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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mental Health & The Holidays

As I've written about before, mental illness is something I deal with in my family on an almost daily basis. Sometimes the way the illness manifests itself isn't so readily apparent; other times, especially during the holidays, it tends to smack you in the face. As the holidays come upon us, it's time for me to work even harder to keep things in perspective and try to keep the spirit of the holidays alive inside myself.

It's been my experience that, for people who struggle with mental illness, the holidays present an especially difficult time of the year. For many, just the change in routine can be difficult, and coupled with financial pressures (and the need to, perhaps, use material things to prove feelings that can't readily be expressed) makes for a very difficult time. As has been the case for me over the years, the easy thing would have been to just sink into the despair that the holiday season bring to some, but for me it's been a blessing of sorts in that I see even more clearly what really matters. The fact that I can derive joy from buying gifts for my family, unencumbered by the mental baggage of worry and guilt, is something I am very thankful for.

I am not immune to the pressures that mental illness in the family brings during the holiday season. I do get angry, I do get worried with unexpected financial pressures arise, I do get disappointed when others can't seem to enjoy a season that exists for the very purpose of enjoyment. But for me, I have learned through the years that having those feelings is perfectly ok, as long as I acknowledge the feeling and know for myself that my negative feelings don't rule me.

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