I don’t know why it takes us off guard. Every darn year, the pattern is the same…One crazy issue after another. It always starts in late October. The newness of school must be wearing off and with the holidays right around the corner, it’s prime time for Chloe to get distracted and fall off track. Of course, this year has been no exception!
But, I know we’re not alone in battling the follies of a mentally ill kid. The more support groups I hold and the more parents I talk to, it’s apparent that if you have a youth struggling with a mental illness, tis’ the season for challenges to unfold.
Routine and consistency are key for those of us who struggle with a mental illness. With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, that routine goes right out the window and it seems all rationale does too! As I shared with a friend the other day, whose son is also struggling with bipolar disorder, during the last month, Chloe has had the good judgment (insert sarcasm) of lying to a friend’s dad to throw a party at our house while we were gone, sneaking out to meet a friend while grounded, and announcing to all her Facebook friends that her mom (that’s me!) may put her on birth control because she’s freaked out some jerk will take advantage of her. Oh yeah!
Needless-to-say, life has been a little hectic and stressful around our house. To compound the issues, Jeff and I don’t always agree on how to handle the situations. I’m typically more conversational in my approach and ask lots of questions, like, “What the he!! are you doing?” and “How come you’re sneaking out? Your dad is going to kill you!” I internalize my stress which generally manifests into migraines, a tight neck, and near nervous breakdowns, none of which are particularly productive.
Jeff, on the other hand, can only bottle his emotions up for so long before he explodes, usually resulting in a shut down by everyone in the family, including the dogs and cats, who hide under chairs, in corners and behind doors in spare bathrooms.
The holidays are often difficult for many people, even those without a mental illness. During tough times with Chloe, I try to keep perspective (hmmm, didn’t I throw a few parties of my own in high school?), while attempting to guide her to stay focused on her goal of graduating high school.
If you or a family member have a mental illness, the holidays can dredge up all sorts of memories, symptoms and bad habits. As difficult as it can be, the best approach is often one of unconditional love and empathy. Be gentle on yourself and loved one and take steps to ease stress.
The holidays are a great time to try one of our Online Family Support Groups. The groups are facilitated by Andrea, who can relate to your issues and struggles. Up to four other participants are present and it is completely confidential and a safe place to vent, ask questions and get support.