As many people are writing at the beginning of their articles now, the holidays are here again.
With this information, it can create a great amount of joy. After all, we are all familiar with the “Christmas spirit.” However, when you have mental health issues, there are many, many other things to worry about. In fact, it can ruin the holidays sometimes.
I have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, as well as borderline personality disorder and binge eating disorder. These are accompanied by a lot of anxiety. Much of this anxiety is directed at family, because the people we are closest to, or just have to put up with eternally, can be the ones who can hurt us the most.
I have been asked to write about how I cope with my illnesses during the holidays. The truth is, I don’t have it down to an exact science. But I have learned that how I deal with the holidays is a direct reflection of how I have learned to deal with similar settings year-round.
For instance, I used to have a rocky relationship with my family. I also used to let people in general walk all over me, and make me feel awful. Over the years, I have learned I don’t have to tolerate this. Upon my first realizations, this created a lot of conflict between me and other people. However, I have calmed down and learned how to express myself when I am uncomfortable. Believe it or not, the problems have managed to be resolved without a fight at times.
So, basically, I had to set my boundaries. I had to let people know what I could tolerate and what I could not. I have to continue to do so as well.
Don’t get me wrong. Oftentimes during family gatherings, you have to swallow your pride and let it go for the sake of the get-together. But you need to know how to recover afterward. This may mean sleeping in the next day, watching some of your favorite television shows and movies, eating your favorite holiday leftovers (but not too much) and having someone to talk to about it.
Generally, these kinds of negative feelings can linger, but we need mechanisms to get through it. So, this is a perfect time of year to build a positive life, even if it has to be separate from those we see on holidays.
So how do you do that? Well, besides the formula for recovery, you can start by focusing on the good things about this time of year. I’m leaving out many of the other stressors, such as finances and weight gain, but those are other topics and can be dealt with similarly. We should always take things in moderation, but you can’t overdose on positivity.
Many people enjoy cheesy holiday movies that basically have the same plot. Most television shows have some version of a Christmas special, and there are many books published this time of year with holiday-centric themes. Embrace them. Embrace the cheer, the love, and the meanings.
Different religions have different ways of celebrating this time of year, but they often trace back to the same general ideas: gift-giving, holiday cheer, decorations, and some other good things we may not always be able to describe.
So, wear your favorite outfit to the get-together. Do your makeup and hair just the way you like it. Start with a smile, and shove down some of the butterflies in your stomach with some holiday treats.
If it turns out badly, go home and make the rest of the holiday what you need it to be.
I know that sometimes I have good experiences during get-togethers, but I am often left emotionally exhausted. But I go home to my fiancé and live the lifestyle we want to live. I watch my shows, I pet my cats, and I thank the divine for getting me through another year.
Jessica is a writer, blogger, and teacher. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Southern Illinois University and manages the blog The Science of Genesis. She enjoys a good cup of coffee, a good book or movie, and good conversation. Still battling her own mental illness, she spends much of her time learning how to help herself and others. Jessica has an eating disorder, borderline personality disorder, and bipolar disorder. She has also experienced trauma, including domestic violence. She seeks to live a happy, healthy life through treatment and striving every day.