Christmas has never been my favourite time of the year.
I’ve always found the forced socialisation and change to routine difficult (at least now I know why!). And the expectations always seem to be ridiculously high. I will never understand why people think that spending large periods of time cooped up indoors with other people that they rarely see at other times of the year and with whom they have nothing in common except “they’re family” will be a happy and peaceful time.
There’s one part of the family that I always find particularly overwhelming. They all talk at once, and even if I start talking to one person I am constantly interrupted by someone else. And that’s before we get to the segregation on gender lines (I’d much rather be talking to the men about how to use Excel than the women about babies…). I don’t cope well, and often end up “helping” in the kitchen just to get away.
I haven’t ‘come out’ as autistic to most of my family – my parents know, but that’s it. I don’t know how they’d react, and Christmas is probably not the time to test that. I suspect it wouldn’t actually help much, anyway, and I don’t really see them much at other times. It still feels as though I’m hiding something, though. But perhaps that’s the price to pay for keeping the peace.
This year, it’s going to be particularly difficult. My father has major surgery scheduled for 21 December, so will be in hospital over Christmas (we are having an early Christmas celebration next weekend, so he won’t miss out entirely). So most of the time it will just be me and my mother. Which will be… challenging.
I’m trying to come up with coping strategies, but I haven’t found that many. The real issue is that I’m not really allowed to retreat – my mother cannot understand that anyone might actually want or need time by themselves. And most of the strategies that I use to calm myself just lead to more pressure; I’m told to ‘grow up’; to ‘sit still’. I don’t use the phone, so can’t call a friend (and everyone’s with their own families anyway). I end up retreating to the bathroom much of the time, but that leads to its own line of questioning!
There are some things I like about Christmas. The excuse to have fairy lights and candles everywhere. The range of food, meaning that there’s normally at least something that works for my sensory requirements. The music.
On balance, though, I’d still prefer it not to happen.
At least it’s only once a year…