Ghosts of Christmases Past

This is the longest I’ve gone without an inpatient admission in two years. It’s weird. Last year I only avoided being on one of the mental health wards for Christmas by about three days – discharged on the Monday, Christmas day was the Thursday. As it was, I spent Christmas and New Year in a crisis house, and at the time I didn’t really care. I was completely shut down. This year, I am less shut off, and Christmas hurts. Getting better hurts. It’s a cliché about substance misuse recovery that the best and worst thing about it is that it brings back your emotions – nobody told me it was the same with self-harm.

This is the fourth Christmas since my Dad died, and it’s the only one where I’ve been mentally well enough to really miss him. I barely even remember the first few Christmases without him; I try to picture the day, think about what I would have been doing, and I just draw a blank. I remember thoughts and a few events but they slide over each other and will not assemble into a timeline. I remember that things happened but I don’t remember them happening; I know that I cooked stuffed peppers, that first year, because I still have the recipe, but I don’t remember doing it. I don’t like it. I hate that somewhere, without my conscious permission, some part of my brain decides which memories are worth keeping and which are not – which are too painful, too shameful, or just too long ago. What else am I forgetting without realising it? Which of the things I did with Dad will become, like the stuffed peppers, things I know happened but can no longer recall – facts about him rather than memories of him? Which ones will disappear completely?

It was awful, being as unwell as I was last year. I never want it to happen again. But in some ways, it was simpler than this.

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