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.
Lucky you! Being invited to spend Christmas with your family.
Christmas only comes round once a year.
My advice is to just try to survive it. Continue to Keep your autism a secret. Try to find some way of making a connection with someone who you can get along with. It may be a child or a pet (cat, dog) and spend most of your time with them.
Don't end up like me. Uninvited and alone at Christmas watching TV.
Thanks for the reply. I'm sorry to hear you're feeling lonely at Christmas. You're right, I'm lucky to have a family, it's easy to forget that sometimes.
I'm not a big fan of Christmas either as I find socialising draining. I'm lucky as we go to my boyfriends and although their celebrations go on for days (x-mas eve to after boxing day), they're quite happy for me to leave when I like or I can go upstairs and sit in his old room for some quiet time. I now arrive Xmas day morning and leave after the boxing day lunch. The boyfriend stays as long as he likes so we go in separate cars. We've also started a new tradition were we go trampolining on boxing day morning and this gives us a few hours away from the crowds.
If you don't want to go and would rather spend it with your boyfriend I'd do that. If you do feel that you have to have some family time, could you pop over on Xmas eve or boxing day for a few hours?
As an adult, if you want to tell your extended family that you're autistic it is your right. Your mother has the right to give her opinion but it is up to you whether you take that advice or follow your heart.
Good evening. If I may, my advice would be similar to that of Robert123, yet I would say that you are lucky to have a PARTNER who is as understanding as you say. I am also invited to "Family" Dinners, yet I simply decline - and whatever reasons they gossip about it for themselves, it is all grist for the mill to myself, concerning their own attitudes in general (i.e. - it must be taken in one's stride yet not totally ignored).Nowadays I just hide, or go out to wait until it is all over (the "socialising & dinner party", I mean)... but unlike myself, you say that you have a partner to join you... Insofar as participating yet also not participating (- as you state??? -) you may ask your partner to intervene whenever something upsets or stresses you...? Whatever you do, DO at least send or give CARDS; that way you would not appear so much as if totally ignoring/hating anyone concerned. Then, either stay (with your partner)... or go out and ignore "Christmas". Not everyone in any city "celebrates" it anyway, or celebrates it in the same way. Do whatever you want to do (after giving cards).It will take a few times (years), yet whomever you know should get used to *your* own ways... But I think it a very sad state of affairs to have to be Autistic while also acting as if being so is a shameful or a secret thing. That is not right at all... you should not have to feel ashamed or to hide your diagnosis.
...Imagine if you were instead confined to a wheelchair, and every Christmas, they ignored that and invited you to a Tap-dancing contest?
Actually I can emphasise with your Christmas problems. At times, like today I feel normal and think I can cope with socialising. An hour ago I went late night shopping at local supermarket and I had no problems, no fears or anxiousness. Then I went past a local wine bar, full of people sitting & standing, music playing, people talking, eating, Christmas decorations in windows. And I felt awful. I had to get away from it and it's noisy atmosphere as quickly as possible.
Not just being invited to tap-dancing but also having to pretend being able to do it... That's sad indeed, and you must not even appear like feeling offended by it.
Thanks for your message. I like that tap dancing metaphor, it does seem as impossible as that sometimes. Unfortunately if I go to the family gathering, my partner can't go with me. I'll try sending out cards to everyone, thanks!
I think I'll try this. They do live quite a long way away but I'll put up with the traveling to see people on my own terms. Thank you!
What a a perfect way to sum up autism!
i also find Christmas and family a challenge....ooooh and life
We 'hold' Christmas at our house, so mother-in-law comes on Christmas day (as did my mother and friend when they were alive) and Father-in-law on Christmas Eve. The children will tend to 'entertain' them and my wife stays in the room with them.I simply cook. I like cooking. We have a narrow kitchen which makes it difficult to have more than one person working at the same time. I can listen to the radio if I wish (3pm, Christmas Eve, Carols from Kings, whilst kneeding bread for rolls for dinner). I can have a G&T or can of Pepsi Max on the side. And I do need to concentrate on it - all vegetarian apart from one vegan, but one person doesn't like dried fruit, mushrooms, peas or creamy, another doesn't like onions or garlic... I have to come up with several variants.Everyone gets fed on time and seem to like the food, and I have an excuse for not socialising most of the time.In the past we have gone to Center Parcs in the Netherlands for Christmas, just with daughters. It started the year after our first daughter was born then died over the festive perios and we wanted to get away from British families and the Dutch celebrations are different. Also we could just lock ourselves away and watch foreign TV without people calling round.When we went with the children, although there were a few UK people at the parks, it just felt much calmer than the UK (apart from New Years Eve, when, from dusk, it sounds as if WW1 has re-started.