(This is the beginning of a series about helping our loved ones and ourselves through the stresses of the holidays.)
It’s that time of year again: The Holidays.
The time from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day is probably the most stressful period in America. Expectations are high; reality is low. The pressure to perform has become so great that many people are opting out.
Probably most stressful are the expected family gatherings. These events can be hard. Let’s be honest, do we really know all those cousins that we only see once a year? And, again being honest, do we sometimes just want to skip the whole affair?
If it’s tough for us, imagine for a moment what it must be like for our ill loved one. Strangers milling around, hugs and kisses from those strangers, and noise everywhere. Some of our loved ones just can’t handle so much input at once.
Then there’s the lack of understanding. Distant relatives often don’t understand what mental illness is. A holiday party is usually not the place to try and explain what it means for our son, daughter, brother, or sister to hear voices or to have unusual fears of people. Even the famous Monk has a hard time explaining to those closest to him why he must touch every parking meter.
One way you can help your loved one is by not forcing attendance at these events. At the last minute, our son decided not to attend the family Thanksgiving dinner at his brother’s house. He said that he just couldn’t “deal with it.” So be it. He was more comfortable, and there was no holiday incident.
Allow your loved one to leave anytime during the party. Maybe a short visit with everyone will be o.k., but to sit down at the table with 20 strangers may be just too much to ask for.
Sometimes our loved one wants to be part of the preparation, but not part of the main event. This is a good way to be a part of the celebration without having the stress of the family gathering or high expectations of the day.
Remember your loved one’s mental well-being is more important than a possible offense to a third cousin.