When Father Christmas is your worst nightmare

Sarah Brisdion by Sarah Brisdion Additional Needs

Sarah Brisdion

Sarah Brisdion

I am Sarah. Mum to nine-year-old twins, Erica and Hadley. They were born at 27 weeks gestation and as a result, Hadley has Cerebral Palsy - Spastic...

Hadley has Masklophobia: an uncontrollable fear of masks, mascots, or anyone with their their face covered (making them unrecognisable).

Sadly, something that falls into this category for him, is people dressed as Santa. He is terrified. Even if it is somebody he knows.

Presumably because the fake beards and hats cover too much of their faces. This phobia has slowly progressed to a general anxiety around Christmas related things, including singing Christmas decorations and toys.

Every year we hope that things might change.

In fact a few years ago when Hadley performed in a school nativity play dressed as a robin, we thought perhaps we had made progress, as it was hugely out of character for him to want to be part of any sort of production.

And when I dressed as a Poo Emoji (to raise awareness for Changing Places), he found it hilarious. But although this made him more confident around people in costume, the fear he experiences when somebody's face is covered is still very active.

I think perhaps worse now he is older. So it is with disappointment we start preparing for Christmas in our usual fashion.

Now, I’m not a hugely festive person – although I may have purchased some outside lights that will shock my family - but even for me, it makes this time of year a real challenge and a bit depressing.

And for Hadley’s twin, it’s a real blow.

I’d give a lot to be able to be spontaneous. To just pop out in December and not have to neurotically check ahead to make sure there will be no FC related ‘surprises’.

Of course usually we just don’t go out, because everywhere is Christmas-tastic by now!

Just the thought of accidentally bumping into somebody dressed as Santa is enough to cause Hadley hideous anxiety attacks that make him vomit.

It's so distressing for him. Bit heartbreaking for us too. Especially if it's somewhere we do actually know would be 'safe'.

It would be amazing to be able to go to the pantomime, Christmas fairs and Santa’s grotto, and do all those lovely 'build-up' activities that I see everyone else doing with their loved ones. (Social media is a real git for making you feel jealous isn’t it?!).

All too soon my kids won’t believe anymore, and we’ll never have had those special memories.

It has crossed my mind to tell Hadley the ‘truth’ in the hope that might help, but I worry about ruining things for his sister.

What do you do? How do you choose between your kids? Though ironically, Hads isn’t as concerned about the thought of the 'real' Santa popping down the chimney and leaving him a gift, because it’s his 'real' face and clothes and not a fake beard.

On Christmas Eve he is actually a lot less stressed than throughout the rest of December. So we've ploughed on in hope things would change - rightly or wrongly.

I try to take my daughter out separately to do as much as we can, because I hate the thought of her missing out and being sad at Christmas.

We've just come back from a sleepover with friends where we bought tickets to a winter wonderland, which was beautiful and full of all sorts of things that would have had Hadley heading for the hills. But it just never feels quite complete, being without the boys.

Not sharing these moments as a family. I think she feels it too.

So if I seem a little ‘bah humbug’ and not particularly full of festive cheer…. You’ll know why. Roll on 2020.


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