Anyone with a mental illness knows how hard the holidays can be. There are so many factors that go into this, so this might be a bit of a long blog post. Between money, family problems, lost friendships, triggering memories at home, and more, there’s a lot to prepare for, which can be extremely anxiety provoking.
First, I want to talk about money. We have so many expenses as people living with mental illness. Between therapy and medication and gym memberships and all of these things that help us take care of ourselves, we can sometimes spread ourselves too thin to the point where we don’t have much left for giving gifts to other people. Don’t worry too much about that. Make something. Heartfelt, thoughtful gifts matter. Write a beautiful card to someone who means a lot to you. It’ll mean so much more than something random.
There’s also an emotional element to spreading ourselves too thin, because there is a lot expected of us at family Christmas or holiday dinners. We’re expected to have our lives completely figured out. Some of us, like me, have much of our family who aren’t even aware of my illness, so I have to pretend like my life is completely different than it actually is. I tell them the truth about the other parts of my life, like my boyfriend and my friends, my job, my hobbies. But it can be exhausting to have to appear as perfect when there is so much more going on inside.
It’s even more difficult when they do know about your illness, because then you get all of these unsolicited and sometimes rude or ignorant questions. Just know this. You are allowed to change the subject if you don’t want to talk about it. You are also allowed to educated people and have conversations about mental health if you want to. And lastly, you are allowed to let someone know when what they are saying is offensive or uninformed. Don’t take any shit from anyone, even if they are a part of your family. You’re stronger than that. You deserve better.
If you have an amazing loving family and lots of friends and a significant other, that’s amazing! But, not everyone is blessed with these things that we sometimes take for granted. So check up on people, smile at someone who looks like they’ve had a hard day. Get a small gift for someone who you know is having a hard time this holiday season. These small acts of kindness are so important, especially around this time of year.
If you’re the one that’s having a hard time this season, there are a few things you can do.
- Turn on your favorite cheesy lifetime movie and grab a bowl of popcorn. Hang out with your dog or cat and just relax.
- Use this as an opportunity for self care. Paint your nails and break out your most luxurious shower scrub from your latest trip to target. (We all know we buy way too many random things at Target LOL)
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen or put together care packages for people living at homeless shelters. Doing good for others will make you feel great as well. If you don’t have money for gifts, donating your time is just as good!
- Spend the holidays with a friend if your family isn’t accepting of your illness. People are kinder than you think, and I’m sure that someone would be happy to have you in their home during the holidays.
- Take a trip into the nearest city and do some window shopping. Get a hot chocolate in Bryant Park (If you’re in NYC). They’re amazing!
- Reach out to your Instagram friends. Chances are, they’re feeling just like you are. Everyone needs a friend, especially during this time. Be that friend.
Lastly and most importantly, going home for the holidays can be triggering, no matter what your situation is. You’ll run into old acquaintances or friends who you’ve lost touch with. You may feel the weight of some bad memories. Just remember that you’ve changed. Everyone has changed. We’re all different people than we used to be. So if someone wronged you way back in high school, still smile when you see them in the supermarket. It’s okay to forgive. It’s also okay not to forgive though depending on the situation. Feel it out and I know you’ll do the right thing. If it’s you that’s changed, show off your new friendly self! Apologize to people you’ve hurt. Say hi to you old best friend’s mom when you run into her.
Basically, don’t overthink things, and just be nice. The truth is, even if you love the holidays, there are parts of this season that are difficult for all of us, and we could all use a little extra love. So give it, get it, and just do your best.
Happy holidays from your friend,