Christmas. It's complex.

issue/55

hello friend

I’m Pete Carr. I'm a photographer and this isn't a photography newsletter. This is a form of "Rubber Duck Debugging". Writing helps me process thoughts and work through problems. So I write to my computer about issues relating to mental health and being autistic. I then share it with you fine folk. There's nice photos too. 🖖

Sorry this is a bit late. Unusually busy day. Nice to be busy.


hello computer

Christmas. What is Christmas? Webster's dictionary defines it as;

a Christian feast on December 25 or among some Eastern Orthodox Christians on January 7 that commemorates the birth of Christ and is usually observed as a legal holiday

I was raised Catholic but I found religion to be illogical and confusing. If god is everywhere why do I have to go to church on Sundays? "You just do!" Mum would shout. raises eyebrow Fascinating. Not for me though. We did Christmas though. It was never a Christian only holiday. We did the whole midnight mass or early morning Christmas mass. As a kid I did the Christingle advent orange service to mark the start of advent. A tradition that only appeared in the 1960s according to the BBC

I find tradition complicated. Tradition is more like "This is the way." If you question it you get Brussel sprouts. Christmas and the idea of tradition is held in such high regards that it can't be questioned without you being branded a Christmas hating Scrooge. When in fact I'm simply curious as to why things are and why they can't be improved upon. Why have a bad roast dinner? Dry meat that no-one questions is inedible because you cover it in brown goo to put flavour back in? Surely it should have had flavour to start with? Crackers with bad jokes in? No-one knows. They simply are. Snow on Christmas Day is traditional despite it never have occurred in my lifetime. A rewatch of Die Hard is tradition because everyone loves seeing Americans kill Germans while discussing Twinkies. All of this pales in comparison to Japan where they go to KFC for their Christmas dinner. KFC. It's traditional. Basically Christmas makes 0 sense if you are someone like me who questions the logic of things in an attempt to better understand them and potentially improve on them.

So Christmas is an illogical mess of whatever people have unquestioningly repeated year on end. Let us leave that hot mess of knotted lights in a pile by the tinsel for the cat to eat and have a think about how Christmas can be troubling for someone like my self on the spectrum. 

I feel like Christmas is a giant torch highlighting all of my issues for the world to see. Now I don't have an issue talking about depression, anxiety or being autistic. I do have an issue with being made to feel less or that I'm a failure in some way. Ever year this is how I feel during the Christmas period which is basically September to January. 

All my life I've been the "picky eater" joke. That was until I was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and I suddenly had an explanation for my food issues. I was unburdened. Yet there is always a Christmas food discussion that leaves me exhausted. "Dry? No gravy?" ... "Nope. I don't like wet food." Why can't I just say "I have sensory issues" and move on? I become a fair ground attraction. "Hey check out the robot and his thoughts on food!" 

The streets are busier and it is exhausting trying to move around a city. The world feels louder. I'm having to do more mental processing to get through a crowd. More people means more noise. More voices. More distractions. The darker days mean more flickering LED lights. The sun is lower in the sky for what seems like the entire day. Both day time and night time have increased light sensitivity issues. Trying to do the simplest of things is an assault on the senses and can lead to sensory overload. I could use my noise cancelling headphones to reduce the overload but it seems unwise to cancel noises when walking a city. I wear a peaked cap and sunglasses to compensate for the sun. Nighttime I endure. 

All the parties and get togethers leave me feeling like I've failed to build friendships and have people to spend time with over the Christmas period. That is comparative thinking and does me no good. I shouldn't compare myself to others. I can't see the full picture of their lives so I shouldn't compare myself to a small fraction of it. They may seem to have lots of friends and be having a great time but I cannot say that for certain. They could be wishing they lived my quieter life for all I know. 

The gift process leaves me with analysis paralysis, over thinking, catastrophising and depressed that I can't do right for the people I care for. I should be glad that it is a small number of people but of course my brain compares my life to others with big lists of friends to buy gifts for and suggests that I'm a failure. Thanks brain. You are off the Christmas card list.

There's the pressure to "Have a good one!" The anxiety of thinking up a quick response to "Got anything planned?" It should be ok to answer honestly but everything feels like a test or that I'm being judged. It's taken me 42 years to get to a point of understanding. I should not be made to feel lesser for 1/4 of the year. 

Advent Calendars. Yummy chocolate every morning. Yay! ... No! It's a ticking clock reminding me that I'm failing while rewarding me with chocolate. 

This time of year is like society cranking normal up to 11 and making it harder for differently abled people and those with mental health issues to exist in. 

Arg! Christmas! Best time of the year. 

Triggers. Catastrophising. Negative thinking. I'm sorry Christmas. It's not your fault. There are things I need to be better at handling in order to get through the winter months ok. At least mental health wise. There's not much I can do about my sensory issues. At least this yeah avoidance is helping. Thanks pandemic. Upside. Yeah!

What can I say that can help? Try not to feel any shame for being you. If someone can't have patience for you then don't take it personally. Try and avoid being triggered. Remember to talk to people. Not your family. That's traditional. 

Take care all. Remember to talk. Mind / CALM / Samaritans .


weekly prints

For one week only you can get prints of the photos in this weeks newsletter on my print store. So be quick if you see something you like. 

Unfortunately most of these photos are taking from areas that don’t allow commercial photography. Others will have copyright architecture in. So I’m leaving last weeks ship sunsets up.

The photos this week are from our 2016 trip to New York over Christmas. Despite everything I said above we had a great time in a fascinating city. 


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I have a selection of Icelandic photographic prints for sale with my friends at Dorothy.

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beam out


Latest coronavirus advice from the National Autistic Society (UK)

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“Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous.” Christopher Pike, Captain USS Discovery.

Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter. I’ll be back. Feel free to subscribe or send to a friend.

petes out

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