The holidays can be a stressful time for many people, financially it can be hard, or perhaps memories of holidays past are difficult or haunting. Maybe the family gatherings are more than you are able to fully handle, maybe that one cousin whom you do not want to see shows up and disrupts the party.
Either way the holidays can be a mess for some people. Others find so much joy in them.
For me it is a mixture of both.
There are things that I love about the holidays and there are things that I would rather not have to deal with.
And I know what comes after them. Almost every year (probably every year) starting in January some depression hits. I find myself not wanting to go anywhere and I am moody and touchy. Difficult at times.
The holidays bring sentimental thoughts. But they also bring stressful situations for me.
But we manage to get through them every year.
I would like to know how you make it through the holidays each year? What are your go to tips to help cope with stressful situations?
I am over half the age my father was when he passed away at just 61 years old. 61, felt old to me at the time….I was 13, but in retrospect it wasn’t old at all. He was just sick, he fought long and hard and tried to hang on to see me grown up. He would always say “If I can just live to see her grown up”. I was the youngest by 11 years. My youngest brother is actually 11 years OLDER than me, next I have a sister, and then another two brothers. My oldest brother actually got two children who are older than me.
So yes, I was a surprise. Not a mistake, they would never call me that. But I was a gift, something that came along at a time in their lives that was just unexpected. They shocked a few family members after my arrival.
I was very young when my father first got sick. I remember an oxygen tank always adorning our house as well as regular mask treatments for breathing. I liked to help out. But when he got sick-sick, like ready to be in hospital kind of sick, it was always scary.
No one likes to watch their parent struggle. In the end, he struggled to breathe on a daily basis. Walking steps was a chore. If he went outside and came back in he would have to stop half way up the steps to the door just to let his body catch up to his breathing or his breathing to regulate and catch up to his body, whichever way you want to look at it. Everything was so labored. Then when he made it to the door and into the porch he would have to rest again before he was even able to take off his coat or bend to take off his shoes.
He spent some time in hospital before Christmas that year. Was released and spent Christmas with us, only to be re-admitted in January and he passed away on February 1st.
At 13, I was not ready. Nor did I have the mental and emotional capacity to understand and process what had happened. Every other time he had been that sick, he spent a few weeks in hospital and then came home with us again. This time was different and I would have given anything for it to have all been some cruel joke or mistake.
But, it was no joke, no mistake.
A rush of air left my lungs, as if someone punched me in the gut….and then my heart began aching. I crumpled into my brothers arms.
That is how I remember it. That moment so long ago that changed and molded me into something different than what I might have been.
Today, I realize that I am over half the age my father was when he passed away. Over half way through. It was sad to realize this. But it was also clarifying.
Where am I in my life? If you knew that half of your life has already been lived what would you do? Where would you want to be? What goals would you want to have accomplished? What would you change?
I am scared because I do not know if I am where I should be at this point in life. I know there are some things which I have accomplished that I am proud of. Being married, and our three children being the most prominent.
But where exactly do I want my life to go? I do not want to have any more regrets. I realize that I need to take control of my life or nothing is ever going to change.
I know I want to be loved deeply and to love deeply. This is big for me.
I know I want to be the best mother that I can be. I know I want to continue to blog about mental health, and advocate for those same issues.
But then what? What is next in this life for me? Do I continue to let life pass me by, and have regrets that I did nothing to mend and fix the problems that we currently have. I know my life is not headed in the direction that I wanted it to be, so my sails need to pick up some wind, change my direction.
But the difficulty lies in making decisions for me, and learning to deal with the changes, and following through.
Normally birthdays pass me by and I couldn’t care less.
Normally It is just another day, one little blip in the 365 day year that just happens to be the day I was born some 30 odd years ago.Normally it means nothing to me, other than being one year older.
Normally I feel nothing towards this day.
Well for some reason today is far from the normal nothing birthdays that I am used to. Today I awoke with a sense of severe anxiety that is only getting worst as the day is progressing. An intense fear, dread……despair would even be a good word to describe how I am feeling.
I am blinded by how bad this is.
I have been having some issues with anxiety and paranoia over the past little bit, but nothing compares to how bad I am feeling today.
I do not think there is a reason or catalyst for why I feel this badly. Just maybe every little thing pulling at me at the same time that my emotional self is not able to handle it. And the tension is causing me to break.
Sleep disturbances are a big HUGE part of my bipolar disorder. The start (in retrospect) of almost all of my manic episodes was a diminished need for sleep. From going to bed really late to waking a ton each night, getting up really early, to just laying in bed so wide awake with a flight of multiple ideas running non stop through my brain like some messed up film reel.
On the other hand depression can begin with the need for so much sleep. Sleeping 10-12 hours a night only to get up for a few hours and go back to sleep for 3-5 hours more. The sleeping too much always brings with it a deeper depression which in turn causes me to sleep even more.
One particularly bad manic phase a few years ago, I slept only 11 hours in 14 days. Things were turning ugly – and fast.
I was making mistakes at work, talking so fast even my close friends and family were unable to understand the words that were coming out of my mouth. Sentences were jumbled messes – and I wouldn’t even be able to begin to describe the broken sentences – conversations I was having. But I will try.
I would begin a sentence, mix up the word order or put totally wrong words in place of other words or even forget simple words. I would stop mid sentence turn to the right, try to correct my error, start another sentence, go back to the left, finish my first sentence, then turn back to the right to finish the second sentence.
I don’t know if that paragraph even makes sense, but that was what it was like. I did not make sense.
With so little sleep paranoia would set in pretty quickly. This particular time I thought everyone who was texting or typing on cell phones was either up to no good, plotting or were even texting about me. Even strangers.
You can just imagine how bad this got considering the amount of use smartphones get right now. People are always on them, texting etc.
I was convinced that my husband was hiding something from me.
I was told (after the episode) that at work I was like “someone on crack”.
All of this started with the diminished need for sleep. I was not tired at all. I was able to survive on minutes to no sleep every night and was extremely productive at least for the most part.
Then the irritation began…..And that, my friends, is a whole other story.
Have you ever looked around yourself – saw a cluttered environment and realized it was the product of a cluttered mind?
Over the summer – or more accurately the month of August – I have let my surroundings drastically go. Things were not getting put back where they were supposed to be, laundry was not getting finished, beds were left unmade, and my home no longer felt like a home and I no longer felt at ease or calm here.
Most of these feelings were due to the fact that I can’t stand clutter and mess. Don’t get me wrong – we are a family of 5. 2 adults, 3 children who are 13 and under and 2 fur babies, one cat, one dog. My house is never spotless, never perfect and you will never see a picture of it in the next edition of House and Home.
What my house is – is lived in, my couches are worn and used, an art easel sits in my dining room and art work adorns my dining room walls, all created by my 8 year old son. There is not one – but two laptop computers sitting on my coffee table, where they remain a permanent fixture in the room because they are used so often I do not even bother to pack them up anymore.
But these are the normal every day – our house is lived in – aspects of our home.
But the month of August my mind and my home have slowly began to become cluttered again. Then I get to this point that I am currently at where I feel the need to declutter everything. EVERYTHING.
Closets, drawers, dressers, basement, storage bins. My sole goal in this decluttering is getting rid of stuff and organizing. I have the strong urge to keep getting rid of things we do not need or do not use.
Yesterday I took 7 garbage bags FULL of things to the goodwill thrift store, and I have already started on another bag.
I decided to write on how I was diagnosed with different mental health issues over the years to finally getting the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and how it just made sense.
Today I am sharing that post because I like to keep track of my writings here on the blog.
The following is the post:
I was asked to write this post a while ago, but to be honest I had no idea where to start. What topic I wanted to write on, and which direction it was going to head in. So I am going to sit here and let my fingers type whatever it is that my heart and soul want to say.
I have bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed just over 3 years ago after a 5 and a half week hospital stay. Although I am fairly certain and my doctor is also fairly certain that I was undiagnosed for years before that.
Mental health issues have been a part of my life since I was around 12 or 13 years old. But unfortunately I did not get help until after a suicide attempt when I was 18.
I have had numerous diagnoses over the years. Some of them fit, but they never quite fit. You know, it was kind of like when you fit a small circle inside a square. It fits….but it does not fill the square to make it whole.
We knew I had depression, we knew I had some issues with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), we knew I had suicidal idealization and self-injurious tendencies, and we knew I had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but these were only part of the picture, these were the circle filling the square hole.
Bipolar was the one thing that finished filling the square and fit. It was like someone shining a light down on the situation, finally. The different parts of the cycle of bipolar disorder were all parts of my life. In retrospect I could see them staring me in the face.
It felt like a weight had been lifted because finally everything was beginning to make sense. Everything suddenly fell into place. As I read and researched more about bipolar disorder I began to realize just how fitting this diagnosis was.
My diagnosis would change my life in some ways, but more importantly it would help make sense of a life already lived.
I could look back on decisions made, situations I would rather not relive, and manic excitement and understand just where it came from. Instead of always wondering why I made the decisions I made, and always trying to make sense of situations that I had no control over.
And finally after years of bad decisions, misunderstood conversations, misconstrued situations, I had finally come full circle.
It may sound kind of strange to someone who has never been there, but my diagnosis of bipolar disorder made me finally feel like I was not crazy. It put a name to all of the chaos that has been going on inside my brain, my life and my heart.
Not that labels really make a difference in life, but this label changed how I was able to manage my mental illness. It helped not only myself but my doctor better manage what was going on with me through the right therapies and medications.
Bipolar disorder did not change my life in some ways, but in other ways bipolar disorder was the change that I needed in my life to get the most appropriate help.
I am irritated today, it came on quickly and I don’t know why. It has been a week of not the best sleep, some moderate anxiety off and on, and our youngest son has been sick almost the entire week. I guess I can attribute these stressors to what I am feeling. I honestly just want to crawl into a dark hole and sleep.
I don’t know what is wrong, it’s the time of year where I should be relishing in the sun, it’s an absolutely beautiful day outside, sun is shining and it is very warm…but here I sit, wallowing in some discomfort within my mental and emotional self.
Something that I can hardly pin point.
But it is there in a big way, like my elephant in the room, demanding to be heard and seen.
I hate days like today. When I have no rational reason for what is going on inside me. Those are the worst for me, the days that I cannot explain.
Days I do not want to be touched, I don’t want to be talked to, and I do not have the energy or nerve to deal with anything or anyone.
Being a mom with mental illness was a difficult sentiment for me. I found out I was pregnant and immediately stopped going to therapy. My Psychiatrist and Psychologist were concerned, while I was adamant that I was okay and I would continue to be okay.
In my mind at that time I just did not want to let him win. I wanted to prove something, to myself and to everyone else. I needed to prove that I was stronger than any of the circumstances that lead me on the path that I was currently walking.
I was tired of letting him control my life, I was tired of mental illness creeping in and taking control of me. I was tired of not sleeping, I was tired of self-injury, I was tired of having trust issues, I was tired of…..well to be completely honest, I was tired of being me.
So I decided to try to be someone else. Someone without mental illness.
At first I tried to pretend that I was okay, but inside I was struggling and my mind was in chaos. I hid things for a long time, or at least tried to. But sometimes it was impossible to hide, things were obvious.
I would have melt downs. Like some child having a tantrum. After it was over and I had time to think, I would be embarrassed. I hated how I felt, I hated the words that I spoke.
More than once in my life I wondered what was wrong with me. I thought I could just move on, forget the past and be a good mom. But by suppressing everything I was getting sicker and I was not being the mom or wife that I wanted to be.
Inside I knew I was messed up. But I was trying not to show it. I became the master of deception. But who was I really deceiving?
I pretended that I was “normal”. I avoided the nagging voice in my head that was telling me something was wrong, that nothing had changed, that I was still dealing with mental illness.
My conscious mind was beginning to not be so quiet. I tried to suppress it, I kept pushing it deeper and deeper inside me, telling myself that I was fine.
But I wasn’t.
And I was scared because it no longer was just me that was affected by my mental illness. I was married and I had children, and everything I did not only affected me, but my entire family was affected.
Eventually, I was unable to fight it any longer. I needed help, and I needed it now. I was hospitalized for 5 ½ weeks. Therapy was mandatory. Medication became a life line.
And I fought, fiercely fought to become a better person. I spent over a year walking on egg shells, still trying to pretend that I was not sick. But fighting a fight within myself that I never thought I could win.
But even though I thought I couldn’t win, I had to continue to fight, because I was fighting for them…for my family.