24 December 2017

Why I'm Grateful for the Ghost of Christmas Past

I've been pretty vocal recently about my disenchantment with Christmas consumerism (yes Dear Beauty Calendar, I'm talking about you again). When the news isn't bombarding us with horrifying statistics on homelessness, they are announcing that the High Street is set to launch a pre-boxing sale to end all sales. Otherwise known as, "we stole an American holiday to maximise November profits, but we didn't think about the aftermath and December is screwed Scrooged... HERE'S MORE DISCOUNTS!" *On stuff that was overpriced to begin with*

I get it. There's competition like never before, but sometimes it feels like we live in a tale of two societies. One minute we're watching the news (or Blue Planet II) and thinking about how immoral  the world is; the next we're writing a christmas wishlist ft. designer trainers and screaming "stress!" to the Xmas dress. Now, obviously this is an extreme comparison  and (I hope) the majority of readers don't fall into the latter; nevertheless, like Cindy Lou I find myself asking  Where are you Christmas?
2016 truly put Christmas into perspective for me. 

This time last year, my mum had just picked me up from hospital and I would be sleeping in my own bed for the first time in 6 weeks. I may have been "coming home for Christmas" as the song goes (48 hours, to be exact), but for me it was simply coming home. I was coming back to my family and - thanks to the most intense month of my life - was in a place where I could truly savour the little things. 

My mum had 'festivised' my room with polar bear bedding and a wreath on my door and I returned to the ward with pine cone bunting - alongside a 'tree' made from Costa christmas cups, I was able to capture some seasonal spirit in the face of Scrooge-like anorexia. Mum also left the tree decoration until I could get day leave to come home (the weekend before Christmas) and She saved this moment, because that's what it was - a moment, memories, which she wanted us to share. On Christmas and Boxing Day, I could join the family dog walk oand not feel exhausted from lack of nutrition, as I had the previous year. 

Then this year, I've had my first December in 3 years where I haven't been in hospital/very unwell and about the be admitted. Rather frustratingly, I've been under the weather with a very determined bug for around five weeks now and, I will be honest, I've thrown a few pity parties because of this. I'm only human and it can feel like my body just wants to work against me. Yet despite this, I've been able to put it in perspective. I'm home. This year, I've been able to join in the things that before I took for granted. Even things as silly as browsing festive dog products...
 Speaking of dogs, one thing I have really treasured this year is opening Millie's advent calendar each day. Shoutout to Lily's Kitchen for helping to create some truly golden moments; I'm currently charging my camera to I can capture day 24! Millie now camps out beside her calendar from 8pm each day, waiting for the humans to finish their dinner and open the door.

The other moment that really hit me this year was my first Christmas cup - courtesy of Pret this year, as opposed to Costa, because I wanted to mark the difference. I  do still love my Costa, but last year it was the hospital Costa and this year I had the CHOICE to go to Pret. Plus how adorable is their AvocaDOE? All this being said, 2018 will see less disposable cups, as part of my ecoffee resolution!
The true spirit of christmas - moments over material things - resonates with me more now than ever before. I appreciated simply being able to go home; I was in the fortunate position where I could get leave to go home, whereas other patients only got day leave or no leave at all. For this reason, I decided to send a christmas puppy planter, complete with festive flowers and a santa hat (Not on the Highstreet never let me down!) I know a couple of the girls in their currently, but I wanted them all to know that someone is thinking of them. Someone understands.

Going into IP treatment is hard enough as it is, but it can seem even harder at this "merry and bright" time of year. Yet it provides another valuable perspective for all of us: life isn't perfect. There are people who may be working, like the nurses and HCAs who tried their best to bring some Christmas spirit to those who couldn't go home. There are others who have recently had a bereavement; I can't help but think of June in Gogglebox, who my heart goes out to. Then there are those, as mentioned earlier, who are ill themselves and cannot spend the day in their own home. Other people don't even have a home to go to; homelessness has been prevalent in the news recently and I placed it at the heart of my #24DaysofKindmas project (follow-up post to come later this week).
Finally, there are those who find this time of year truly difficult. On a personal level, I know this Christmas is far better than previous ones; nevertheless, it's still a challenge and part of my recovery is practicing self-compassion. Although I mentioned bereavement and homelessness above, I did not do so to discount other situations. After all, suffering isn't a scale by which we supply empathy. Whatever setting you find yourself in this Christmas, how you see it matters more than anything. Even the most seemingly 'fortunate' person may be struggling. All the support in the world can't stick a plaster on your mind, so allow yourself to be however you want to be. Show yourself the compassion to press pause when you need to. If there is something you think could offer comfort, even if it's as simple as a favourite song - my own nostalgia playlist is ready-and-set to go at lunch - then give yourself that.

Give yourself the gift of forgiveness for not being "perfect", because nothing is and no one day is. So if you see an #instaready snapshot or a picture-perfect caption and feel the force of comparison, hold onto the little moments. Whether this be dog cuddles, a heartfelt card, a warm meal in Euston train station or a wicker dog sent with love, find one ringing bell and safeguard its sound.  We can so easily forget the power of small things; the meaning in moments, over material things. So savour YOUR christmas. Don't let a dress, present choice or instagram post get you down or invalidate your experience. 

Finally, I wanted to leave with a message to those currently in IP treatment - by some miracle one of you may see it, in which case it will be worth it). Right now, it may feel like the pieces will never fall into place. The future can seem like a puzzle that just won't slot together and today is about simply 'getting through'. Don't lose hope. To end with the help of my favourite Elf, treatment is a little bit like Dobby's sock (stay with me!) At first, no one would think much of Harry's smelly, grey sock (shoutout to the faulty hospital showers and cold custard right there). Nevertheless, to Dobby it was freedom. While I know that 'free' may be the opposite of how you feel right now, treatment can be the stepping stone to a future Christmas back home; a Christmas without anorexia, or at least a day where YOUR voice is a little stronger. 

As I type this now, I know I'm not yet at the "wear 50 bobble hats" stage of recovery; some days, it can take all my strength to put on my (odd) socks and today will come with its challenges. However, I'm a lot further than I was and my admission last year was part of this. So I will be thankful for that; it is a gift greater than any golden necklace and I don't think even the Niffler could argue with that. So to all of my fellow Elves fighting right now, trust in a future where this illness can be well and truly ScroogED for. Obliviate those Christmas comparisons/pressures and remember what truly matters: YOU.


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