Sharing the Holidays with a Loved One - The Bipolar Question of the Week

John McManamy Health Guide December 09, 2012
  • For a change, I will be sharing the holidays with a loved one. Over the years, I have become habituated to tuning out the holidays. Like many of you, I hardly need to be reminded of how alone I usually am this time of year.   This year is different. Last week, I actually went out and bought a sm...

11 Comments
  • Anonymous
    No More Misery
    Dec. 17, 2012

    "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year ..." -- well, it's not.  Ignore the phony propaganda about how happy everyone else is and how much "normal" people love the holidays.  They don't. 

     

    If you surrender to the idea that I Must Be Joyful and Everyone Must Be Happy and We Must Enjoy Lots of Time With Family and There Must Be a Fancy...

    RHMLucky777

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    "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year ..." -- well, it's not.  Ignore the phony propaganda about how happy everyone else is and how much "normal" people love the holidays.  They don't. 

     

    If you surrender to the idea that I Must Be Joyful and Everyone Must Be Happy and We Must Enjoy Lots of Time With Family and There Must Be a Fancy Meal and Lots of Presents and We Must Do Everything We've Done Before ... well, that's enough to drive non-bipolar people crazy. 

     

    Give up on people-pleasing & too much togetherness.  Consider it a day off to do some things you enjoy.  If you're philosophical or religious, contemplate the purpose of winter holidays: to remind us that there will be a spring and the dark days of winter won't last forever.  Most of us do things with our families because we think We Should, but I recommend you do less, or do nothing, or create a new tradition. 

     

    --Xmas eve we'll celebrate with friends: roast lamb, potatoes, greens, coffee, a purchased dessert.  SIMPLE. 

    --I'm donating some presents to a gift drive for foster and homeless children; that makes me feel good. 

    --Cut way back on Xmas music: maybe a little Bach or Anonymous 4. 

    --I hope I have a chance to make cookies but if not, I'll buy some. 

    --Decorations are our Xmas cards and a 12 inch wood tree. 

    --I won't be seeing my bipolar mom this Xmas, but I'll call her and visit a little later. 

    --The biggest fly in the ointment will be the forced jollity of phone conversations with my estranged family, but I'm prepared if they are snarky to respond by setting limits; I love them but don't like them.  I want them happy but it's not my job to please them. 

    --If my nephew can't be bothered to call and say "thank you" for the gift , instead of stewing about it, I'll remind myself to just send a card next year.  I still harbor the fantasy that I should be appreciated, but if he doesn't, why should I ruin my day?

    --Xmas Day, my husband's family still hasn't decided if we're getting together: so what? I'll buy some extra frozen mashed potatoes if there is a last minute potluck.

    --I'm looking forward to sleeping in with my significant other, having a late breakfast, making phone calls with distant friends, maybe go for a walk or to see a movie or drop in on some friends for a casual visit. 

  • Anonymous
    Amber Lisa
    Dec. 13, 2012

    I have a question, why does Christmas seem to drive so many of us BPers absolutely nuts! I used to be severely affected, but mine, I would think is a special case.

     

    Okay, short story, my dad has severe bipolar disorder. He would totally flip out this time of the year. I grew up with Christmas being a time of terror, plus, I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio...

    RHMLucky777

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    I have a question, why does Christmas seem to drive so many of us BPers absolutely nuts! I used to be severely affected, but mine, I would think is a special case.

     

    Okay, short story, my dad has severe bipolar disorder. He would totally flip out this time of the year. I grew up with Christmas being a time of terror, plus, I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio so everything was so cold and dark, that time of the year.

     

    I sort of inherited the crazy christmas syndrome, my therapist told me there was no way I wasn't going to be crazy at christmas time, not after what I'd been through. But, I actually did learn how to think myself out of the crazy christmas syndrome. It was a conscious choice. One year, 2008 to be precise, I decided, I will enjoy Christmas! And I did, I had a blast.

     

    The key- and this is critical- do not get caught up in the commercialism of it. Make a plan, a small plan and build on that. Be creative! Make your own tradition! Like I for example bought some Jelly Bellies, and made everyone guess what flavor they were eating. It was so fun! 

     

    http://www.lylu.co

     

    • Of-Two-Minds about it
      Dec. 14, 2012

      I share an office with another teacher, and we got to talking about Christmas. She told me that she was making Christmas cookies with her grandkids that evening, and I told her that Christmas was not my favorite holiday. She agreed with me  and went so far to say that both she and her husband hated it. We shared our Christmas issues with one another, and...

      RHMLucky777

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      I share an office with another teacher, and we got to talking about Christmas. She told me that she was making Christmas cookies with her grandkids that evening, and I told her that Christmas was not my favorite holiday. She agreed with me  and went so far to say that both she and her husband hated it. We shared our Christmas issues with one another, and then she suggested that I do what she does: just pick out the things of Christmas that I do enjoy or can handle and skip the rest. She doesn't Christmas shop, send out greeting cards, or host a family dinner. She makes cookies with the grandkids, buys gift cards, and has dinner at her daughter's house. They don't stay for long, and then she and her husband leave town for a little vacation, wiping the "dust of Christmas" off their shoes as they go.

           An interesting plan, if I had enough courage to do it. My Christmas issue is the stress and anxiety of trying to meet what I think are my adult childrens's expectations of my role in their Christmas and the Christmas of the grandkids. Plus, the added guilt of my suicide attempt before the holiday season in 2009. That December I felt like I owed them the perfect Christmas Eve dinner and celebration at my home and it has become the tradition now. It is fraught with anxiety, social awkwardness, drama (my oldest daughter and my daughter-in-law are feuding), the ugly fact that their father is no longer invited or wanted at what used to be our family holiday, juggling all of the cooking, having enough $ to buy them all gifts and making sure that they have all been "equally" gifted, the dynamics that my new husband brings to the gathering, and our dog, Sam, who turns into a fireball of excitement with all of the people in the house (scaring the youngest grandkids and making them scream everytime he comes near them. Putting him outside or in the back bedroom doesn't work because he barks his head off). I will definately be taking an anxiety pill that day.

    • Amber Lisa
      Dec. 14, 2012

      Okay...see too much! OD! buy some Jelly Bellies and call it a day! Seriously! When you try to juggle all that money, gifts and family/emtotional issues it will drive you INSANE!!!! Seriously!!!!

       

      The thing about Christmas is we shoudl be happy! Joyful! Even if we have nothing but jelly bellies to share. At least that is something.

       

      Commit to small...

      RHMLucky777

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      Okay...see too much! OD! buy some Jelly Bellies and call it a day! Seriously! When you try to juggle all that money, gifts and family/emtotional issues it will drive you INSANE!!!! Seriously!!!!

       

      The thing about Christmas is we shoudl be happy! Joyful! Even if we have nothing but jelly bellies to share. At least that is something.

       

      Commit to small things like the teacher! Tell your family I making some cookies with the grandkids, okay? NOT ENOUGH?!?!  Too damn bad! I'm bipolar!!! My sanity is too important for me to sacrifice to the mega christmas capitalist machine (which is a sort of insanity in and of itself!)

  • Willa Goodfellow
    Dec. 10, 2012

    Yeah - tend to relationship basics at Christmas: communicate, communicate, communicate.  Get all the "It's not Christmas unless..."'s out on the table.  Then negotiate.  And play - come up with something that is unique to the two of you.

     

    I have enjoyed Christmas more, the less I try to do, and the more I stretch it out over a season.  Remember...

    RHMLucky777

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    Yeah - tend to relationship basics at Christmas: communicate, communicate, communicate.  Get all the "It's not Christmas unless..."'s out on the table.  Then negotiate.  And play - come up with something that is unique to the two of you.

     

    I have enjoyed Christmas more, the less I try to do, and the more I stretch it out over a season.  Remember your recovery basics - moderation in food and drink, enough sleep, keeping the energy level in check.

     

    One thing that worked well for me this last Thanksgiving - plan ahead and communicate a fail safe plan.  I told my wife before we went to the relatives' that I might go upstairs and get away from the crowd for a while.  I did so a couple times, before I was a wreck, preventive maintenance.  Since we had already discussed it, she could answer the questions, "No, she's okay. She's just taking a break."  She wasn't worried, the family was reassured, and I didn't feel like a freak.

     

    Happy Holidays!

    • Tabby
      Dec. 11, 2012

      Your reply triggered this response in me:  I'm glad that you and your's are okay with your mental illness and what is needed for you to manage yourself, in order to keep together (so to speak). 

       

      I thought about your potential discussion of:  there may be moments of where I'll need to step aside or go upstairs or step outside to re-gather...

      RHMLucky777

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      Your reply triggered this response in me:  I'm glad that you and your's are okay with your mental illness and what is needed for you to manage yourself, in order to keep together (so to speak). 

       

      I thought about your potential discussion of:  there may be moments of where I'll need to step aside or go upstairs or step outside to re-gather my thoughts and whatnot... etc. but it's okay.. it's something I have to do and it has nothing to do with anyone else, etc..

       

      and well... everyone good with it when it happens

       

      cause it's not that way with most folks who have mental illness.  Even if I were to say such and do such... or even not say ahead of time and just do, to then have to explain myself for doing such (cause I would, I'd have to, in my family-I'd have to)... I get the eye rolling, sighing, and "there she goes again, her problem is what now?  what did we do now?  geesh, let's just go and do this without her...." shit.

       

      and the sad thing is;

      IF I had a chronic heart condition, cancer, neurological condition, alzheimer's, etc... and said "you know, I just need a breath and to gather my wits and thoughts for a spell."  NO ONE would argue or roll their eyes.

    • Willa Goodfellow
      Dec. 11, 2012

      You are right, Tabby.  I know I am blessed beyond words.


      By the way, not everybody at the family gathering, or at the party I'm going to tonight, is so understanding.  Even if they are not hostile, with them, I have to work on my own sensitivities to what other people think, and take care of myself anyway - set boundaries around my own reactivity...

      RHMLucky777

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      You are right, Tabby.  I know I am blessed beyond words.


      By the way, not everybody at the family gathering, or at the party I'm going to tonight, is so understanding.  Even if they are not hostile, with them, I have to work on my own sensitivities to what other people think, and take care of myself anyway - set boundaries around my own reactivity to their reactivity.  If I can't do that, I have to stay away, so I can keep feeling good about myself.

       

      We all have to figure out how to take care of ourselves in the context of a world that doesn't get it.  With my spouse, I can send a memo -- I'm having a rough time right now.  Then she knows it's NOT something she did, and can relax, and her anxieties don't pile onto mine.  On the other hand, I take the details to my support group, who understands it from the inside, whatever it is.  If I told her some things, she would be overwhelmed and worried, and I would feel guilty about her worry and irritated that I can't talk to her...  Actually, people with other life-threatening illnesses deal with this issue, too, figuring out what they can share with their family, what they save for others who are going through chemo or whatever.  It seems that managing our illness includes managing our relationships.

       

    • Anonymous
      No More Misery
      Dec. 18, 2012

      Here is what I suggest, since I have a sibling who loves the snide put-down. 

       

      Part of the problem is thinking that you have to account for yourself and be logical all the time.  You don't.  You can't change that you're bipolar, but you can change how you interact with other people.  If they don't accept you as you are, then don't...

      RHMLucky777

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      Here is what I suggest, since I have a sibling who loves the snide put-down. 

       

      Part of the problem is thinking that you have to account for yourself and be logical all the time.  You don't.  You can't change that you're bipolar, but you can change how you interact with other people.  If they don't accept you as you are, then don't give them a foothold into your feelings. 

       

      So don't subject yourself to the eye-rolling.  Don't explain.   Don't feed their need to snub you.  Ignore the queries and smile.  Repeat as needed.  If they persist with the questions and badgering, they are the ones who will look weird.

       

      Or if someone says, "Why'd you go out?" say "Just felt like it," (delivered off-hand, not defensively) or "Wanted some fresh air."  If you went upstairs to lay down: "Tired." 

       

      Or change the subject: when you hear: "You disappeared!  Where were you?  Having another crazy spell?" say, "I love the smell of Scotch Pine, don't you?" or "Do you think Mom would like some new pillows for the living room next year?" or "I'm really looking forward to turkey," or "Any plans for New Years?"  Something neutral or positive to change the tone and direction of the conversation. 

  • Anonymous
    Margaret
    Dec. 10, 2012

    Also, a performance of Handel's Messiah; Christmas Carolling; Make cookies and give them away - perhaps to the people in the apartment building...

     

    Ask her about her past Christmas celebrations - what was meaningful to her, and what got on her last nerve.

     

    You will be operating from your heart. Trust that...besides, you two have been together long...

    RHMLucky777

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    Also, a performance of Handel's Messiah; Christmas Carolling; Make cookies and give them away - perhaps to the people in the apartment building...

     

    Ask her about her past Christmas celebrations - what was meaningful to her, and what got on her last nerve.

     

    You will be operating from your heart. Trust that...besides, you two have been together long enough that she knows you may crash, or whatever.

     

    Love always wins.

  • Anonymous
    Margaret
    Dec. 10, 2012

    Have a conversation with her...you can plan together.

     

    For me, the Celebration is all about Baby Jesus. Going to a Christmas Eve Service, with the decorations, meaningful hymns, great choir and organ music.

     

    Nice Christmas morning breakfast food. It doesn't have to be fancy. Opening gifts.

     

    A NAP

     

    Remembering our Blessings.

     

    Make...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    Have a conversation with her...you can plan together.

     

    For me, the Celebration is all about Baby Jesus. Going to a Christmas Eve Service, with the decorations, meaningful hymns, great choir and organ music.

     

    Nice Christmas morning breakfast food. It doesn't have to be fancy. Opening gifts.

     

    A NAP

     

    Remembering our Blessings.

     

    Make your own Christmas Traditions.

  • Donna-1
    Dec. 10, 2012

    I admit, I try to block out all my memories of unpleasant Christmases in the past and expect nothing in particular.  But instead of being with my family and waiting for someone to say something nasty about someone else, I would much rather be at home celebrating a quiet, peaceful day alone.  It is really difficult to get into the holiday spirit. ...

    RHMLucky777

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    I admit, I try to block out all my memories of unpleasant Christmases in the past and expect nothing in particular.  But instead of being with my family and waiting for someone to say something nasty about someone else, I would much rather be at home celebrating a quiet, peaceful day alone.  It is really difficult to get into the holiday spirit.  My therapist said, "When it is too much, go out and sit in your car and listen to music for a while.  And if that doesn't help, go home."  I think that's pretty good advice.

     

    My Mom is blind to the fact none of us are having a good time at Christmas.  She just wants to preserve the old traditions, but can't do it herself anymore.  So I am conscripted to carry out her instructions.  As in, "I TOLD you to keep stirring the eggs or they'll burn."  Or, "It's not Christmas when that star you made when you were 8 yrs old isn't on top of the tree."  We lost the star years ago, but every year we go through the star thing again.  Reminds me of that old saying: A fool is someone who keeps doing the same thing, expecting different results.  It ain't gonna happen.