A Letter to My Loved Ones at the Holidays, From Your Relative With a Mental Illness


I haven’t seen or talked to many of you in a while, and it’s not because I’ve been any busier than usual. It’s because I feel broken again.

I have been dreading your polite questions because my impulse is to lie to you. When I see you on Christmas Eve, I know it would be more comfortable for everyone if I smile and tell you everything was good. I want to tell you that this year was happy and uneventful; I haven’t moved or had a child or gotten a new job. Same old, I would like to say. But nothing about this year has been typical, and I love you enough to be honest with you.

I won’t tell you everything, though. When you ask me what I’ve been up to, I will probably leave out all the tests, the trips to urgent care, the fights with my insurance company, and the humiliation of having to beg for help with my declining mental health. I won’t talk about the shame I feel or the things I’ve done to cope. The day-to-day realities are too painful to talk about over a cheese plate, and I’m not ready to see the looks on people’s faces when I admit that parenting while mentally ill is the biggest challenge of my life. I won’t try and describe the grief  I am processing as I accept that my disorder is not a thing of the past like I had hoped. I know you had hoped that, too.

Instead, I’ll tell you that getting the help I needed this year was incredibly hard but that I managed it because of the people who listened. I’ll tell you my daughter is growing and thriving but mainly because of the strength and support of my husband who remains unfathomably loyal and loving. I’ll tell you I am adjusting to living with my mental illness rather than trying to make it go away. I will color it all with the gratitude and optimism I coach myself on every day.

I worry that after I tell you these things you will talk about me with judgment or pity. I picture you in your cars driving home with your significant others and sharing your appraisal of my sanity or fitness to be a parent. I need to honor my life by telling the truth, though. The version I share with you will have been carefully curated with your comfort in mind, but it will allow my reality to finally be visible. Maybe it can help you become more visible, too, in some way.

I’ve been turning over your questions in my mind even though you haven’t asked them yet, and now I’m ready. When you ask me how I am, my answer is going to be “still here,” and that has to be enough.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by -slav-


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Mental Health

blue background with Christmas tree

How to Get Through the Holidays When You Struggle With Anxiety

The holiday season can be pretty difficult for those who battle mental illness. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, I know firsthand the amount of dread this time of year can bring. I hide that dread behind a smile, just like I do year-round in an attempt to make sure the people around [...]
Rear view of young woman admiring the sunset over a field from her balcony

Getting Rid of Mental Illness Stigma Starts With Me

I am tired of feeling ashamed of my mental illness. I’ve read many blogs or articles from people who would like people to stop saying, “I am bipolar.” Instead, they would prefer to say, “I have bipolar.” It really doesn’t bother me one way or another. When it comes right down to it, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, [...]
Cookies Pillow, Satin iPhone Case , White Cat Shirt

How 'We Are Lions' Helps Artists With Mental Illnesses and Disabilities

Most people don’t know who designed their favorite t-shirt or the pattern on their most-used mug, but We Are Lions, an online store that showcases the work of artists with mental illnesses and disabilities, wants to change that. We Are Lions works with artists with disabilities and mental illnesses to produce functional pieces of art – from cellphone [...]
close-up of therapist holding patient hands

When My Therapist Is on Vacation or Unavailable

I have a confession. I’m terrified. I don’t know how to survive without my therapist. Despite the support groups and contacts that were given to me, I feel completely lost. I am so embarrassed by my need. I feel silly. I feel like she will hate me. Yet… I am completely reliant on her. I’ve [...]