Christmas - Dealing with family expectations

Hi everyone!

It's the time of year when my family start asking me what my plans for Christmas are. I'm an adult who was diagnosed a few years ago. My family tend to get together with lots of people in one house on Christmas day. I always find this difficult to deal with. The last time I attended this celebration, I couldn't eat and I spend the day crying and hiding sat on the floor in a corner of the kitchen. 

So what's the problem?

Only a few very close members of my family know that I have autism. On the day I received my diagnosis, I was told by my mother not to tell members of my family. Since then, the reaction of those who do know seems to be to pretend I am not autistic and I feel a lot of pressure to 'act normal'. I think people feel very awkward about it and don't know how to respond but it makes me feel like its considered something shameful. I don't want to be ashamed of who I am. I can't stand people touching me and I've caused problems at family gatherings before by having a strong negative reaction to hugs, kisses and the like. I hate not being able to explain why I behave the way I do and I feel very isolated from my family.

So back to Christmas.

I don't want to make plans for Christmas, I just want to spend the day at home with my partner (who is the most amazingly supportive person in the world) but I don't know how to tell my family that I can't handle our big family get-together. I would also like to get more involved in family gatherings around the festive season but there's so much pressure to hide my autism.

Can anyone offer any advice on how to deal with the stress of Christmas or how to deal with a family who don't know about autism?

Thanks for reading my long post, I'd love to hear your experiences.

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  • I hear you. I am already working out my escape plan for Christmas day with the in-laws. Noise, bright lights, too many conversations that I can't follow, people expecting me to have big reactions when opening pressies (they insist on watching for this reason but it never happens as I struggle to pretend to be excited). Even the annual lengthy discussion about dessert and why I don't want any.

    Have done allsorts to find a way to enjoy it. Hosted it myself, gone on holiday (oh but you'll miss christmas, we'll do another one when you get back....great!!!). Gone in separate cars so I could arrive later (was expected to stay later so no better), insisted on walking the dogs post dinner (ooh great idea, we'll all come), etc.

    It's the main thing about not having a diagnosis for me. I don't feel I can tell people. My partner knows and agreed straight away with the self diagnosis. But other family members won't agree without a doctor's diagnosis. If I had the diagnosis I would definitely tell family, tell them what that means, explain why chrismas day is difficult and then make suggestions of how we could enjoy it together. If that meant I was only there for part of it but was relatively happy I'd like to think that family are ok with that. An advantage for them is that I would probably volunteer to do all the washing up on condition that no one stood with me "to keep me company".

    The thing is I don't know your family. So only you can decide whether and what to tell them. I've read the other posts and I agree that you'd have to think why does your mother want you not to say something. If I were guessing it would be because it makes everyone else's lives easier. But at the expense of your happiness. It's November and you're already thinking about this.

    You said some family members know but pretend you're not autistic. Perhaps you're like me and have become so good at pretending they don't realise how difficult it is. Could you talk to them individually to give them some ideas of how it is for you between now and Christmas. Remember their perception of life may differ from yours so they won't be able to guess without you telling them.

    Good luck

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