Christmas is one of the most incredible times of year. It’s a time for us to allow our inner child to come out and play. Where we can eat what we like because calories don’t count during the festive period – trust me, it’s scientifically true. It’s the part of the year where families all return home, ready to come together and share a lot of love. But what if your family history is fractured? What is Christmas like when you’re adopted?
In short, it’s strange.
It goes back to that whole two sided coin that I spoke about in Let Me Explain Myself. On the one hand you are surrounded by such love and incredible people who are happy to have you there and are inviting you to be a part of their festivities. You share gifts and food and time in each others company and it can make your heart feel quite full. Christmas has always been my favourite time of year – I am usually the one in the over the top Christmas jumper decorating the tree and crying to the Polar Express (which happens at least twice a year during the musical number When Christmas Comes To Town).
But then on the other hand, in the back of your mind is that infamous Adoptee Self-Doubt. I convince myself that I’m not welcome, that I am intruding into somebody else’s Christmas, like I have just walked into a random house off the street and made myself at home. When it comes to buying presents, my anxiety mixed with the not-feeling-good-enough from adoption mean that I overcompensate, often buying more than I needed and spending beyond my means just to make sure my gift is considered enough for somebody. There is also the way in which we as adoptees, feel the need to buy our love from people.
And then comes the obvious; the wondering what it might have been like. As adoptees, the majority of us are overwhelmingly happy to have a family who want us, and who love us unconditionally. We almost feel like we don’t deserve it. However, no amount of love and joy will ever stop us from wondering what life could have been like. It happens often throughout the year, but more so at Christmas – we allow our minds to play out scenarios in our heads. What would our birth parents done for us at Christmas? What gifts would we buy then? Would there be the usual world war breakout during a game of Monopoly? As children of broken backgrounds, we are gifted with incredibly creative minds that can work both for us and against us. Many of us end up in artistic and creative careers, and in my eyes, that is an incredible example of it working for us. But for a lot of us it can mean that our minds work overtime in the land of fantasy, trying to oust the pain our adoption caused by creating scenarios and scenes in our heads.
So what can we do to help ourselves at Christmas? Well, simply but – we should be kind to ourselves. We are creatures of routine, us humans, and instead of trying to fight the internal battle, we can almost accept it. That doesn’t mean we should embrace it and walk around parading our pain, that would only make us feel worst and incredibly guilty. But instead, we can try accepting the fact that we are experiencing Christmas a little differently to some other people. We can set ourselves a budget and tell ourselves that it is the thought that counts. Over a year in therapy has taught me many valuable lessons, but one is that no matter how hard I fight, I can never change the past. It’s that fight that causes us the most turmoil. Instead, I can accept that I was adopted, I can embrace that I am surrounded by love and I can go and eat all of the extra pigs in blankets with a family who cared enough to spend the last 25 Christmas Day’s with me in their company.
If you are the parent or relative of an adoptee, then please be gentle with us. We get overwhelmed rather easily so if we retreat to our safe space (in my case, my bedroom) for an hour on the big day, be patient. If we squirm as we open the presents, it’s not because we don’t like them or we are ungrateful, we have just spent a long time telling ourselves we don’t deserve to be treated so nicely.
It’s important that everybody feel loved during this time of year. It can be incredibly stressful, it can be a very pressurised environment so there is absolutely nothing wrong with us reducing that pressure by being prepared and by giving ourselves a chance. After all, we deserve to be happy.
If you didn’t know, I have been nominated for a UK Blog Award 2019 in the mental health category. It would mean the absolute world to me if you could pop me a vote (it only takes 10 seconds). Thank you for your continued support on this wonderful journey x.
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