Persevering through the Holiday Cheer.

Its December 20th and Christmas is near, A time to be happy, a time to cheer, a time to visit friends and family have egg-nog and share presents. I am trying so hard to be in the holiday cheer, I’ve listened to Holiday music, played the Grinch Stole Christmas for my students before we all left for the Holiday Break. But in my heart I know its a break I need from life that means more to me than Christmas. I don’t need gifts, though two thoughtful students gave me them. One was handmade-my favorite. I just need to unwind and do nothing over the break – but i know that won’t happen. I have family obligations that i must smile and be present for. I have been on my new medication (Prozac) for about two weeks now and it is helping. I don’t feel sad as much and I look forward to Christmas morning.

I am still anxiety ridden about presents not here, making gravy, dinner, raviolis and turkey for 26 people who will be flooding in my home on Christmas day, Though its a tradition, my anxiety keeps me from sleeping, and enjoying it as much as I could. Is the turkey to dry? Are he raviolis cooked enough. no enough? Are they cold? How much did I spend? Did I spend too much? Did my husband spend too much? The list goes on and on in my brain at 3am every day from now until after Christmas.

My mental illness takes a toll out of me, with all the worrying and waiting, then December 26th comes along and my brain can finally relax a little bit. If you can remember that people with bipolar disorder see things very different from a normal brains point of view. The party noise is too loud, too many people talking at one time, too many conversations to follow, too much dirt to clean, one noisy child, one ungrateful relative and it can come crashing all down and we retreat to our bedrooms.

My husband has so much on his shoulders with work being not what he thought he does not need another mouth to listen or hand to hold when he is just barely hanging on himself. But we have each other and I am grateful for that. He is a strong man and he knows I am there rooting for him every step of the way.

My daughter is perfect at least in my eyes, shes struggling with trying to figure herself out with guys. Is it easier to be alone right now, but then I am alone, My friends are fun but then there are days I wish I had none. All the teenage angst she must go through to understand herself and grow. I can only be there when she allows me to be and it scares me dearly that I may loose her if she feels like not talking about her problems with someone. She might just sit in her room and never come out like most of her middle school years. Shes growing so fast and I am so afraid to miss something.

I’ve come to understand that Christmas is not about the gifts, the people, the cheer. It is about being with the ones that make me feel safe and loved. That list is very small-I can count them on my hands. I’ve learned through these last years i need to make my Christmas be as simple as possible.

So here are some things to keep in your little bipolar mind.

  1. Keep things simple. Keep your schedule simple. Keep your commitments simple. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” If your throwing a holiday party be sure to ask people to take dishes or liquor and help pitch in. Try not to do the whole thins yourself.
  2. Balance alone-time and time with others. Don’t isolate. Isolating will only make things worse. Take short breaks, go to bathroom, the bedroom, walk outside to get away from the noise but only stay away for 15 minutes or so.
  3. Talk about the issues with someone who is safe. Talk about why it’s a difficult Christmas, but don’t ruminate about it. Identify the pain and work through it. We are strong as individuals, this disorder makes us great actors. We can disguise any emotion, but have someone to talk to, have a safe word when you’ve had too much.
  4. Do self-nurture, but don’t self-medicate or self-harm. Take time to de-stress. Becoming over-stressed can easily trigger a dangerous shift in mood. Take a long hot shower or bath, have a glass of wine with a friend – but watch those triggers, learn your triggers and know when to walk away.
  5. Lower your expectations. In fact, try to have no expectations. Family is family – get over it. Too often we have too high of expectations, and the disappointment that follows when those expectations are not met will only add to one’s pain. Which can spiral into depression. Walk away when needed.

I’ve come to understand that a meaningful and “merry” Christmas is not about the activities, gifts, nor events.  What matters is what is going on inside of me.  It’s not about what happens outside, but what is going on inside of me. I try hard to pay attention and let my husband know when I’ve had enough. Be kind to yourself and Merry Christmas.

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