As I write this, Thanksgiving is in a few days and, then, we have Christmas less than a month later. And, while this is a very joyous time for many people, for those with mental illness this can be a very difficult time. 

I know this can be a difficult time because I always have a hard time around the holidays. I love my family and my extended family, but the stress of the holidays to interact and “see” everyone can be a bit much on me. It’s not even that I don’t want to see people, but the continued pressure to be here or there and to live up to those expectations while meeting with these people can send my spiraling. 

And, the opposite is also true for people. There are those for whom the holidays just exacerbate the loneliness they feel the rest of the year. They may not have any family or their family may be spread out across great distances. The fact that they are alone is just made more and more real at this time of the year because they are constantly told they are to be with family and friends and at parties and they are not. And this is very difficult. And I feel for these people. I really do because loneliness is the cruelest companion.

I feel a lot of pressure over the holidays. There is pressure to see everyone and to not be lonely, but there is also the pressure to make the holidays memorable and perfect. Even the accounts in our society that show imperfect portrayals of the holidays still end up being “perfect” in the end. And I feel a lot of pressure to make the holidays perfect for my kids and my wife and for everyone else. I feel a lot of pressure to have the perfect gifts and the right kind of clothes and food and I just feel pressure. 

What gets me the most about the holidays, though, is the fact that all the things that I make the holidays about are not really what the holidays are about. Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks and to be thankful that I have: that I have family who love me and that I have food and that I have the basics and that I’m in recovery and the like. It is not a time to over-indulge myself and make things perfect: it’s a time to be thankful that there is enough. Similarly, Christmas has become a production of perfection that does not remotely relate to the reason for doing so. I mean, the real reason for Christmas is to give gifts as Christ gave us a gift; however, we’ve turned it on its head to make it all about consumption and getting. And this tears at my soul because it is a form of cognitive dissonance that I cannot digest…and it makes people call me a “Scrooge” or a “Grump.”

All of these things make the holidays difficult for me. And I wonder what makes them difficult for you.

​(As a note, I am aware that there are more holidays than just Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, I do not have experience with holidays like Hanukkah or Kwanzaa to discuss those in detail).