Holiday Season & Mental Illness

Holiday season & Mental Illness

The holiday season can be stressful for anyone. Sometimes so much so that it feels as if your last patience is hanging on a thread for its’ dear life…  I can only imagine what it might be like with kids, but I wouldn’t know. For me it is just “Oh God make it stop, I can’t tolerate my family for longer than x amount of time…” I love them, but it is true and I think that I am not unique in feeling like that. Still, all I can do in this post is talk about the holiday season & mental illness from my own experience.

Mainly about the Christmas and new year celebrations as these are the ones that are heavily celebrated in Estonia. And also because Christmas makes me want to pull out my hair at times. Throw a tantrum like a little kid…  I just seem to have begun hating the end of the year. Why would you put up lights in November?! How can people be happy if all it does is drains their mind and their wallets? Somehow I seem to forget that not everyone thinks like me… Not everyone becomes an unstable mess with stress. So much so that they avoid events that cause it like fire.

By the way, my sister has named me the Grinch. On one glorious Christmas Eve, I will dead ass wear the costume and stomp around the room in it, seems fitting.

Why do I share such personal things?

I write these to set my thoughts straight and perhaps someone else feels a little better about themselves and realizes that it is okay to take care of themselves. Because we feel the things everyone else feels… the stress and life in general. It is the way we deal with it that is not always good and can get self-destructive. It is a reminder to take care of yourself and to remember to take time for yourself. I don’t think that this post only applies to people with mental illness. We are not that unique and different.

Back Story, why do I speak about holiday season & mental illness?

I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety and I am heavily introverted. Towards the end of the year, I always seem to have my condition acting up a little. Stress is the most dangerous thing for my disorder. It causes me to stay up late, frustrated with myself that I can not sleep. And sleep deprivation can send it down the spiral of mania and depression. I have also been blessed with the ability to feel elements of both spectrums at once. It makes me a stranger to myself, an irritated mess. A ticking bomb of suppressed anger issues.

Perhaps it also comes from the fact that my birthday is on the 25th of December. Oh god, I  have to have friends or family over, it is the end of my world! Funny, it was different as a kid. I was rather sad that people wouldn’t show up because my birthday was on a day when people want to be with their families.

Stressors, and what helps me to deal with them

The season is made even more stressing by the fact that I have to monitor my own behavior at all times. Don't forget to take care of yourself first, and then others. It is something I have to remind myself pretty often. And it sounds egoistic.

I am not a big fan of Partying

I see myself as the kind of person, that prefers peace and quiet over a crowded and big party. Noise makes me nervous and irritated. So much so that I often walk out mid-party and disappear into the sounds and world presented by my headphones. It has caused trouble in the past with friends. As they come and ask “What is wrong, is everything okay?” that alone would make me lash out ironically and eloquently that somehow has become my defense mechanism.

“Why don’t people understand that I want to be alone?”

When I was young I couldn’t understand why I never felt that I fit in.  I felt as if others perceived socializing differently. “Why do they enjoy it, while I get tremendously tired…” forgetting that this is completely ok. Truly, it is okay to need time to recharge and feel better. Not everyone is a social butterfly.

What helped me to deal with it?

It is okay to only go out because you want to, makes things much more fun for all the participants.

I mean, I do go out, and I do go to parties, but on my terms. I have resorted to not going out because people want me to go… It is okay to only go out because you want to, makes things much more fun for all the participants. To this day I can not understand why I felt such a need to please everyone and go if all I wanted to do was sit on my bed binging on serials and ice cream.

What I found to help, is to explain to people around me what is going on. They didn’t bite my head off after all. People can be understanding, and it shows who values you as a friend. Not all people can be friends or understand you fully, and that too is okay. Often times they still respect your feelings. People are not as cruel as they might sound in your head at all.

Shopping for Gifts

There is the dreadful search for gifts. Though for a few years I have not made any big things for having little finances… This year too, only one friend gets a gift, and this has its’ own reasoning… She just moved. But it is the search for the right thing that stresses most people out. And I don’t like shopping in stores, they are full of people.

Oh god, why do I have to go outside? For some reason, if it is a gift, I have to touch it. I have to feel that it is right for the person by seeing it. And shopping for gifts is time-consuming. Also, there are just so many people in the store, chattering, kids hollering, and a “Santa’s little helper” offering candy. Ugh, strangers approaching me. Eugh. 

It is not that dramatic at all…

I have learned to keep cool, and be nice to people, yes, even strangers. But it doesn’t mean that inside of me I don’t feel it. I would come home mentally tired and irritated. I do shop at times, but it is when I feel that people don’t tire me out I have to change my plans at times to recharge and take care of myself. For it is more important to me than any item I want from the store.

Holidays make me feel like I have no choice but to deal with the aftermath. I get all angry and things in my room gain wings and I say things I don’t mean. It is so much more than just being irritated from a long day.

This alone can cause depression, one where I don’t have any desire to come out of the bed and the only thoughts in my head are ones that are not meant for saying out loud. In the past I would drink or have other self-destructive behaviors in response to stress. Most of the people were puzzled around me by my change of personality and mood.

What helped me to deal with it

I am not a complete hermit, I have friends and family, and I don't have to go through the dread alone.

I have learned that having someone cool-minded beside me distracts me from the noise. Like speaking to a friend at the same time or my babe. It makes it so much easier to be in a crowded place if you can be alone with another person who talks to you and keeps your mind from going into overdrive. I am not a complete hermit, I have friends and family, and I don’t have to go through the dread alone. After all, they don’t mind and they have seen me trough the years, we all need friends at times.

For everyday shopping I scout the store on the day the sales change (weird as it is quiet in the morning) and have the plan of the store in my head. So if I feel overwhelmed I can go in and get out in less than 10 minutes. I use self-checkout.

 

The Mental Preparation to Have Family Over

I just want to curl up on my bed and drink wine with the person closest to me. And I want to be with the one person who, for some reason, loved me through all of my quirks. Why do I have to have family over when he is my closest? I love them dearly, I do try to see them often… So I feel guilty for my feelings. But aren’t they mine after all? I do love talking to them, except for the hour-long calls my mother makes me. She knows I don’t like it but since is not that accustomed to typing. I have come to terms with it. 

I have to mentally prepare for people sneaking into my cave, even if it is family. For I don’t have people over that often. My home is my sacred place and I defend it like a mother bear. Home is usually the place I withdraw to when life becomes too loud. Luckily I have the calmest person I have ever known beside me. Even if I might occasionally dance in the middle of the bedroom with my headphones on. The thought alone, of someone sneaking in here, makes me stressed out.

What helped me to deal with it

I prefer communicating under more peaceful circumstances. It is not as loud and I can remain calm. For that reason, I try to have people over on separate days. My mother and brother usually come on one day or just call me. My sister on the second, and my boyfriend’s family on the third. Or I just go over. I should visit my mother too but I don’t want to travel these days, and I want to be home.

So, I have changed my habits to span out the visitation of people to different days…  Or I become over-stimulated. And this is the way I try to manage stress. Not having it all happen at once makes it easier for me. Instead of a full-on gathering, I have small ones. Ones that I can handle. And it is more enjoyable for me and the visitors, as I am not a nervous mess that runs around the house trying to accommodate everyone. We can sit down and have calm conversations instead. Most of my friends call or send a message. And I like that. 

The Actual Preparations

I have to clean the room, it has to look spotless for my boyfriend’s family. The food has to be homecooked and taste heavenly. The moment I don’t get the ingredients I want I mentally flip out. And oh God no! I have to bake a cake too.  And am the kind of person who loves cooking most of the time but doesn’t want to do it on holidays. Still, I want to show my “wife material” side and leave a good impression.

And oh my, I have absolutely nothing to wear. Naturally, I want to look great “Nothing looks good on me!!!” As a woman dressing up makes me feel nice. But at the same time, I can never be happy with my outfit when stressed. No matter how many times am told I look stunning, I feel like a blob of insecurities.

What helped me to deal with it

I try to think in advance about what I wear and stick with it. Takes off so much stress of rummaging through my clothes. Yes, I do want to change sometimes, but at the same time. It doesn’t matter what you wear, it is that you are there, with family and people that have seen you in all forms.

And food, I have resorted to making simpler meals, as long as it is tasty it impresses people anyway. I don’t want to be in the kitchen for 3 hours. Sometimes I make things that cook themselves. Like beef stew in dark beer… Just stir it and in 3 hours it is ready without me having to be in the kitchen. Also by having fewer people over, I don’t have to cook that much. And I don’t bake a cake anymore. For others’ birthdays, I do it so much that everyone knows I know how to.

To sum it up

As this post shows, the stressors can be quite the same that a lot of people feel towards the holidays. It is not as much as what stresses us out but how we deal with it that can make mentally ill people differ a little. It is very important for us to take care of ourselves, and I think all of us can benefit from not forgetting ourselves.

I am really am by nature a very calm person. And I love my family and friends. It really isn’t that dramatic anymore either as I have spent time dissecting my mind and behaviors and what triggers my illness. Sometimes we just need to try things out to soothe it. Speak up to people that care about us so they wouldn’t think that we are ignoring them.

Thank You!

Thank You

For staying for so long.

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