When you suffer from bipolar or depression, holidays can be lonely. Even if you have family and friends, it can be isolating. Somehow, the joy others feel, the whimsy of decorations and the business of gift buying and wrapping can make us feel separate, off balance and uncertain about our place in it all. I previously wrote about our symptoms of insomnia, loss of appetite and a severe aversion to being around more than one person at a time; these symptoms are likely to become even more intense around holiday time.
It becomes important to care for yourself during this time. Remember what your behaviors are that lead up to manic, hypomanic and depressive episodes. And even though it can be excruciatingly difficult, reach out to trusted friends and family. Talk about what’s going on. And use the links to the right (at the top with the asterisk*) to stay encouraged and know you’re not alone.
For me, it was important to reveal my condition. It was a difficult decision. I found the strength to do so through the courage of several bloggers who wrote under their own names. There are many bipolar bloggers who write anonymously, and I cherish their contributions. Yet, when we put our names and faces on our stories, we connect with courage to erase the stigma and shame associated with mental health disorders.
When we do so, we also allow friends and family deeper into our lives. We take off the armor, become vulnerable and encourage those closest to us to know us fully and completely. We give them the choice to understand us and our condition. We grant them entry into the world of knowledge about our symptomology: what our bipolar mania and depression looks like for us, and what we can and cannot control about our symptoms. It is a gift we can give them this year.
Perhaps, in the giving of ourselves, we will empower our friends and family to come a little closer, to do a little more research, to give a little more grace, as we give love and grace to them while they learn about our disorder.
If you are one of those friends or family members of someone who has bipolar or depression, I have a special plea for you.
“Imagine you’re in your home, at your kitchen table having coffee with four of your friends. Research shows that one in five individuals will deal with a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year. That fifth person at the table is struggling silently with severe depression. Until we stop hiding and start sharing our stories, the pain, the discrimination, the stigma will remain.” Jennifer Marshall, Executive Director, This is My Brave, Inc., Ted Talk, Nov 21, 2016
Use one of the links to the right (those at the top preceded by an asterisk *) to find more information and link up with someone else who has bipolar disorder. Ask lots of questions. Look for precursor symptoms – those symptoms leading up to mania, hypomania or depressive episodes. Learn what is in your friend or family member’s control – and more importantly, what isn’t. Give love and grace. It’s the best holiday gift you can give.