Reefing improperly can often be worse than not reefing.. you need to sort out how to get a properly reefed main set up.
Small boats such as the Merit can often be sailed upwind in a breeze by what we used to call 'survival pinching', with sails sheeted tight and simply feathering the boat into the wind to keep control of the heel angle. This takes a bit of finesse, as you don't want to stall the boat, but with practice is can work quite well. A responsive boat like yours should respond well to this technique.
That said, 25 knots true wind will be a handful on a lightweight boat, esp if your boathandling is not yet top notch.
You might try sailing jib only, or main only, depending on point of sail too.
1984 Fast/Nicholson 345 "FastForward"
".. there is much you could do at sea with common sense.. and very little you could do without it.."
Capt G E Ericson (from "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Monsarrat)