‘Tis the season… to be bloody miserable?

So, it’s fair to say this time last year I was Not In A Good Place. Well, I was physically, since I had finally – after 6 months of sofa surfing and enforced homelessness – moved into a lovely flat, but emotionally I felt like I had been hit by a truck that had then reversed over me for good measure. I was facing Christmas alone, my first since my mother died, and a year of One Bad Thing After Another had left me at possibly my lowest ebb. I was not, it’s fair to say, feeling particularly festive.

And, you know what: Christmas sucked. It utterly, utterly, utterly sucked. I was the loneliest and lowest I have ever been, I had no company other than a cat (and not even MY own cat, at that – a borrowed cat!); the weather was so shitty that I couldn’t even escape for a soothing walk by the sea, and to top it all that horrendous weather meant that all my post-Christmas plans, put in place to ensure I didn’t sink completely into a quagmire of misery, had to be cancelled due to transport issues. Quagmire of misery here I come! And there I indeed went. My overriding memory of the holidays is watching It’s A Wonderful Life and being so prostrate with grief that I literally couldn’t move off the sofa for hours, which was fine since I had cried so much I wasn’t suitable to be seen by strangers anyway.

So why am I sharing this? I’m a little embarrassed by it, after all. I like to think of myself as resilient, but this was a painful example that sometimes it’s just that little too hard to bounce back. The reason? Because I know that Christmas can be incredibly tough for many people, and I wanted to share my story for no other reason than this year I feel so much better. Not a bit better, not mildly better, but ‘looking back at last year I don’t feel like the same person’ better. And I think – hope – that that is maybe a useful message to hear.

What amazing events have happened this year to turn me around, you ask? Honestly: um, none. This year has been fine – from now on, any year I’m not homeless, I’m classing as at least ‘fine’ – but it hasn’t been perfect. I think, once you reach your forties and mortality starts to really kick in, no year is perfect: life just takes a toll. My mother’s much loved brother died this year, a huge blow for my family. I remained resolutely dateless and speeding ever more rapidly into old spinsterhood. I had an economically very tough summer – the result of my work being so disrupted by the events of the previous year – and have spent much of the year feeling like I was stuck under a black cloud I couldn’t quite shake, no matter what I did.

So what did happen? Just time, I think. That’s all. Grief gets less raw, sadness fades, and you start to be able to think of people you loved in terms of the joy they brought to you, not the sorrow their departure caused. Sure, I’m likely to have a bit of a blub at some stage, when I think of my family, facing their first Christmas without a man who played such a huge part in their lives, or about my friend’s children, facing their second Christmas without their mum, and too young to have to deal with such a loss, and when I think about my mum, who I miss far more than I ever believed, in my rebellious youth, than I possibly could. But I feel better, and stronger, than I have in a year, and, thanks to the unerring support of those around me, I realise that being alone for one day doesn’t really matter, if the rest of the time, you can count on people who love you.

And if you feel like you don’t have much of that in your life right now? Trust me, a lot can change in a year. Hold on in there, cry your heart out, eat a whole chocolate orange yourself in one sitting and drink as much Baileys as you like. 2014 is nearly over – congratulations, you survived it. Pat yourself on the back and get ready: you may well be amazed at what the New Year will bring.

Lyra, the borrowed cat.

Lyra, the borrowed cat.

(PS: If you are really struggling or think you might be depressed: seek help! Go to your GP or call the Samaritans. – don’t feel embarrassed about asking for support)

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