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A Wonderful Life

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… Isn’t that what we’re are all looking for, especially at this time of year? We all want to experience that special sense of happiness, peace and goodwill to all. Each one of us striving to make this Christmas the perfect one.

But, as It’s a Wonderful Life proves, the pressures of life don’t always go hand-in-hand with a perfect Christmas.

For many, Christmas is a bitter-sweet time, and as the year draws to an end, I’m drawn back into thoughts of my own childhood Christmas …

It wasn’t always easy for a child growing up in the 1970s in a poor area, especially in a family where alcohol and domestic violence played such a big part.

As I share in my book, Searching for Brighter Days, I didn’t have the easiest of upbringings. I recall the countless Christmas days that ended up being ruined because of alcohol. Every one of them followed the same pattern: my dad would leave early in the morning to visit an old pal. And it seemed that most of my dad’s other pals would congregate there too.

Of course, this all sounds lovely, but it wasn’t a quick social call for my dad; it was just the first port of call in a day fuelled by alcohol. While he was there, he would be offered an array of shorts – my dad’s choice was usually rum. And that’s how the merriment of the day began for him. After they had all had a few, it was off to the boozer for a top up or several. That was their annual tradition.

Meanwhile back at home, Mam would be preparing the lunch, while I would be setting a lovely table, and keeping my nana entertained. Everything would be going so well, until my dad arrived home. He would stagger through the door, almost knocking the Christmas tree off the TV, (yes, we really did put our little tree up there back in the day)!

And then the arguments would begin. Every single year, we argued over the Queen’s speech – Nana wanted to listen, and Dad most certainly did not! Other families had their lovely Christmas traditions – the things they loved about the festive season. Those endless Christmas arguments were ours – and they were an inevitable way to kill our festive spirit. That’s what I remember most about my childhood Christmases.

It wasn’t until Dad mellowed and I got older that Christmas started to change for the better. It was no longer all about Dad going out and having too many, it started to become what I had always wanted – a time for family. An opportunity for us all to sit around the Christmas table and enjoy each other’s company.

Christmas is such a special time of year, a time for coming together as a family, a time of caring and sharing. It was many years before I could enjoy a kind, loving, and truly merry Christmas, and I know that it’s a difficult time of year for so many people, and for so many reasons.

So if you are facing an uncertain Christmas, I hope you can find it within yourself to be strong, and to believe that things can get better. I know they can.

I truly hope that we can all make this Christmas one to remember – for all of the right reasons. I know it’s easy to over-indulge at Christmas – and I’ve seen the negative effects that alcohol can have on families. But now I can even enjoy the odd tipple or two. So eat, drink and be merry, but most of all, be loving and caring to all.

Karen Manton


If you want to see more from Karen, why not pick up her book, Searching for Brighter Days? Here’s what you can expect…

brighter-daysGrowing up in a deprived area of North East England in the 1970’s, alcoholism and violence played a huge role in Karen’s everyday family life. But things were only to become more difficult when, at the age of seventeen, she began her battle with anxiety and depression, an illness nobody recognised.

A number of harrowing, recurrent and often bizarre episodes – including a phantom pregnancy, a nightclub assault, and an unhealthy obsession with a celebrity – eventually lead to Karen being sectioned under the mental health act and taken into hospital. It then took years and many more dramatic relapses before doctors would finally give her the correct diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

This is a no-holds-barred, inspirational true story of how, despite losses and difficulties along the way, Karen Manton learned to manage her illness, stay out of hospital, and find those ‘brighter days’.

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