In my country of New Zealand, I think it’s fair to say that most people celebrate the occasion of Christmas, and that those who choose not to do so, don’t on religious or cultural basis. There’s been a few years in my past when I have chosen not to celebrate Christmas, and that has been all about mental illness.
There was one year with my ex-husband where we chose to walk the streets of an unknown city, anything to pass the time until I would be admitted to a hospital there the next day. We found out that year that not even McDonald’s is open on Christmas Day. We ate pies from a corner shop for Christmas dinner. Another year we stayed at home, took the phone of the hook, and ignored the world. To do otherwise would have been much for both of us. It was simply a ‘normal day’.
You know how in some families you can’t put Auntie Betsy next to Grandma at the Christmas Table or Uncle George next to Mum either? Sometimes Christmas with mental illness just doesn’t go. Other times you have little choice, and have to hang on and hope for the best. Sometimes that works, but usually it doesn’t feel so good being in the middle of it.
I am a little horrified to find that this Christmas will be my 20th Christmas with mental illness. To clarify, it is 20 years since I got my first diagnosis but I’m sure that I was quietly struggling with my mental health before that. Actually I have come to believe recently that my mental health has always been an issue, pretty much from birth. I simply made it appear like all was well… for 27 years. So Christmas with mental illness should not be that much of a difficulty. But it is. I battle with Christmas every year.
Yes, I am a Bah Humbug! And I don’t care. In my mind, Christmas involves way too much stress, money, food and drink and of course, interaction with family.
I love my family… individually. But I don’t love family occasions (like Christmas Dinner). Family en mass is too much for me and sends my stress levels sky-high. I’m not exactly sure how to pin point what it is I don’t like but I think we’re too much the same as well as being too different. Does that make sense? We haven’t lived together as a family for many years (I’m talking 30 years), and if you put us all in a room together, we can “play nicely”, but we are simply different people with totally different lifestyles and viewpoints.
Most families are probably the same (to some degree). Either that or my family are about to lynch me when/if they read this. It’s okay though. They should know this truth of mine by now.
So what do I do to manage this Christmas/mental illness/family issue? Actually for me, just acknowledging to myself that it is an issue is a good place to start. And then to plan. Plan breaks, plan time out for me. I don’t need to put myself in a stressful situation and stay there all day. It’s simply okay to look after my needs, look after the mental illness part of me. It sounds simple but it helps to make sure this happens.
So whatever you are doing for Christmas, whether you’re celebrating it or not… look after you. Do what you need. Maybe you can’t do what you need the whole day, but if you allow for ‘me time’ your needs are not getting ignored.
Have a wonderful Christmas, in spite of mental illness. Here’s a small glimpse of a New Zealand Christmas…. pohutakawa tree (our NZ Christmas tree which flowers right on time for Christmas and forecasts a great summer ahead), sun, sand and surf. Definitely all things good for health.
And yes, it’s summer down here so no pictures of snow. 🙂
© Cate Reddell and A Canvas Of The Minds 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cate Reddell and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.