Mental Illness and the Holidays

Nine years ago this December, my mental illness erupted through the surface of my otherwise regular life. Work was a snowstorm of activity with the holidays approaching, and I remember feeling super stressed out trying to keep all my end-of-the-year meetings with my many clients. This, on top of buying gifts for everyone on my list, which had doubled compared to previous years. Because as a new wife I took on the duty of shopping for my husband’s side of the family since we had been married for two years. 

Plus, there were the parties. Work parties, happy hours, holiday lunches. So much fun and so much exhaustion. I had reached a breaking point. 

Without warning, I suffered two severe manic episodes, each landing me in a psychiatric ward, two weeks apart. The second episode had me signing myself into a hospital on Christmas Day. 

There wasn’t much for me to celebrate that year. 

So much has changed since then. My loving and supportive husband stayed with me every step of the way, even as I experienced two more manic episodes leading to hospitalizations when we started our family. We made it through together, are stronger because of it, and now have two feisty little ones to enjoy the holidays with. It wasn’t smooth sailing; there were definitely plenty of setbacks. But with each small victory, each time I’d learn a new technique for managing my illness, I grew stronger. I started blogging to inspire others that they could get well, too. 

When October turns to late November, the dead leaves dripping from the trees serve as a soft trigger. December’s brisk air brings with it ghosts of my past. There’s no way to erase the chilling memories of my mind unraveling the way it did nine years ago this month. They remain to remind me that although this holiday season is filled with happiness for how far I’ve come, there are others out there who are having a different type of holiday. 

The empathy I feel for those suffering from mental illness is beyond describable. Their pain is one that I’m all too familiar with. It’s a physical hurt from an invisible illness that only someone who has been there can understand. So although I cannot make it all go away, what I can offer is hope for the future. That with treatment and support from friends and family, recovery is possible. And with recovery there’s the light of a brighter holiday.

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