The first time I had a panic attack on Christmas Day I was 8. My dad noticed I was getting pale and breathing heavy while my cousins yelled about who got to pass presents to whom. He took me to a gas station until I could stop crying.

The first time I was called the Grinch I was 11. I was in the cafeteria of my middle school and I rolled my eyes when people started screaming the lyrics to “Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and one of my classmates chastised me for not embodying the spirit of Christmas. My favorite part of the holiday season is when it’s over. To everyone else, I’m just the girl with the heart that is three sizes too small for “The Happiest Time of the Year.”

What if I’m not a monster, though? The truth is, the twinkling lights give me a headache and hearing any music that many times on repeat drives me restless, especially when it is all recycling the same words over and over.

No one is really as happy as they pretend to be around Christmas. Honestly, everyone is stressed out about the ridiculous amount of money they feel obligated to spend on relatives they only see once or twice a year and co-workers that they don’t honestly like all that much. The retail industry has abused the season to coerce people into a spending frenzy, and has made it more about receiving than giving, all in the name of the holiday spirit.

I can tell you the ending of every new Hallmark Christmas Movie the second the first scene is over because they all come out of the same tattered box. News flash: life isn’t a Hallmark movie, and it doesn’t stop for a month of pure bliss at the holidays. Meanwhile, how creepy is it that we tell little kids that on Christmas Eve, a fat old man in a red suit is going to fly around the world on a sleigh being pulled by nine reindeer (led by one with a light-up nose), land on our roof and hop down the chimney, and deposit presents under the tree if they have been good and coal in their over-sized socks if they’ve been bad. And then, after all of that, we teach them not to lie. Because lying, of course, is bad.

Then there’s the decorating. At my house, we have this fascination with a classy, sophisticated, leave nothing un-Christmas-ed look that begins with the 12-foot tree that goes in our picture window. Believe it or not, I love that tree, because it is beautiful when it’s all decorated, and every time I look at it, I have to laugh a little.

In 10th grade, my dad nearly sent it out the window trying to hoist it up in our living room. Later that same year, there was a sale on Snowflake Lights and he bought about 50 boxes “just in case” the next season some of ours burnt out. Well, we still have a plethora of those devil’s lights, but now my dad doesn’t have to hang them, I do. In his memory.

Even though the next person to play Jingle Bells is going to get their bells jingled, and I will never willingly watch “The 12 Days of Christmas” extravaganza on ABC, I do connect all the lights on our tree, and curse under my breath so my mom can’t hear when I slam my head into the ceiling putting up the Christmas Village in the kitchen.

I do all of that not because I am bursting with the holiday spirit, but because people I care about are, and when Daddy was dying that last Christmas Season, he liked looking at the lights, and the ornaments, and the creepy Santa, and listening to Christmas music, and it made me feel good to give him something that made him feel good. Even if he never got that one last Christmas.

So when I’m not the annoying chick in front of you wearing reindeer antlers for the entire week of finals, don’t flip out because I have no soul. My soul just has other things that makes it happy, like turtles, diagraming sentences and dogs wearing glasses. I’m not trying to take the Christmas cheer away from you. Honestly, I’m leaving more for you, because it would be totally lost on me.