Holidays during the fall and winter seasons can be stressful, especially for us moms. Mothers carry the bulk of the mental load for their families whether they work outside the home or are a full-time SAHM like myself. Surviving the holidays is fraught with all sorts of opportunities for things to go awry, whether it’s visiting with family locally or traveling with kiddos afar. Life with three children ages five and under and managing my own mental health and Bipolar Illness keeps me on my toes.
The discussion that was sparked when I recently posed the question “How do you survive the holidays with mental health disorders?” to my Perinatal Adjustment Group was truly enlightening. Women spoke of feeling increased stress around the holidays. This was whether it was their first holiday season as a mother, or they were a seasoned pro.
Expectations was another issue that was touched upon often. This includes managing other people’s expectations and judgments of us as mothers while visiting with extended family and friends.
For me personally, I find it hard to be “joyous” and “happy” on holidays when I just don’t feel it, be it because when my daughter was newborn she was in the hospital her first Thanksgiving, and I missed being with my other two daughters, or I didn’t want to spend all of the holidays somewhere else because we have such a large family to make our rounds to visit.
Another experience women have is not knowing how to talk about how they are feeling with relatives and friends that they see only on these once-a-year visits. “Do you tell them how you really are doing, or say you are fine because that’s what they expect to hear?” was a response that garnered a lot of nodding heads. Who do you tell when you are struggling? Do you share that with the people that you are breaking bread with? If so, what language do we use to express that this season of life is really hard?
These are questions that I struggle with myself; these questions are the reason why I am writing this. To begin the conversation about mental health, especially around the holidays.
It’s OK to be not OK.
We all have moments, days, and seasons that are dark and hard to get through. I look back at my 20s, and I really wonder how I survived until my 30s with this mental illness.
So how do you answer the question when a not-so-distant relative asks you how you are? Do you give them the highlight reel that you post on social media? Do you answer more authentically and catch them off guard? Let’s have a conversation about mental health. Let me know your thoughts on talking about a touchy subject with family and friends at holiday gatherings.