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.