Worst nightmare for a social-phobe and an Asper-girl? Sitting in a room full of people (even if they are family) and having them all staring at you while you open presents, expecting you to react a certain way, when reactions are, by your very nature, almost impossible to fake. It's extraordinarily terrifying and you are forced to endure it every single year of your life and it never gets easier, only worse...this is my 41st year of torture. A very wise woman once wrote "Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable". That woman was Jane Austen and I'm more than a little convinced that she was an Aspger-girl too.
So how did I solve the problem of the dreaded Christmas present opening as a child? The only way I knew how...I got in my parents closet before Xmas and opened the presents to see what they were, re-wrapped them, and practiced my reactions. But that still didn't solve the problem of being stared at. Sometimes I'd get away with hiding behind a couch or tucking myself in a corner to open gifts so no one could see me. Another trick I used to use was to open packages very slowly because people get bored waiting for you to open and focus their attention elsewhere (but going slower means everyone else finishes before you and then they are all left staring). Trust me, I've tried every trick...none made me feel better. To make matters worse, I come from a divorced family, so I had to deal with this situation numerous times...at home, at my Dad's, at my Step-dad's parents, and at my Aunt's.
Now that I'm an adult and I no longer have a relationship with my father, my Step-dad's parents have both passed, and my Aunt has merged Christmas with home, home is the only Xmas demon left, but the demon has grown. I have a label for my condition and it should make things better, but I think its made them worse. I know how I'm going to react and how situations affect me, so it builds the dread even higher no matter how hard I try to control it. And my corner-hiding present opening is even worse now, but at least I can add the blessing of alcohol to the mix to make the experience a bit more tolerable! LOL!
Then there is the dreaded what to buy people. This is where the OCD kicks in. I completely obsess over it. Gifts had to be perfect and people had to love them and that's a ton of pressure. After a while, I wised up and did gift cards and those years were great the pressure was off (at least for me...don't know how the recipients felt and frankly didn't care), but then my bank quit having them and with my social issues, it's not like I can go anywhere and buy them, so last year I had to go back to presents and it was 10x worse and I even did it online instead of in public! This year will be yet another story. Work is terrible and there is no way I'll have time to buy presents or find another safe haven for gift cards, plus I have the added bonus of the migraine problem adding to the stress. Yea me.
Plus, you can't go anywhere in this town in December. Traffic is bumper to bumper everywhere. The grocery store is full, the gas station is full, the bank is full, even the line at Taco Bell is out into the street at 3 am!! What about Christmas makes people want to leave their homes? Here we go with the social issues again. As someone who uses the exact same gas pump at the same gas station every single time, it upsets the balance of life if I have to use a different one. Worst problem for an Asperger? Throw a monkey wrench in our daily routine...guaranteed adult temper tantrum. And what is the entire month of December but a daily series of flying monkey wrenches!!
The ultimate holiday annoyance? How people seem to "transform" into "nice" people. Is it because as children we are taught to be "nice" instead of "naughty" so Santa will come, then when we become adults this concept is hardwired into our DNA and we can't help it? Is it a sugar high from all the sweets? Is it the excitement from the prospect of future gifts? What could possibly cause an entire species to alter their mood? Even the meanest of people wear Santa hats and send Christmas cards! They constantly hum annoying Christmas songs (yes, I hate Christmas music too...like you didn't know that was coming - but come on, the same 20 songs, recorded 1000 times, played over and over for a solid month, how can anyone like it?) and cook really gross food (yep, I don't like Christmas-type food either - for someone so chubby, you'd never guess I'm such a picky eater!).
The perfect Christmas for me? To be able to stay home alone and spend the day the way I want to (probably sleeping or stitching). I did actually manage it one year and I have to say, it was the best Christmas I ever had. Presents were brought to me and I was able to open them in the privacy of my own home...alone...without an audience. Sheer bliss! Will it ever happen again? I do try every year, but my Mother is a big fan of the guilt card. Because if there is one thing I have been taught in my life, it's that what I want or need doesn't matter. No matter how uncomfortable I am, it's my job to make sure that everyone around me is happy (be that a real or imagined observation, it's how I feel so it's real for me). I'm sure my family would say that me wanting to stay home alone is me being selfish...they say potato...
My way of dealing is turning on the Scrooge. It's not because I hate Christmas (I actually do love getting presents and watching the parades on the tele and I love ornaments - even though I haven't put up a tree in 13 years), it's because of the stress of all of the above points. Other people ruin Christmas for me. So, pretty involuntarily I might add, It's almost like I think that if I treat people bad enough, they will finally say "stay home, we don't want you this year" and then I can enjoy Christmas on my own, but they never do. So I guess the world turns "nice" and I turn "naughty"...ooohhh snap! Inner realization!!! I love those!
Then, I always take the week after Christmas off, just to get my head screwed back on straight and try to suppress the Scrooge for another year, almost like a holiday rehab. Plus, emerging from the safety of my private haven back into the big terrible world after the holidays are over and people have gone back to normal, means all the monkey wrenches have a chance to be put back in their respective tool boxes. But for the past couple of years even my vacation has been taken away from me for various reasons. I've scheduled it again this year, but my hopes aren't high. That may be the reason why my inner Scrooge has become so big, he hasn't been suppressed for years!
So as we enter another December, I promise to try to control my inner Scrooge, at least on my blog anyway, but if he does escape from time to time, at least now you'll know why and hopefully won't hold it against me too much!