The holidays haven’t been easy for me in a long time. Since I was fourteen, Christmas day has been accompanied by a sense of emptiness, this nagging feeling that I should be happy, but I just can’t be. I know that I have a wonderful family that provides me with anything I could want. I know that I am fortunate to have presents under the tree and stockings that are full and coffee cake in the oven.
But Christmas comes during times when my depression is at its worst and I feel like I can never make myself feel the “Christmas spirit” that I’m supposed to. I don’t want to seem ungrateful; it’s just that the part of my brain that is sick can’t simply be turned off with a few notes of “All I Want for Christmas is You,” or some new clothes.
When I was little, my dad used to read my sister and me How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Christmas Eve. Y’all remember the premise of the book: the Grinch hates Christmas and all of the noise and all of the things that the kids get as presents, so he decides to sabotage the holiday and take all of their gifts from Santa. But then, when he thought all of their Christmas cheer would be gone, he heard them singing.
It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
Christmas for me will never come with presents. Honestly, I’d prefer it if I didn’t have to tell people what I want whatsoever. Because what I want for Christmas will never be bought.
Almost two years ago, Christmas came in the form of a therapist, and the courage to tell my parents that something about me just felt wrong. It came after panic attacks and self harm and feelings that there was no place in the world for me so why keep trying. And while Christmas didn’t end the problems, it led to the solution. It led to me feeling more like myself than ever before.
This year, my Christmas gift was an 84 on my POLI 150 final exam. It barely gave me a B- in the class, which meant my first semester without a C at Carolina, and a 3.112 cumulative GPA – just what I needed to be admitted to the School of Media and Journalism.
My Christmas gift was coming back to my childhood home after a hard semester, and seeing that our tree was shining and full of our family ornaments, the stocking I’d had for 19 years was hanging over our fireplace, and Dad was playing “Last Christmas” (the Wham! version, aka the best version) throughout the house as soon as I walked in the door.
My Christmas gift right now is time – time to relax, time to create, time to focus on getting my head in a good place again.
Maybe I’m not covered in holly and singing carols at the top of my lungs. I may not be the human embodiment of Christmas spirit. But I am happy and warm. And I know that all I could have wanted, this year or any other year, came without ribbons, or Amazon Prime for that matter. No one could put a price tag on all that I have received.