Shifting our perspective for Christmas

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Shifting our perspective for Christmas – What comes to mind when you think about Christmas day? Waking up to the joy of kids? Heading to the grandparents for the 10th Christmas in a row? Well, what if you can’t have that?

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Tis the season to be jolly once again. At least, I think. If I’ve learned anything in the last two or three Christmases, it’s that not every occasion can be jolly. But thankfully, I’ve also learned that it’s okat. Why? Well, partly because our expectations live in our heads, and reality is a force we can’t control.

Take last year, for instance: the pandemic had seen me quarantined with the people I was boarding with at the time. Nonetheless, we made the best of the day. My landlords were good friends so that certainly made it easier. And the Christmas before that, I was again stuck in lockdown – at my parents’ home. We had a great morning, sitting around the kitchen table, opening gifts, sipping coffee, and laughing.

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In between sneaking a stocking-stuffer chocolate in my mouth and tearing away the wrap from a gift, I thought “I haven’t been at my parents’ for Christmas in years.” At least, not overnight. Waking up to hear Dad booming around the kitchen trying to get his first coffee of the day down reminded me of my youth.

It was in that moment that I felt a rare sense of safety, gratitude, and love. And now, when I look back on it, it was an amazing day! We were together for another holiday and that was what mattered.

What wasn’t so pleasant was the sad reality that, for the last two seasons, I hadn’t spent any time with my kids. And for one reason or another, it looks similar this year too.

I miss them waking up with me, bursting with excitement and curiosity; the tsunami-sized mess of wrapping paper and boxes; dinners and everything that goes with it.

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This year, I am on my own, living in a cozy apartment on the outskirts of the town I grew up in. My children chose to stay with their mom after Covid so it’s pretty lonely around here. My son and I did manage to put up a Christmas tree, a six-foot plastic evergreen that will probably not see a present under it. But that’s okay.

I will venture over to my parents once again and enjoy the morning with them and see the kids later. I should mention that my children are older, so they do their own things at this point. Again, that’s okay – heartbreaking to an extent, but it’s okay.

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We must bring to the fore what we do have, not what we can’t. For me, I will get the opportunity to spend it with two of the most important people ever – my mom and dad. Therefore, I will embrace every second.

Great memories are powerful when we stop and think about them and give them the joy they deserve.

When you have PTSD, depression, or any other mental illness, it’s good to frame it in a positive light before the special day. I do this by taking stock of what I have, the people I will be with, and the fact that I am still here to enjoy the time with loved ones. There was a day, not too long ago where my time on earth was uncertain.

So, by framing it early, I prep myself for the sadness that creeps in. Especially when I can’t have that “traditional Christmas” I long for.

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See, while that’s an amazing tradition, I have to ask myself, “What is the core purpose of this custom?” Being with family, right? So why ruminate about something I can’t have – and focus on family?

And come hell or high water, that’s what I’m going to do!

Merry Christmas and happiest of Holidays to you all!

Shifting our perspective for Christmas – copyright 2022

Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Arenburg is a mental health blogger, S speaker, writer, and published author; He is also the host of the mental wellness podcast, #thewellnesstalksHe has also appeared in the i'Mpossible's Lemonade Stand III. He has also been a contributing writer for Mental health talk, a column in his local paper. In addition, he has also written for the mental health advocacy organization; Sick Not Weak.Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health-related podcasts Including: A New Dawn, The Depression Files, Books and Authors, and Men Are Nuts. Since being put off work because of PTSD, Jonathan has dedicated his time to his mental wellness journey while helping others along the way.Educated as an addictions' counsellor, he has dedicated most of his professional life of eighteen years, working with those who have intellectual disabilities, behavioural challenges, and mental illness.He has also spent fifteen years in the volunteer fire service helping his community.His new book (2021), “The Road To Mental Wellness,” goes into detail about his life-long battle with depression, anxiety and more recently, PTSD. In it, he hopes to provide insight on how mental illness cultivates over a lifetime and, if not recognized and treated, how it impacts the entirety of one's life; right from childhood into the adult years. Jonathan lives with his two children in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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