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What to Expect From Christmas When You Have a Mental Illness

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‘Tis the season of holiday cheer and festive spirit! When friends and family gather around to celebrate the joys of life and there are presents to be opened, hugs and kisses to be shared and warmth to be shared all around.

Or so it’s made out to be.

Because it’s also a season of hecticness, expectations raised to unrealistic standards and disappointment galore. Let’s face it — whatever the reason you chanced upon this article, it’s probably because you were looking for camaraderie, support or the recognition you’re not alone in feeling you’re all alone. Even more so, if you currently live with a chronic disease, physical or mental, that impairs your ability to enjoy life as much as you’d like to.

So, I’d like to share some of my realizations over the past few seasons where I’ve learned not to expect and to enjoy the season a little bit more than I otherwise would have.

1. It’s OK to not be excited.

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year is the world’s way of rebooting itself and recharging with a new burst of optimism. There’s something contagious about being around fun and festivity, with everyone becoming happier and more enthusiastic versions of themselves. Maybe you do too. And that’s fantastic.! But maybe you don’t. Instead, you just feel like it’s all so fake or that it’s the high before the crash. And whatever the reason, that’s OK too. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

2. It’s OK to be overwhelmed.

Let’s face it; regular mundane routines stress us out enough. If you or your friend or family member struggles with anxiety, depression, a mood disorder or anything else that makes life just a teeny weeny bit more difficult to go through, remember the holiday season is also a season of exceptions, excess and extras (of food, fun and joy, but also of noise, traffic, crowds, gatherings). It’s OK to be overwhelmed, and it’s OK to sometimes take some time out to collect yourself. Disappearing from a crowd does not mean you’re antisocial or a Grinch. It just means you’re human.

3. It’s OK to be disappointed and to disappoint.

This is a biggie. Plenty of times, the holiday season raises our expectations. It really can sometimes be the high before the crash. Society conditions us to give and be given to. And suddenly, we expect our moods to be better, life to have a purpose, everything to go right and people to just be nicer. But it rarely is so, because everyone is working the same shift and dealing with the same expectations.

And with this comes the pressure to reach others expectations; to somehow be the best parent, child, friend, partner or colleague you can be and to find the best gift, host the best party, receive gifts graciously, participate in all social gatherings, or be happier, kinder less moody.

See where I’m going? It’s difficult because it’s just too unrealistic and not self-sufficient. And that means that as borderline personality disorder (BPD) challengers — as anxiety and depression strugglers — it’s a whole lot more challenging.

And that’s why it’s OK to disappoint and be disappointed.

As ironic as it may seem, if you “expect” these three points to be the norm during the holiday season, it suddenly makes everything seem bearable and then it becomes the stress-free holiday season we’ve all been craving!

Happy holidays, y’all!

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Getty Images photo via Viktor_Gladkov

Originally published: December 23, 2017
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