Sometimes it is best not to go home for the holidays and avoid mental illness relapse. If you have a mental illness, it can be hard to tell if your illness or good sense is winning out when you make your holiday plans (Mental Health Issues Over The Holidays). But if any of the following reasons are true for your family with mental illness this holiday, you may be better off finding a different place to spread your holiday cheer in order to avoid mental illness relapse.
Going Home for the Holidays Can Cause Anxiety for Anyone
Nothing heightens anxiety more during the holidays than trying to make plans with family. Every family member has a different church service, meal, or tradition they absolutely need you to be a part of. If anxiety is a struggle for you as it is for me, even the most peaceful of holidays can cause me to start hyperventilating (Dealing with Bipolar at the Holidays-Family). Besides this type of holiday anxiety, there are times when going home for the holidays just isn’t a good idea.
Unresolved Conflict with Family Can Trigger Mental Illness Relapse
If you have had a conflict in your family that has not been resolved, try to resolve things before the big holiday event. If that is not possible, consider skipping that holiday commitment for this season. Not being there for the big family dinner may seem sacrilege, but a fight ensuing in the middle of that dinner may be even worse.
Family holiday events cause enough anxiety. With the expectations soaring higher than usual for everyone to be happy and get along, the disappointment of a conflict can be devastating. For those of us suffering with a mental illness, these kinds of fights over the Christmas dinner can plummet us into a mental illness relapse like that of depression lasting long after the mistletoe comes down.
Mental Illness Relapse May Come from Unhealthy Environments
Getting stable with a serious mental illness is no small task. But going home for the holidays to a family with mental illness may undo your hard work more quickly than you can pop your mood stabilizers. Families can outright deny your mental illness diagnosis, criticize your wellness routine, or influence you to do things that will cause you to become unstable (including drug and alcohol abuse, unhealthy sleep patterns, and more).
You might be able to have a conversation with your family before you go home for the holidays. If they are open to it, explain how drinking, not getting enough sleep, or having unhealthy interactions affects your mental health. Ask for their help to stay within the boundaries of your wellness plan (Maintaining Boundaries with Bipolar over the Holidays). If they agree, awesome. Go home and make merry. But if they refuse to support your efforts to stay stable, maybe this is not the holiday event for you.
Mental Illness Relapse Is Almost Certain in Abusive Families
Sometimes we are not even aware of abusive behavior in our own families (A List of Abusive Behaviors). But around holiday time, when expectations are high, alcohol flows, and old family patterns surface, abusive patterns in families can be the most detrimental.
If you suspect abuse in your family, talk to a trusted therapist or doctor. Seeking impartial advice may help you see the dynamics in your family more clearly. You may also be able to ask a counselor’s advice about whether it is a good idea to try and confront the abusive person. No matter what you decide, never forget that no one, not even a family member, has the right to abuse you. No confrontation is worth your mental health. No family holiday is worth a mental illness relapse.
How to Celebrate with Family and Avoid Mental Illness Relapse
Even if you decide to stay home from the big family dinner, there are other ways to celebrate the holidays with your family. Plan a new tradition: go shopping together, see a Christmas play, host a gift wrapping party, or have a cookie decorating contest. Find ways to enjoy your family while still maintaining your mental health. You deserve to enjoy your family, your holiday, and stay sane throughout this season of high expectations.
For further information on families with mental illness and the holidays, read:
- When Your Family is a Mess and It’s Hard to Give Thanks
- How to Enjoy the Holidays with Your Mentally Ill Loved One
- The Best Gift the Mentally Ill Can Give Their Loved Ones