The holiday season can be very difficult. Buying gifts, cooking and baking, cleaning, card sending, trying to find a darn parking spot at the mall while trying to sing jingle bells through a clenched jaw to keep yourself from exposing your agitation to your child, gathering with loved ones… like ohhh say a certain mother in-law that constantly reminds you of how her children were perfect and never ever threw tantrums, and always ate their vegetables, and never hit anyone…whatever…it can all be extremely stressful, especially when you suffer from a mental illness. I know because I went through it and it sucked.
I had imagined our first holiday season together as a family would be joyous and all that other sappy “Hallmark” stuff but it wasn’t. It was painful. Happy was shoved down my throat on a daily basis and I couldn’t stand it because I wasn’t happy. Everywhere I looked, happy commercials, happy store greeters, happy family, happy friends, happy door wreaths, happy plastic Santa’s that my neighbor adorns his front lawn with, happy, happy, happy. Through the entire holidays, I had exhausted myself pretending that I was happy because it was the right normal thing to do. After all, Christmas is supposed to be the most hap-hap-happiest season of all and heaven forbid that I felt and exuded nothing but pure joy.
Shortly into the season, PPD got the better of me and I shut down. I skirted through the holidays on autopilot and I don’t remember a whole lot of it. What I do remember is not of what fond holiday memories are made of , but I survived.
This year, I am arming myself with resources and support so that I don’t fall into (or fall as deep into) the funk I experienced last year. While searching the web I came across The Mental Health Ministries . They have created a brochure called “Mental Illness: Coping with the Holidays.” It offers tips for persons with a mental illness, their families and friends, and guidelines for faith communities during the holiday season. It is super helpful.
While I am much better now than I was last year at the same time, I still feel those painful memories lurking. I’m trying really hard to not think about the panic attacks, the anger, the sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, the feelings of guilt for not being jolly, those damn burnt cookies, and not being able to find a friggen parking spot, but I know that if I need to cry about it, then it is ok.
** Remember that you are not alone during this holiday season. If you feel like harming yourself or know of someone who may harm themself, please seek help immediately. YOU ARE NOT ALONE