4th December 2017
The concept of Christmas is a festive, happy and special celebration with our loved ones. We associate bright and joyful times with Christmas dinners, family and goodies.
However, what if Christmas coincides with mental illness? When someone is severely ill with a type of mental health disorder, the trauma and depression doesn't just disappear because of the sparkles and festive cheer.
For me personally, thinking about Christmas does immediately trigger thoughts and memories of last December into the New Year - living with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
The OCD took away any hope of me leaving the house for Christmas dinner - the chance to eat, relax and share fun memories. Indeed, OCD led to hours of me reciting compulsions, washing and being confined to my bedroom and the bathroom for weeks. I was trapped by a disorder in my mind, coming out in extreme waves of panic and distress.
It also led to trauma among family too - the distress, awkwardness and pain of watching someone stuck by an invisible illness - not knowing how to help due to mixed opinions of what would help my condition.
So, considering all this, the period from Christmas to New Year, where I became more and more incapacitated and - on the brink of not being here - going into hospital mid January was both life-saving and life-changing.
And now in recovery, thinking about 2017's Christmas plans - it's not easy. I ask myself:
'What if I get triggered?'
'How can I change this Christmas?'
'What can I do to not mess it up?'
Well, these questions have been thrown into the mix during my rumination about last year's events, but I have come to realise that this Christmas in recovery, can be different, and it is worth celebrating.
So, for anyone struggling with a mental illness - and their loved ones, or those who have come through a difficult Christmas season, please know:
- It's vital to get the right therapy/treatment straight away, as soon as possible. And remember, you are always in your right to ask questions and demand better treatment from professionals.
- With the right therapy/treatment, you can be equipped for what triggers come your way. You need help to do this, and it's not easy and won't always go to plan, but you and your families have the right to suitable help, to get safe and well.
- Be kind to yourself, stay present and know that any destructive guilt the disorder makes you feel - about needing to blame yourself over the distress the illness has caused to others - remind yourself that mental illness was not and was never your fault, or anyone else's for that matter.
- Take it from me, for someone who didn't think she'd get to this Christmas, this is the time to give the permission to forgive yourself and accept what has happened previous Christmas times - so you can enjoy a celebration with safety, love and care, being with your loved ones this Christmas.
Health and Happiness this Christmas and always,