Living with a mental health condition at Christmas

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Ah mental illness, you little pest, of course you want to pop your head up for the holidays. I’ve been thinking a lot about mental illness and christmas time, I say thinking and I mean getting anxious about it. I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time but almost couldn’t find the words for what I wanted to say.

For most people Christmas equals joy and happiness, right? For some of us though our mental health threatens the celebrations every year whether we like it or not. Not only is it hard for the person dealing with the illness, but also the people around them and so I’m going to be frank. One day of the year doesn’t make a mental illness magically disappear, it doesn’t work that way.

In the past I’ve been ill on birthdays and ill on Christmas day and it sucks. I’d probably call it one of my absolute worst points of the illness. I was 16 and even though I loved all the gifts that I’d gotten and my family I was on a low and it wouldn’t shake no matter how hard I tried. So my family got a ‘meh’ response, I cried, my Mum got upset and my Dad was confused. It was Christmas, why was I upset?!? This was long before any diagnoses or medication and I felt like I was drowning. I hated myself for not being excitable like I normally was. A phone call changed everything though. I spoke to my Gramps on the phone and we talked, I cried again and he said not to worry Christmas can be an overwhelming time. We spoke more and by the time we ended the conversation I felt better and hugged my Mum to tell her it wasn’t anything she’d done at all.

Thankfully the further I’ve gotten into my recovery the better Christmas has been. Last year I woke up before my little sister and woke her up in our matching onesies. This year after assignments I was finally excited, singing christmas songs and getting excited about presents. Am I anxious about lows? Sure. Right now though I’m doing things to combat it, I’m getting as much sleep as I can, eating healthier and will be exercising this week at home.

I have to point out I’m at a stage in my illness where this is all possible. 16 year old me was too absorbed by it to do anything. So I guess what I’m trying to say is if you live with someone with a mental health condition they’re not doing this because they hate christmas, because they want to ‘make things difficult’ or because they’re not trying. They doing it because it’s a part of the illness. So if someone is depressed, anxious or struggling with their food just let them deal with it the way they can. If someone with an eating disorder needs to have something else at the dinner table, don’t make a fuss or judge. If someone needs half an hour of alone time because things get too much then let them. Basically they need to do what they need to do to get well.

As a message to the others who are anxious about the holidays. It’s one day ofthe year, it may seem like the biggest thing but next year there will be another christmas. The most important thing is taking every day one by one and that is what you will do. I’ve been there, when you feel like you’re going to ruin everything and people would be better off without you but that’s not you speaking, that’s the illness I promise.

So as I travel home for Christmas today, I just want to tell people to be kind. Love no matter what this Christmas and remember a hug can mean more than a million words. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas before we hurtle into 2016!

Chloe

P.S I’ll still be blogging every day over Christmas! Don’t think you’ve gotten away from me that easy!

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