Dear Holiday Anxiety,
I've grown accustomed to your sister, Everyday Anxiety. She's pretty much the worst.
But you, Holiday Anxiety, you are a life-ruiner, a magic-stealer, a joy-thief and I hate you.
Unlike the everyday variety, even fewer people understand you since you're much like her, but on some kind of crazy unpredictable bender.
From the week before Thanksgiving, when you make your grand entrance with worry, mashed potatoes, and sweat, until you finally go home for the year sometime around January 6 leaving behind nothing but pine needles and the shrapnels of what's left of my self-esteem, you are my constant unwanted companion. Seriously. I hate you.
I wish people who have never met you could understood that you take no prisoners. You don't know the meaning of words like 'grace' or 'mercy.'
I wish they knew how it felt in the pit of my stomach — the actual physical ache that accompanies all of the times when I am sure I'm screwing everything up; that somehow the experiences surrounding the entire magic of Christmas will all come down in a crashing, fiery ball of disaster because of me.
"I'm sure my rolls will burn and no one wants to eat a holiday meal without dinner rolls. We might as well cancel the entire gathering. People won't want to look at me anyway. I've gained weight and my messy mom bun looks less like a cute mom and more like a homeless person."
"I forgot to move the elf! Great. I might as well mess up the magic of Christmas because my kids are going to be devastated and it's all my fault. They'll know! They'll find out about Santa because I forgot about the dang elf and they'll never believe whatever I try and make up."
"How will we make it to both sides of the family for Christmas!? It's so expensive travel, but we miss everyone and want to see them. But how will my husband miss work? I'll tell everyone not to get me anything. I don't deserve a gift anyway."
"Will people show up on time? How early should I have things ready!? Oh my house is a complete disaster. Everyone will wonder what I even spend my time doing while I'm at home with the kids. I should've asked my sister to host. They have a nicer home and more space. People would have a better time there."
I wish people could hear a recording of what plays on a loop through my brain because of you. It is relentless and ferocious and eviscerates anything resembling joy or confidence in its wake.
Holiday Anxiety is like a shinier, fancier, more horrible version of the regular kind: less sleep, more worry, constant fear, never-ending questioning, followed by a funk I can't even explain with actual human words.
If you love someone who battles this holiday monster, take a breath and love them harder. They will likely resist. I know this brand of crazy eats at you more aggressively than most, but try and remember how much they actually need you — no matter what their words say.
Hear me when I say that we need a hug. We need a meal. We need a coffee or a glass of wine. We need a girls' night. We need an excuse to leave the house. We need an opportunity to remember who we REALLY are, under the gruesome mask of holiday anxiety.
Whatever you do, please don't question us, refuse to acknowledge this as a real condition, or assume we are putting on some kind of a show for attention. I can promise that people who are sincerely struggling would give their left arm to never feel like this again; to actually be able to enjoy the holidays. That concept is foreign and fleeting for us.
Friends, if you struggle with anxiety, reach out. One in five, my friends — one in FIVE struggles with mental health concerns. You are not alone.