Mentally Ill Guide To The Holidays

  1. Lower your expectations! Everything is not going to go perfectly — that’s true for us and true for typical as well. Be grateful every single time someone does something loving, but don’t expect. Old hurts come out. Everyone is stressed about money. Arguments that never see the light of day are suddenly happening all over again. It’s a messy time but find the little lovely things and cling to those — hot chocolate, a hug from an old friend, people sharing food at a table and laughing despite the past.
  2. Journal! Journal like you’ve never journaled before! Keep track of your moods and your food intake. (A food/mood journal) Write down what people say that hurts you before you react so you can deal with it on paper before dealing with it in real life. Remember to write down the best things that have happened as well. A new robe? Makes the journal. A perfectly prepared meal? Journal. If you are so busy being grateful in your journal, your point of view might change. Add some mantras to keep going strong.
  3. You don’t have to hang out with people you don’t like or don’t understand you — regardless of what the calendar says. I spent a long time going to a Thanksgiving and a Christmas at a house where I did not feel comfortable. The people were closed minded, did not care about my illness or journey, had weird family secrets that would tumble out of their lips, were politically completely different than me but didn’t want to hear my opinion even though I was open to their opinion. I was harassed by my sister-in-law’s brother and when I finally complained about it they got mad and kicked ME out of the party because this brother (who was sexually harassing me!) was “just being himself.” They were also not into medication and didn’t want to know about it or to take it. One person was a liar, manipulator, gossip and dry drunk. (mmm… not so dry.) It took her cheating on my other family member for these uncomfortable meetings to end. I’m grateful every holiday I don’t have to see those people — but at the same time — I NEVER had to see those people! I never had to deal with her saying that “I ruined Christmas” because I had an episode and needed to stay home. I didn’t need to be accused of incest (yes, really), I didn’t need to be told to “just get over it” when expressing an emotion about my illness. The minute I was out of that dynamic, I was free. I wish I had separated myself from them right away because I am much healthier now and if something like this develops in the future? I’m outty 5,000. I will NOT be abused emotionally. So I’m actually pretty thankful… I’m sorry that it took someone else’s infidelity to stop it, but, I’m glad it’s over.
  4. Make sure you’re on top of your prescriptions incase your pharmacy is closed when you are out of your pills! I have done this before. Baaaaad idea. It’s better to keep a little reminder on your calendar so you know when you will be out of the pills and when you need to call them and when you need to pick them up.
  5. You don’t have to spend money! You don’t need to worry about money. I know money is a tricky thing for people like us, and you definitely don’t want to get manic and hit up the black Friday sales. Instead? Make something. You don’t have to be incredibly crafty to make ornaments that your loved ones will cherish. I will share with you some of my ornament ideas in the next blog. It’s healthy to create things, it makes a special gift, and it costs you a fraction of the price of a normal present. You could also do a secret santa with your family so you only have to buy one present.
  6. Be active with your support group, your sponsor (if you have one), your therapist, your psychiatrist and the friends/loved ones who understand you. You don’t have to do this alone. If you are feeling any scary things, like thoughts of suicide, get help immediately.
  7. Self care! I’m talking warm showers with amazing soap, ridiculous holiday movies, cocoa, walks where you take pictures of things you see on your walk. Be very very kind to yourself.
  8. If thing are feeling too much, make lists and take things hour by hour. You might have to up your medicine. I often do before the holidays.
  9. Feeling overwhelmed by all the extra emotions — from your loved ones to commercials on TV — is natural. Expect it and accept it.
  10. Forgive yourself for however you feel and remember — the holidays are not year round!


Want more tips? Email me at for thriving with a mental disorder.

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