Part of my sadness right now is wanting to continue the traditions of past years but finding it too difficult to do that this year. For example, we didn't carve pumpkins for Halloween, we didn't do our thankful tree for Thanksgiving, and we didn't do most of our Christmas crafts and baking like usual. Why? Because of my mental illness. Because I can't this year. Because just getting up and getting ready and making it through the day is difficult enough, so doing the "extras" is impossible. It hurts knowing that I'm the one keeping my family from experiencing these traditions, especially my daughter now that she is old enough to enjoy these kinds of things. I know it will be better in the future, but it still hurts this year.
Another part of my sadness is feeling like I'm not enjoying the holidays at all. Every day is another day of either mania or depression, another day of fighting, another day of enduring and wanting the time to pass. I don't feel like it's Christmas at all, because I'm so stuck in living moment-to-moment. The day after my birthday (I'm a November baby), I cried for a long time. I felt like my birthday was a wasted day, a day I should have enjoyed and loved, but instead I spent my time trying to fight through the mania. It hurts not enjoying anything, but especially not enjoying the holidays.
The last part of my sadness is not wanting to be around people. The holidays are usually filled with large gatherings of family and friends celebrating. This year, I have really struggled with any sort of gathering. I just want to stay home, pull the covers over my head, and sleep for days, not try to fake a smile or muster up some little bit of fake excitement. It's exhausting and hard, and it hurts.
Now before you feel bad for me, because I do NOT want that, I want to share how mental illness has blessed my life this holiday season:
- My mental illness, and the subsequent hurting, has made me aware of those who are also hurting this time of year-- those who have lost loved ones, those who are alone, those who don't have money, those who are fighting illness, etc. So many people also hurt more right now, so I can make a point of trying to lift their spirits now that I am aware of the feeling of hurting during the holidays. I can try to #LIGHTtheWORLD with the joy of the Savior being born through bringing light to anyone I can. I can pray for the people I know who are struggling that they will have the comfort and peace they need to make it through their hard times, and this helps bring me JOY and peace through my own struggles.
- Struggling with the "extras" has made me really focus on the true purpose of these holidays. At Thanksgiving time, I had a hurt back and some pretty awful mania, but I tried to find specific things that I was thankful for. Finding gratitude brought me JOY through the hard times I was experiencing. It carried me. Now I have been focusing on the JOY that comes through having a Savior, through knowing that He understands everything I am experiencing, through knowing that I can overcome all things because of Him, and through knowing that He will help me when I am weak and struggling. I guess you could say that the holidays have meant more this year because of not being able to do everything I want to do. I would consider that a great blessing!
- Bipolar has made me really appreciate and grow closer to my family this holiday season. My husband and daughter have been so understanding of my limitations. They love me because of who I am, not because of what I do, and they never stop telling me that. My husband has stepped up to do more when I can't do certain things, and he has helped carry on some traditions that I would not have been able to do if I had to do them on my own. My family brings me so much JOY through my struggles!
So if you are hurting this Christmas, please know that you are not alone! And please know that there is still good in life. There is light because of the Savior, the Light of the World. There is peace because of the Prince of Peace. There is hope because of the Redeemer. There is JOY because of Jesus Christ, no matter what is happening in our lives!