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I Can’t Turn Off My Bipolar Disorder Just Because It’s the Holiday Season

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There seems to be a misconception from family and friends that my mental illness should be turned off during “the happiest time of the year.” But unfortunately for all of us, that’s not quite the case. Christmas time is officially here, yet I’m still bipolar.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

One thing people seem to forget in the midst of being inconvenienced by this is that it’s hard for me too. I don’t like that socialization is so mentally draining to me either and I don’t like that I’m unable to just be happy and enjoy Christmas like everybody else. I don’t like that I’m still mentally ill during this time of year. But I am. And I always will be. Because no matter how hard I may try, I can’t shut off my mental illness.

I like to call the absolute exhaustion that comes with this time of year “Christmas Burnout” because getting through it takes almost everything out of me. I also like to think a lot of other people with bipolar disorder feel the same way. Because while people expect us to just turn off our mental illness for a month, it doesn’t really work that way — especially considering stress can be a huge trigger for people with our diagnosis.

And let me tell you what makes Christmas so stressful — just in case you don’t already know. First (and most important) is the change in routine that comes with this season. There are family get-togethers, friendly gatherings, special events and so much more. These things can be fun (I can admit they can be really fun). But it’s still a change in my routine and that means it can still be triggering to my mental illness.

Second, is the exhaustion that comes with constant socialization. I love my friends and I love my family, but socializing can still take everything out of me on a normal day. So when I need to socialize a lot in a short period of time, it leaves me feeling beyond drained. Again, this can trigger my mental illness.

Another stressor (in case the two before weren’t enough) is the infinite amount of planning that comes with Christmas time. Some examples of planning include figuring out what presents to get my loved ones, what social events I can (and cannot) handle attending and when I’m going to do special activities, like putting up my Christmas tree.

And of course, there’s everyone’s favorite stressor: Money. I know to normal people, these things might not seem that stressful. But to me, they really are. Some of these things can take everything out of me.

So, while I’d love to turn off my mental illness for a month, I can’t. I hate it but that’s how it is. And what makes coping with it a lot harder is when other people expect me to be able to. Because I know it’s the happiest time of the year. I know almost everyone else is blissful. I know my symptoms are an inconvenience to those around me. But I still promise they don’t inconvenience anyone more than they inconvenience me.

I wish more people would realize that.

Getty Images: AntonioGuillem

Originally published: December 3, 2019
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