Thanksgiving is a time for family gatherings, celebration and food — all things that may be overwhelming for someone living with a mental illness. Many relatives and friends may be unaware they’re making triggering remarks or not know what to do around someone battling his or her own mind.
1. “The thought of being in a room full of people, even family members, is terrifying to me.” —Kerri Symes
2. “With all holidays, but especially Thanksgiving, there’s a tremendous focus on food, which is hard for those struggling with and in recovery from an eating disorder. With this added attention the already food-focused individual may feel overwhelmed, break down, use unhealthy behaviors or even relapse.” —Christina Chalgren
3. “Sometimes just being there for us or giving us a hug can help a lot. If we seem sad, don’t ask what’s wrong; ask if we need a hug.” —Sarah Ann Morris
4. “Just understand and don’t judge.” —Barb Graybeal
5. “Even though we’re absolutely thankful, we may not be able to show it. Our faces may show depression, grief, anger, or sadness but our hearts are thankful.” —Raquel Rocky Jarrell
6. “If I’m sitting alone it isn’t an invitation to join me. I’ve stepped away to reset my brain.” —Lauren Hale
7. “[Mental illness] is not something you can turn on and off.” —Annell Steele
8. “Although Thanksgiving dinner is enjoyable, it causes a great deal of anxiety because I don’t like eating around people I don’t know well.” —Chelsea Noelani Gober
9. “Don’t feel bad if I don’t call you or don’t come to family gatherings. I really love you guys, but sometimes it’s necessary for me to be alone.” —Michelle Lee Williams-Mowder
10. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve been struggling since I last saw most of you, and I don’t want to talk about it.” —Katie DeMore
11. “Being around groups of people is physically exhausting for me. Please don’t press me to stay longer when I am ready to go home.” —Kathrine Elise
12. “I can only take socializing for a little while before I need a break. I know I didn’t used to be that way, but anxiety and depression have made life more difficult. I promise I still love you as much as ever and genuinely am happy to see you.” —Steph N Ben Allred
13. “Being happy is not always a choice.” —Cheryl Oshnock Perry
14. “If I say I don’t feel well enough to attend, I’m not lying. You may assume I’m referring to physical illness, but mental sick days are just as crucial for my health.” —Melanie Segal
15. “I’m a better me when I’m not stressed and overwhelmed.” —Alicia Nelsen
16. “Loud noises, crowds, yelling and running about really triggers me. I need a quiet place to chill when things get overwhelming.” —Jennifer Lovacheff
17. “Talking about it behind my back only makes it worse. If you want to help me change, talk about it with me.” —Megan Hurzt
18. “I don’t want to be treated any differently, and you do not need to memorize some politically correct recipe for being around me. If I need something, I will ask! So, by golly, carry on! Be yourselves! Otherwise, it’s just weird watching people walk on eggshells.” —Debera Gatlini Townlini
19. “I wish people understood that I’m thankful for my mental illness because it has made me a better man than I once was and pushed me to love more and dream bigger than I ever did.” —David Wise
*Some responses have been edited and shortened for brevity.
Is there something you wish others understood about living with a mental illness this holiday season? Let us know in the comment section below.