety I was feeling about chasing up the referral… even though it was only three weeks into the four since I had returned my referral form.  Finally, after six full weeks (4th Sept) I emailed the NHS email address indicated on my paperwork, asking if I could have an update on my referral, only to be told that it had not been received.  My heart sank.  I tried to keep myself calm when ringing my GP surgery to find out what happened, but my voice cracked and I ended up starting to sob.  The receptionist asked who I contacted and I gave her the details, and she said that she or a colleague would ring me back before the end of the day to let me know what’s happened.  Fair play to her, it was sorted within the hour.  The surgery still had my referral form on record, and it appears that the assessment team never received the fax (because we’re *still* faxing in 2015?!), so they verified the number and sent it through again, and verified also that it was received at the other end and phoned me to inform me of this.  So, talking about “recalibrating” my mind on things like I did in my last post, I’ve now got another minimum four-week wait… of which I’m already two full weeks into.

There has been so much going on, as you can see, and my poor little brain has found it all difficult to cope with and I’m desperately trying to stay on top of everything (I’m not even going to get into all the malarkey going on at work), but when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed, I just shut down and go into “power-saving mode” (I find I use computer analogies a lot to explain how I work).

I just hope that contact is made for my referral soon, because I think the sooner I get this sorted out, the more relief I’ll feel.

October can seriously do one…

I have wanted to come back to this blog for a while, but I have gone into a sort of “self-preservation” mode while we were finishing off things with the mortgage.  I was honestly surprised that it’s been since September when I made my last post… I couldn’t believe it.  I won’t go into great detail about the nightmare that we encountered with it because I doubt many of you are that interested.  However, two weeks ago, things finally finished and fell into place with the mortgage saga and by the start of December, we should have our house to ourselves.  It’s weird saying I’m a homeowner because Paul’s mother has not yet moved out (her flat isn’t yet ready to be moved into while work is being done on it) so it doesn’t yet feel real.  I am looking forward to not only just being alone in the house with Paul but to leaving the house in the morning and knowing that when I come home in the evening, everything will be exactly where I left it.  It’s been so stressful coming home and not being able to sit and relax because I have had to tidy things up first.

In the meantime, since I’ve last posted, I’ve read two interesting books related to autism.  The first being A Pony In The Bedroom by Susan Dunne.  I came across the book when I read a brief article by the author written for The Guardian (definitely worth a read! click the link!) and I wanted to find out more about her experiences.  Her book was an interesting insight into the world of a woman with Autism and how traumatic incidents helped shape her life into a dark place which was lightened and brightened by horses; I’d highly recommend it if you’ve not yet come across this one.

I’m in the process of reading Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate: A User Guide to an Asperger Life by Cynthia Kim [Musings of an Aspie].  I’m highlighting loads of passages in this book too, just like when I read Aspergirls by Rudy Simone.

On the plus side, I did have a visit from one of my cousins from America last week for my birthday, which was amazing.  She was only able to be here for less than a week, which was nowhere near long enough, but we crammed a lot into our time together and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I felt like it reconnected me to that side of the family, as I’ve felt emotionally distant (in addition to the obvious physical distance) from them.  My aunt said that she would be looking to come to visit with her husband and my youngest cousin after she graduates high school in 2018.

Now that things are becoming more settled, I hope to be writing much more than recently… I have enjoyed writing this blog and am annoyed that I have felt so worn down with everything that updating this almost felt like a chore… which it should never have done.  I hope those of you who started following me will continue to do so, and I hope others will join me along the way. 🙂

 

Fate vs. Destiny?

or, How Much Are You In Control Of Your Own Path in Life?

I always felt like the path my life was on was very linear and pre-determined… after high school, I went to university.  After undergrad, I went to grad school.  [Those steps were accepted without question because that was just how it was meant to be.] After grad school, I moved to England.  After I moved to England though, it suddenly became unregimented, undetermined, unclear and confusing.  Somehow I managed to float through – got somewhere to live so I wasn’t staying with my Dad & Rita for longer than I had to (but even that was quite serendipitous and didn’t require a whole hell of a lot of effort on my part); landed my first job and subsequently my first permanent job (which then evolved on a yearly basis thanks to council restructuring, so it almost felt like every year was a new ‘school year’ for me again)… it wasn’t until I ended up going to that first fostering agency which threw my life into a tailspin.  In the interview, I only remember the words “recruiting foster carers” being thrown in casually, not identifying it as the core purpose of my job; if I had, I would not have been keen to take on the role, because I felt that my skills did not match that.  I persevered, though it was a nightmare for me, sitting vulnerable in shopping centres and supermarkets, hoping that someone would come and talk to me.  I could not have been more miserable.  I also felt like my manager wasn’t that happy with me and I feel she engineered my exit because, despite my difficulties, I was not getting any support as to what to do (they just assumed I’d “get on with it”, but how can you if you don’t even know where to begin??).  I counted how many days I’d actually worked there, and how they could possibly expect me to recruit a whole caseload of new foster carers in 36 DAYS absolutely baffles me.  GOOD RIDDANCE to the lot of them.  All the short term jobs which followed led to more changes to my routine… teaching assistant roles, Outreach work with teenagers, then the second fostering agency which went down the same avenue as the first eventually… after that, I had consoled myself by saying that I wasn’t actually a failure at being a social worker – I was only failing to find the right role for me and my abilities and skills.  Landing into SEN face first ended up being a blessing in disguise, though I still have little struggles here and there, but I am much more able to handle the demands of this role because it’s far more structured in relation to social care, which was chaotic and reactive rather than planned and regulated.

To a degree, that’s how Paul’s and my relationship progressed too, as I learnt from the examples set by my parents and grandparents: first you date, then you get engaged, then you get married, then you have kids.  I never felt comfortable with the idea of having kids before getting married, obviously not because of religious reasons (see first full paragraph on page 2), but because that wasn’t the right order in which to do things… what makes it “right”, I cannot define… but I feel quite rigid in that respect and can’t explain why.  Obviously, I don’t have to worry about that, because we clearly dated, got engaged and then got married, but I think I would have panicked a bit if I became pregnant “out of sequence”… but again we were both taking the appropriate steps to ensure that didn’t happen.

Catastrophising

The tendency to leap to the worst possible conclusion—the “everything will be ruined” option—is known as catastrophizing. Like perfectionism, it’s a common trait of ASD and closely tied to black and white thinking… Autistic individuals are supposed to be bad at generalizing but when it comes to catastrophizing, we’re experts… Thinking, thinking, thinking. That’s what catastrophizing is, right? A bunch of thoughts, one worse than the next, feeding off each other… I don’t understand why, but catastrophizing has a self-soothing effect, even as it makes me feel terrible… I can look at all the logical reasons that I’ve listed to justify how detrimental and unproductive catastrophizing is, but then I get to the last point and I’m right back where I started.   (Cynthia Kim – Nerdy, Shy and Socially Inappropriate: A User Guide to an Asperger Life [UK Kindle Edition])

I could have written all of the above myself… I honestly thought that something was wrong with me because I am so fucking guilty of doing this on an almost daily basis; it’s how I function (or not actually function at all?).  This was quite possibly the most difficult chapter to read so far in this book because it was like being faced with hard truths, but at the same time, I was being validated that the way that I think is actually more associated with Asperger’s than just on its own.  If anything, I feel like the more I read, the more I’m just writing my own diagnosis.  I would feel so much better if I could get this actual assessment started sooner rather than later, but I just cannot afford to pay to go privately to get this done, so I have to wait for the NHS to be able to see me.

Having lost my temper a few times recently with all the mortgage nonsense and having to put up with the daily annoyances of living with a chronically-untidy individual who takes no notice of the impact on their seemingly harmless foibles on someone with suspected AS, when I read the following excerpt from the book, I felt like Cynthia had written my own User Guide to a Meltdown.  If only I’d had this when I was a child, as a stroppy teenager, and as an adult having to deal with more than she expected to… it would have made the resultant flipouts/tantrums/meltdowns less traumatic for all involved.  I suppose knowing now is better than not knowing at all, but my god, this is in the simplest language possible and is just a perfect explanation of what it feels like and what I want from those around me trying to provide comfort and calmness.

What I don’t want to hear:

  • “It’s okay.” [It’s not.]
  • “You need to pull yourself together.” [I will, when I’m ready.]
  • “Everything will be fine.” [I know.]

What I need:

  • space
  • time
  • absence of judgment.

Please don’t ask me if I want to talk about it, because:

  • there’s nothing to talk about
  • I don’t have the resources necessary for talking.

“Will comforting me help?” [No.]
“Do I want the meltdown to be over?” [Yes, but not prematurely.]
“Would I like a hug?” [No.]
“Am I in danger?” [No. I’m conscious of the boundary between stimming and serious self-harm.]
“Do I want company?” [If you’re okay with sitting silently beside me.]
“Can you do anything to make me feel better?” [Probably not. But you can
avoid doing the things that will make it worse.]

Meltdowns are embarrassing. They are a total loss of control. They are humiliating. They make me feel like a child. They are raw, unfiltered exposure.

What I need when I’m winding down:

  • deep pressure
  • quiet
  • understanding
  • to pretend it never happened.

(Cynthia Kim – Nerdy, Shy and Socially Inappropriate: A User Guide to an Asperger Life [UK Kindle Edition])

“Just chalk it up to good experience.”

I’m tired of interviewing.  I hate it.  It’s a performance for which you can have no rehearsal because you never know what the questions are going to be.  I had an interview last week for a team that I had worked with before over 2 years ago and I felt more relaxed because I knew the people on the interview panel.  I walked out of there thinking I did a spectacular job and floated through the weekend… until Sunday night when the catastrophising feeling sunk in and I started feeling severe anxiety… “what if they don’t offer me the job?”  I didn’t sleep overtly well that night and was really tired and down on Monday morning.  Thankfully they put me out of my misery quite early (just after 10am)… and to hear the words, “I’m really sorry but we will not be offering you the job,” you just want the world to open up below your feet and swallow you whole.  What the feedback boiled down to was that I didn’t fully answer the questions with robust-enough responses.

Now, this is where I feel that my suspected Asperger’s/Autism comes into play; when I’m asked really long questions, I usually need it repeated or (ideally) written down in front of me to be able to read and process.  The one particular question where I gloriously fell flat on my face was a two-parter (explain a situation where you had to say No to a parent and how were you able to positively maintain the relationship afterwards).  I’m sure most of you reading that would start thinking of several situations, but then you have to completely recategorise whatever you retrieve from long-term memory to make it fit both conditions set out by the question.  Because I had completely forgotten the second part of the question (or possibly not even fully processed it) my example used was just completely wrong and they couldn’t score me any points on it.  “Gutted” doesn’t even come close to explaining the feeling.  I’m so annoyed with myself, because if I could have just processed the questions the way “everyone else” can, then I might not have cocked up my opportunity and would have maybe even offered the job.  I know I’m a damn good caseworker; if they observed me in my current post, they’d see that in the short time I’ve been out of social work and in SEN, I’ve adapted to the different world quite well.  However, they’re not interested in that; all that matters is the impression you make in that 30-40 minute interview, which (in my opinion) is bullshit.  You can have someone who interviews beautifully, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be any good at the job!!

Thankfully, I’m working in a good team where I am and have very supportive colleagues who were genuinely disappointed for me, but were selfishly glad that I’m not leaving.  I have been rationalising it like this: I’m secure in my job (for now, pending potential commissioning out, but that’s a whole other issue), I’m happy with my team, I’m happy with my manager, and things could be a lot worse.  I just was looking forward to not having to commute over an hour (both ways together) every day, as well as the step up professionally and the higher salary.

*sigh*

Until the next job comes up… perhaps I’ll have my diagnosis by then and can have some extra help.  I’m not expecting to be given the job just because of having a diagnosis; I’m just becoming increasingly frustrated that I feel like I’m being judged when I say I have difficulties because I don’t appear to have difficulties.  I have managed to hide my difficulties for so long, but I think it was easier as a kid, to a certain degree; being an adult is hard, though I still have times where I feel like I’m not quite an adult yet… it’s hard to articulate.

My next blog post will be about my disdain for Christmas.  Stay tuned!

Bah, humbug.

Christmas… called by some “the most wonderful time of the year”.  I personally consider it a massive inconvenience, expensive and full of unrealistic expectations.

When I was a kid, I didn’t really question things, as this is what the adults around me were doing as it was normal.  Why would I question it?  I liked the prospect of getting presents (what kid wouldn’t?!), and I loved the Christmas lights… especially the bubble lights we had on our mantle and there were a few ornaments that I particularly liked… either the look or the feel of them.  I loved sitting in the living room watching TV with the normal lights off, bathing in the glow of the tree and mantle decorations.  Seeing my cousins and playing with our new toys was always a highlight.

Now that I’m older and living away from my place of origin (n.b. I consider England “home” now, as the house I grew up in ceased to be my home when my mother stopped talking to me), and particularly because there are no small children in our immediate family (that responsibility will rest on Paul’s and my shoulders eventually), I don’t see the point in going nuts for decorating just for us.

Firstly, whilst our mortgage finally was sorted last month, his mother still has not been able to move into her flat due to a busted water heater (who would’ve thought that a flat sitting empty and unused for nearly a year would have a detrimental effect on the appliances?!), so I’m upset that it’s another Christmas where we’re not independent; she is going to be out of the country for Christmas, but it’s the principle of it all.  As such, I still don’t feel like this house is completely “our own” yet, and I’m not motivated to decorate because I’m feeling depressed.

Secondly, we have not yet accumulated any sort of Christmas decorations, so if we were to decorate, we’d have to go out and buy loads of tat, and we have more important things to put money towards other than silly decorations that would only be out for a few weeks and spend the majority of the time in a box in the loft.

Thirdly, even if we had decorations, (as briefly touched on in point 2) I don’t see the point in hauling stuff out to put up for a brief period of time just to put them away again after a few weeks, especially if we’re not having any guests over… so what is the benefit?  For ourselves?  The greater benefit would be for us to just leave our house as it is… requires a lot less effort!

OK, so that’s decorations addressed… now, presents.

Capitalism at its finest.

It’s cute when you’re a kid and you buy your dad another pocket-sized toolkit with money your mom gave you for the Secret Santa shop set up in the gymnasium of your elementary school.  When you’re in your 30s and you know your dad has what he needs and would really only benefit from gift cards for petrol… it kinda takes the excitement out… because there’s nothing worse than getting something for someone that you think they’ll really like, only to be greeted with “Present Face” (very funny video by comedy duo Garfunkel & Oates).  Or worse… when you’ve not been asked what you would like for Christmas and you’re given stuff which either you don’t need or you don’t particularly want… and you’re trying to avoid giving “Present Face” yourself… when you know for a fact that your face regularly betrays you and reveals what you’re thinking to other people.

Expectations are also set waaaaaaaay too high by advertisers.  Light fluffy snow, happy families, big dinner, loads of presents… no one’s Christmas is ever that perfect.  Never.  Stop perpetuating this falsehood.  It’s just wrong.

Going on a slight tangent… homelessness, especially at this time of year, breaks my heart.  In the book A Pony In The Bedroom (which I have referenced before in this post), Susan Dunne talks about a period of time when she was homeless, which gave me a different perspective about homelessness.  When we were in Birmingham last week, I saw several rough sleepers on the pavement, and it made me very sad; what made me feel worse was that we kept walking by, just like everyone else around us.  Later on, I was heartened by seeing a Homeless Outreach Team wearing high-viz vests going around and talking to them.  I think it’s because I feel conditioned as a woman to feel scared about approaching strangers, especially homeless folks, as the assumption is that you’ll get robbed or attacked in some other vicious way.  I might look into supporting a local homeless support service so I feel less guilty about not stopping to help.

Anyway, there was a reason for that tangent.  Perpetuating the falsehood that Christmas is some sort of magical time of year and everything is perfect couldn’t be further from the truth for the homeless and the impoverished.  People seem to become blinded by these truths and choose to ignore it.

I suppose it just all frustrates me so much.  It’s too much for one person to put right on their own.

Another thing that bothers me is the assumption that, unless otherwise identified as affiliating with another religion other than some derivation of Christianity, you “celebrate” Christmas and are often wished “Merry Christmas”.  Simple and inoffensive, one may think, but I honestly identify myself as Atheist… that is, Atheism, meaning “a lack of belief in gods”.

I have never subscribed to any religion and if life has taught me anything, religion causes more harm than good.  So I feel like I can’t actually say that I don’t believe in Christmas as I don’t believe in Christianity, because I don’t really feel like I have to justify my beliefs (or lack thereof) to anyone who will not actually ever convince me of a bearded man who lives in the sky.  So, if anything, I feel like it’s hypocritical to buy into the whole Christmas malarkey just to not be a social outcast because everyone (n.b. obviously I don’t mean everyone, but you know what I mean) else does when I don’t believe in it.

It’s not like I’m against the whole “peace, togetherness, kindness” stuff that comes with the season, but that’s just being a good person – you don’t need a religion to make you not be a dick to other people.

Plus, there’s the whole thing how Christmas was actually stolen from the Pagans’ celebration of Yule, so…

I’m not a Grinch in that I’m not saying that no one should celebrate Christmas or that those who do are hypocrites (there are hypocrites everywhere); all I’m saying is that I would feel hypocritical if I partook in the whole Christmas thing in the way that society expects me to.  That’s not to say that I’m not going to be having Christmas dinner with Paul and my dad & Rita; if anything, Christmas is a nice excuse to have a lush homecooked meal. 🙂

If Christmas is something you celebrate, then Happy Christmas to you and your family.  If you celebrate anything else, I send you good wishes as well [I’ll leave you to fill in the blank].  Or, if like me, you don’t choose to celebrate any of the above, then good for you.  Happy December.