How to Be Home for the Holidays

As Christmas approaches and the country gears up to be joyful and merry it is important to remember those that are not able to “turn on” their happy feelings due to the date.

The winter months are filled with joyous occasions but the gloomy skies and cold weather can trigger feelings of depression and anxiety.  The “holiday blues” can affect anyone and worsen the condition of a person living with mental illness year-round. Parties and gatherings can be stressful for the average person but may feel impossible for those living with a mental illness.

Twitter user Ally Watkins reminds her followers that the holidays are especially difficult for the mentally ill and implores them to exercise compassion.

In order to safely navigate the season, boundaries must be set and respected by both the person living with a mental illness and their family. Psych Central has compiled a Survival Guide for the holidays; covering issues like being alone for the holidays, gift giving and minimizing stress.

Another tool for ensuring that festivities go smoothly is understanding. The public perception of mental illness is often horribly skewed and incorrect. A Google image search for the phrase “mentally ill people” brings up a page of wide eyed people-mostly men-, murderers, the homeless,  and the President-elect.

A Google image search for the phrase “mentally ill people” renders popular/suggested searches for “criminal”, “beggar”, and “offender”.

This reflects the assumptions that mentally ill people are dangerous, that most homeless people are mentally ill and that mental illness has a certain look or behavior. These assumptions can get in the way when attempting to form and maintain a relationship as you aren’t seeing the person for who they are.

If you are living with a mental illness and dreading the holidays there are steps that you can take to make it easier. Stick to your routine, communicate your needs, make time for yourself, and seek help if you need it.  Many people keep their illnesses secret  for work and personal reasons even with family but it is important to speak to someone about what you are feeling.

When celebrating with a person with mental illness remember that they are normal. Their normal just looks different from yours.  They do not need fixing and it isn’t your job to fix them.  Respect their boundaries and limits.Set our own boundaries.

Above all, remember what the holidays are all about, and focus on that.

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