It’s a special time of year and so, to celebrate it, I wanted to do something special on I’m NOT Disordered for Christmas. I have decided to bring back the Christmassy Q&A I put together last year with the questions being from a YouTube video and have posed them to many different people from all of the country and doing all sorts of jobs, in all sorts of roles, living all kinds of lives!
So let’s kick off Day Eleven of 12 Days of Christmas with I'm NOT Disordered with the answers of Esther Beadle, Freelance Journalist:

1. When do you start getting excited for Christmas Day?
I normally spend the last weeks of November getting absolutely infuriated by all the Christmas stuff being in the shops so early. But once Advent starts, that’s a really special time for me. That watchful waiting over Advent is so important, especially when it can be so easy to get wrapped up (pardon the pun!) in all the chaos. I get excited for Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day. The anticipation and magic of it is what Christmas is all about for me. Part of that is catching up with old friends, gathering presents for loved ones, and always as many carol services as I can fit in! Carols by Candlelight at Keble College, Oxford, is simply magical if anyone reading this is local to there. Similarly with Durham.
2. Do you still have an advent calendar? If yes, which do you have and if no, when did you stop having them?

Every year since I was born I get an Oxfam paper Advent calendar off my great aunt. Full of wee drawing of donkeys and angels and wise men. One year she didn’t send one and I rang on December 1 really upset about it! You’re never too old for an Advent calendar. This year I’m also doing a reverse Advent calendar, so I’m gathering items for my local food bank each day to hand over at the end of the month.
3. What are favourite Christmas movies?

Miracle on 34th Street is just beautiful – both the original and the one with Mara Wilson. I adored it as a kid and it still makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. Elf is hilarious, as is Jingle All The Way, and you know it’s Christmas in our house when Love Actually comes on.

4. Do you have any funny Christmas stories/memories?

The funnies I can think of gets answered a bit further down! Quite a few Christmases for me have sort-of been marked by quite sad things. So I try not to dwell too much on “memories”. I know it can be a dangerous thing for me to do because of my BPD. I’ve had issues around memory recall, and the like, so I try not to cast my mind back too much to things past – good and bad. It just gets me either upset because I panic I’ll never experience something so nice, or upset that something was horrible, or that I can’t remember it. So instead I make an effort to focus on the moment that I’m in and try not to “time travel”. I do however remember one Christmas morning and I’d been given Disney’s Cinderella on video. My mum put it on straightaway and for some BIZARRE reason, the opening credits terrified the life out of me. I have no idea why, but I was pure pure freaked out! So I didn’t watch Cinderella for quite a while after that...

5. What's your typical Christmas Day?

Up early, mainly because of my stepdad and his utter delight at Christmas, and then we all open our presents in the living room. We get them in pillow cases, always in the same spot for each of us. Kids first, then the cat (really) and then the parents. There’ll be a lot of leisurely getting ready before my stepbrothers and their families drop by. Then as the rest of the family head to see my stepgran, I’ll pop in on my relatives in the East End. We reconvene at the local pub up the street from my dad’s before home for dinner and (hopefully) a nice quiet evening. There’s normally disagreement on what we watch on telly, as I’m the only one who’ll tune into the Doctor Who special, so there’ll usually be an hour where I head into the dining room to watch it there away from everyone else!
6. What do you eat for you Christmas dinner? And what is your favourite part of it?

EVERYTHING. The big Christmas dinners are legendary in our house. My mam actually serves them on trays rather than plates! There’s always a competition between my brothers to see who can eat the most. There’s a lot of pride at stake on that front.
7. Do you have any Christmas traditions?

Christmas Eve is the most traditional bit for us. We always get a Chinese for about 6pm. I’ll always try to get to church on Christmas Eve too, as the timings on Christmas Day make it quite tricky. It’s a lovely chance to catch up with so many people I grew up with but never get to see that often in the year. Every year I say I’ll get into our village local after church, but the Chinese takeaway always makes it near impossible.

The nativity set needs to be done properly too (no baby Jesus until Christmas Day and no wise men until Epiphany). I’m very strict about that!
8. What are your favourite Christmas songs?

My stepdad loves Christmas, so he has the tunes going all through December. Little Drummer Boy, I Believe in Father Christmas by Greg Lake… Carols I like are Once In Royal David’s City and Hark the Herald. I used to be in the school choir and every year we sang the same carols in the same order.
9. What has been your favourite Christmas present?

You know, I’m really not sure. Which is quite weird. One of my best best friends is about to give birth (she’s a couple of days overdue) so I reckon her baby daughter (and my sort-of niece!) will be the best Christmas present I’ll ever get.
10. Do you prefer a real or fake Christmas tree?

Real ideally. We always got real ones from the local high street when I was a kid. The cats loved them. But a fake one is easier, cheaper and less needles to pick up. I moved into my flat very late last year, so this year had to go do a big decoration shop. Managed to land a £10 6-footer from Poundland. BARGAIN.
11. This year, do you think you'd be on the naughty or nice list?

Oooh, I hope nice! I’ve made a real effort this year to try and be more outward-facing. Last year I was still quite poorly, and looking back I realise that I became quite insular and selfish. But that’s okay - I needed to do that to keep myself alive, so I don’t see that as a bad thing. But that experience has made me eager to make the most of life and the world when I can. That also means the incredible kindness I received when I was really ill, well, I want that to go back out into the world. Kindness is possibly the greatest currency in the world. The more you pay out, the more that is generated further afield.
12. Do you prefer giving or receiving presents?

Getting presents always makes me feel a bit awkward! I always over-compensate on the “thank yous” because I always fear people don’t think I’m grateful. Giving can also ramp up the anxiety too, as you get worried that you’ve overstepped the mark, or got it wrong, or that the person doesn’t really like it. I know this kind of paranoia can be unreasonable when you step back from a situation, so I always try to stay mindful. Overall, I prefer giving. There’s something lovely about putting that thought and effort into the people you love. And I’ve got far too much tat as it is anyhow!
13. Where would be your dream place to spend Christmas?

I’d love to one year rent some massive big house in the country and have all my friends and family together under one roof. I had to spend a lot of my childhood and early adult life shooting between different people all over the place. The thought of everyone under one roof, enjoying spending time together, that to me would be just so perfect.
14. Are you good at wrapping presents?

If I’m not in a last-minute rush or skint, I try to make a proper effort with my wrapping skills. Sometimes keeping something simple is best, so this year it’s brown paper and red ribbon. Elegant, classy, makes it tricky to work out who’s is who’s!
15. What time do you usually get up on Christmas morning? Is this different from when you were little?

I get up as soon as my stepdad gets up – mainly because when I’m back at my mum’s I tend to be in the dining room! So that’s super early. Normally my siblings are desperate for a lie-in because they’ve been out the night before.
16. How old were you when you found out that Santa wasn't real? And how did you find out?

I remember one year when I was very little, maybe about four, waking up at like 3am and going downstairs to find there were no presents! I was totally distraught and confused. I remember my parents hurrying me to bed and then me hearing them putting them out. That same year I got a vintage reproduction Newcastle United top. But didn’t tell my parents I had actually found it in their bedroom a week before! That made me clock… which isn’t bad for a four-year-old.
17. What is your dream Christmas present?

My family are quite spread out, as are my friends, so the best Christmas present I can imagine is getting them all round the table, in one place, to have a happy Christmas Day without any upset. That to me would be perfect. Not sure it’ll ever happen because we are so spread out, but everyone in one place and just enjoying the warmth of being together. That’d be perfect.

18. Have you asked for anything this year? If yes, what?

Nothing specific at all. There’s nothing that I need (apart from financial security being a freelancer!). My older brother asked me what I wanted off him because he was out Christmas shopping, so said maybe something for my flat, or ideally a donation to Crisis or a women’s refuge. Call me Scrooge, but I don’t see the point in getting stuff when you’ve got all you need. A small token to say to someone that they mean something to you, or stuff for the kids, absolutely. And I love giving presents. But I’m really not bothered about stuff for myself. I’d rather someone spent the money on something they wanted for themselves and they treated themselves!

19. If you could spend Christmas with anyone - living or dead, celebrity or someone you know - who would it be?

Same answer as above. Pretty much all my friends and family at once. That would be amazing and, who knows, maybe one day?
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