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How to navigate the Holiday Season with Mental Illness

At this time every year, my Mental Health is always at its most vulnerable. For many years before my diagnoses, I didn’t understand why a time that brings so much happiness and joy to others seemed to be a time for me where I just wanted to press the fast-forward button and frantically get through it.

Now that I understand my illness, to which I would say there is true power in knowledge, I was able to properly understand why the holiday season was always such a nightmare and how to handle it better and more healthily this year.

My Borderline Personality Disorder presents mainly as a “quiet borderline” meaning I direct all of my rage and criticism inwards. It was quite the moment when I realised I have been so brutal in my own self-hatred, I didn’t feel like I “deserved” to have a happy holiday season.

These are some main points that when I sat down and was incredibly honest with myself, that have plagued my enjoyment of this time of the year.

Rejection. One of the golden symptoms of BPD. Each year, inevitably I would feel let down by something or someone and it would trigger my response to rejection. I don’t have a relationship with my Father or Brothers, so I would look around at people preparing for the holidays and it would kill me inside that I would have to face for the most part of it on my own.

Social Media - This one pops up regularly for me, so although I am an aspiring blogger and writer, social media can, of course, be a blessing and a curse. Imagine trawling through Facebook seeing your friends who have kids and families out on work dinners, decorating and shopping and generally having a good time. My intellectual knowledge of Social Media goes completely out the window and I just focus on that familiar feeling that I am the only one in the world that feels this way.

I refused to put up any decorations - This one might seem silly, but again it links into the idea that I don’t deserve the enjoy the parts of the Holidays that bring people laughter and happiness. I would hide it by joking that I just don’t “like” the holidays.

Feeling Utterly Alone - I would say another crucial symptom of BPD is the very distinct feeling of not having that sense of your place in the world. To give it the right theme for this time of year, it’s like being on the outside of a snow globe and seeing all the fun happening through the glass, but not being able to break through. Constantly looking at the glass and how it separates me from the world around me is a triggering factor for me.

So what have I done to improve things for this year and actually get some enjoyment out of what should be such a happy time? This is by far the most important step I could every take and it will stand me in good stead for the future.

I gave myself permission to do as much as could to enjoy the holidays - This seems small, but for many sufferers of BPD, it is such a confusing state of mind at times, that something small like stopping for a moment and actually telling myself I have all the same rights to enjoy the holiday season just like everyone else can have an immense outcome.

Its a little bit of a “fuck you” to my BPD, why should I not do the best I can do to enjoy the time, rather than wishing it away again.

I just have to work a little harder when it comes to navigating my way through. Being aware of the triggers is always such a pivotal factor in any recovery from BPD symptoms.

For now, I am walking before I run. For all the people out there that can somehow relate to this post, my message to you is this. You deserve all the happiness and joy this Holiday season can bring and like me, you may just have to put some plans in place and work a little harder to get through it. You may just surprise yourself and have a positive outcome.

My Christmas Tree is being delivered in a few minutes, so rather than wanting to burn it to the ground I am excited to decorate it, even if it is just for me to enjoy.

Stay strong and remember we all deserve a little sprinkle of happiness during this time, even if we don’t always realise it.

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