Christmas, Bipolar Style
The holiday has been much on my mind of late. My reactions to the holiday aren’t necessarily what you will experience, but as a bipolar person, I wanted to share what depression and hypomania do to me during the holiday season.
I’ve tried the traditional giving of gifts on Christmas Day, but this year our gifts are all either pre- or post-holiday. Last year, I was hypomanic and overspent. I was disappointed, though, when my selections for my husband didn’t garner the response I thought they would. He still hasn’t used the camera I got him last year on the grounds that he didn’t have the time to figure it how to use it. (I’m going to suggest that one of his gifts to me will be to learn its workings.)
This year, I’m slightly less hypomanic. We got a present for both of us, a little early. We got matching heart, lock, and key tattoos. Since the tattoo shop is closed on Christmas and the tattoo artist is much in demand, we booked the appointment early and have already had these done. I’ve bought Dan another item or two on sale—oven mitts and a bathrobe—that I’m telling myself aren’t really presents, just things he needs, so he doesn’t have to get more presents for me. I honestly don’t mind if he doesn’t get me anything else. He gives me little gifts all year long—just things he finds at the store he works at that he thinks I’ll like.
This year I’m working at home, and I plan to work on Christmas Day, at least for a few hours. Realistically, I could take the day off and not risk missing my deadline, but the routine of working helps keep me centered. I have been exploring what local restaurants are open on Christmas Day so we don’t have to cook. For New Year’s Eve and Day, we actually have a tradition—champagne and appetizers on the Eve and Chinese Buffet on the Day. We often ask friends to join us for that.
I don’t think I’ll be too depressed to go out New Year’s Day, but then again, who knows? Dan has invited friends from work, so there will be people there I don’t know, as well as two that I do. I don’t really feel up to small talk these days, so Dan can handle that with his work friends.
I’ve given up trying to get into the “Christmas spirit” by dressing for the occasion. It never works for me. I’ve had Christmas earrings. One year I had a Grinch t-shirt. I once worked at a place where everyone wore holiday sweaters and sweatshirts. I didn’t have any and felt left out, but I didn’t want to pay the prices for the sweaters. After the holiday, I bought a couple on sale for the next year’s festivities, but I lost the job before I had an opportunity to use them. Oh, well.
My Lack of Advice
I know there are a lot of articles this time of year giving advice on how to deal with the holidays while in a shaky mental state. I’m not going to do that, because you already know all the standard advice—self-care—and I have nothing really insightful to add to it.
Except that it’s okay to have your own traditions or to ignore the holidays altogether if they’re just too much for you. If you’re alone, you could be subject to depression or just feeling numb, but that’s a natural reaction if you’re like me. Scale down your celebrations to suit yourself. If you’re experiencing anxiety, you can skip big celebrations and have your own small—or private—one. If you’re hypomanic, you may be up to some festivities, but you don’t have to be the life of the party at every one. And keep track of your spending. Most people prefer to get only one or two thoughtful presents rather than a flood of random ones.
I don’t wish you Happy Holidays, just survivable ones.