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 Reginald-Nixon Arenburg (Born January 14, 1976) is a Canadian mental health blogger, speaker, and published author. Retired from the fire service and long-term care fields, he has written and self-published an autobiographical account of his life-long battle with anxiety, depression and more recently, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Titled, The Road To Mental Wellness, he wrote it for what he calls “therapeutic release.” He published it in hopes it would help others going through similar mental health conditions. The sales of The Road To Mental Wellness have been steady selling over 300 copies since its release on October 10, 2021(World Mental Health Day). Arenburg has also been involved in a collaborative publication Called Lemonade Stand Volume III, a book featuring 20 authors who bravely tell their stories of PTSD. All authors where from the military and or emergency services. Published by Joshua Rivedal and Kathleen Myers for the i’Mpossible project, a mental health advocacy organization. Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health podcasts including The Depression Files, A New Dawn, and The Above Ground Podcast Arenburg has also consulted with the Government of Nova Scotia and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Honorable Brian Comer and Candidates for the New Democratic Party of Canada, on improving the mental health care system in Canada. Additionally, Jonathan was recognized in The Nova Scotia Legislature by the Honorable, Chris Palmer, Kings-North MLA, for his Book, The Road To Mental Wellness, his fight to make the mental health care system better. In addition, Chis acknowledged the support he gives to others.

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