I really dislike the Christmas season.  In October I begin to dread it.  I feel the tension in my neck and the sick feeling in my stomach beginning shortly after Halloween.  I try to think of ways to avoid it without alienating my family (like planning a trip out of town from November to January).  It’s not the holiday itself that bothers me.  I love the decorations and general spirit of Christmas.  It’s not the money it takes to buy gifts for everyone I want to buy gifts for (although I use to think so).  It’ the gatherings of large groups of people that stress me.  I am socially awkward to the point it may be considered social anxiety.  This social phobia became more evident as I stopped drinking in social settings.  I had no idea how much I relied on alcohol to help me through social situations until I all but stopped drinking and no longer took medication for anxiety.  The more people in a room the more anxious I become.  If it’s a group of people who I know (no strangers or known enemies) it’s a little easier but still difficult.  About 4-6 people groups are what I am most comfortable with unless it’s just my immediate family (which numbers 11 including me although even this is stressful).  Any more than that and I am miserable and counting the minutes until I can leave without offending people I care about.  I enjoy spending time with my family on a small scale–a very small scale.  Once the number of people at a gathering increases and the combination of different types of people increases (for example the different sides of a family in one gathering) the more distressed I become.  When I am stressed I often say or do things that increase the awkwardness of the situation (like laughing hysterically during the blessing).  It’s down hill from there.  DW 1/2/17.

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