My Mental Health and the Holidays

The holidays are a rough time of year for me. I feel like I a missing something inside. Something that gives everyone else that warm fuzzy feeling of joy. I feel panic, fear, and anger. The holidays are meant to reflect the idea of love and family. A time of year where everyone can come together and celebrate. You never see a Christmas commercial about someone suffering mental illness. The depression and loneliness. The anxiety and stress. My mania that screws up my judgment. It’s hard to imagine that there are people who dread the holidays. Not just financial reasons, although that can contribute to a lot of the stress. The idea of gathering with family raises my anxiety. I feel like none of them really understand my mental illness, nor care to.

I have bipolar disorder with PTSD. I get high manic episodes. I lost my job the first of November. Instead of focusing on my priorities, I started decorating for Christmas. I couldn’t calm down for days. The most important thing in my mind was buying presents for my kids. It took priority over everything. I neglected bills, feeding myself, and pushed myself to great measures. In my mind, it was something that had to be done. I had to give the kids the best Christmas ever or I failed. I know that every mom feels that way to an extent, but most have reasonable limits. I also have low depression. Eventually, I broke down and regretted most of my decisions.

After losing my job obviously, I couldn’t afford to give them everything. I couldn’t afford to buy presents for others. I felt pressure from some of our family to buy presents for them and do our normal Christmas dinner. At first, it didn’t bother me. I was too high on my manic trip to think about it clearly. Now the ride is over and I feel depressed and overwhelmed. I don’t feel like cooking a big meal. I don’t feel like having people over. I just want to be left alone. And I don’t know how to explain that to them.

I know I can’t expect them to understand. One month ago I agreed to all of this and now I want no part of it. Surrounding myself with family outside of my home isn’t easy. I feel their judgment and spend most of my time around them on edge and uncomfortable. I feel like I need to think about everything I say carefully. The amount of focus it takes to stay calm, to rationalize what I say…’s exhausting. I don’t get that warm fuzzy feeling. I don’t feel the importance of being around each other. I don’t really believe they do either. I feel that they care more about the image they want to portray.

I feel guilty because instead of being happy I would rather be alone. I know this will all pass. I don’t want everyone to have a bad holiday because of me. I am going to try and pull myself together. I am going to brush myself off, take a shower, and brush my teeth and hair. I know these all sound like basic daily things. It’s a big deal to my husband and my kids.

I guess really that’s what Christmas is about. Doing for others to bring them joy. It’s not about me and how I feel in this moment. It’s about seeing my family happy. That’s what is important.