How Do You Survive the Holidays? Help!

It’s not that I don’t love Thanksgiving or Christmas. I mean, who doesn’t love Thanksgiving and Christmas? The whole freaking world loves Thanksgiving and Christmas! Because…otherwise… You’re one of these two characters:

And wouldn’t you rather be these?

By the way, I wanted to include a picture of a guy enjoying some Christmas cheer so that my male readers wouldn’t feel left out. Word of advice: don’t Google “male Christmas model.” It’s nearly-naked dudes wearing Santa hats. Sometimes on their heads, sometimes on their…other place.

So.

I’ll take the grinchy hit here: Holidays stress me out. I’m not even sure that I like them. My favorite time to be thankful is when I’m snuggled up on the couch with my husband and dogs, watching our fireplace, and we’re snowed in so no one can bug us. Or when it’s summer, and we’re driving down a dirt road with nothing but trees for miles. That’s when I think, “Wow, I’m profoundly thankful.”

Thanksgiving is the time when I think, “Ack! I have to cook for HOW many people? And my house is supposed to somehow be magically spotless at the same time? Of course I should be able to do this, because Rachel Ray does it and the Pioneer Woman does it and every other freaking housewife on my social media feed does it. So why am I covered in flour with an underbaked casserole, burnt cookies, and a kitchen full of weird gadgets that I didn’t even know I owned? WHY?”

Then there’s dinner itself, where you mingle with the cousins who you haven’t seen all year, and they ask you awkward questions like “Why don’t you have kids yet?” Because it’s inappropriate to ask that to just anyone, but we’re family, after all, and so it’s probably fine even though we never talk except for at these awkward family events (Hint: it’s not fine).

Then there’s what I call the “résumé relatives,” who ask you what you’ve been up to this year, but it’s in this judgy way where you should have definitely accomplished more than you have (because did you hear how much THEY did this year??). It’s like they want you to send them your updated résumé every year, just so they can scoff and say, “HA! Loser. I knew it.”

And then there’s my grandma, who is honestly awesome but also the strangest grandma ever. She looked me up and down last year and said, “Yes, hm. I suppose you don’t need plastic surgery yet.” YET? WHAT? What am I going to need plastic surgery for?? And why did I barely make the cut?? I was feeling all cute, but then I felt like crawling in a corner and apologizing to everyone who had the unfortunate task of looking at me.

Plus, I mean, in-laws. That’s all there is to say about that, amirite?

So holidays stress me out. I ADMIT IT! I AM A SCROOGE!

Mental illness can make normal holiday stress even more difficult. I’m completely off of my routine, I’m under more anxiety than usual, I have to be all social when I hate being social, etc. The holiday season is not kind to the mentally ill. Lots of people kill themselves during this time, did you know that? “The most wonderful time of the year,” and people are killing themselves at alarming rates. I have no jokes about that one, y’all, because it’s not funny.

So. What do you do to decrease your stress during the holiday season? How do you keep your brain functioning like it should? Let’s comment with tips and all help each other out. Thanks in advance for any advice you may have!

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It’s Christmas Eve – You Still Have Time To Go Get a Dog

Everyone should have a dog.  When you’re sitting and crying, your dog can jump up, put paws on both of your shoulders, and give you a look that says, “Suck it up.  It’s Christmas Eve.  You shouldn’t cry on Christmas Eve.”  If you’re wondering, a beagle is the perfect sized dog for such comforting.

If you’re wondering why I was sitting on my kitchen floor crying, I’ll tell you.  That’s not really the point though.  The point is that it’s Christmas EVE, so it’s not too late to go buy yourself/a loved one/your boss/the mayor/random homeless person a dog for Christmas.  I highly recommend it.

I was sitting on my kitchen floor crying because, even with all of my family in town, I felt very alone.  My husband is working today.  My sister hasn’t replied to my texts all week, even though I know she’s home on break at my parents’ house (ten minutes away), and she could come over if she wanted to.  She’s been very weird around me ever since my bipolar diagnosis last year.  I asked her about it once, and she said, “I just don’t know what to say…I figure if you ever need help you’ll tell me.”  Maybe I don’t need help…I simply need a friend. I tried telling her that, but here we are months later and she still doesn’t talk to me unless she needs a paper proofread.

My brother used to be another one of my best friends, but he found a witch of a girlfriend a few months ago, and she immediately cut off his contact with all of his friends (I kid you not.  A month or two after they started dating I asked why he dropped off the face of the map and doesn’t respond to my texts/calls anymore, and he said, “Oh yeah, about that…I’m not allowed to talk to you or a lot of my friends because Courtney doesn’t like it.  Could you actually stop texting me please?  She checks my phone, and I get in trouble if I was talking to you.”).  Oooookay.  Four months after they met, he proposed.  So now said witch is going to be my sister-in-law, and she’s going to be at all of our family events this Christmas.  Also, looks like I lost one of my best friends for…the foreseeable future?  Forever?  Around an hour ago he texted something like, “I love you!  Merry Christmas!” and I thought, “Whoa!  He texted me!”  But a text quickly followed that said, “Uhh…wrong person, sorry.”  Oh.

Last, my husband’s sister is in town from Boston.  She used to be Andy’s best friend.  In high school, you didn’t invite one somewhere without the other.  Once she went away to college (she’s one year older than him), she kind of decided family was “so last year,” and has never been close to anyone in his family again, despite everyone’s attempts to stay in touch.  We went out for dinner with her this week, but everything was so….shallow and awkward.  It sucks.  A long time ago, I was the one she called when she broke up with her boyfriend so I could be there with chocolate and chick flicks.  She was in my wedding.  Now she’s practically a stranger.

And I guess that’s why I was sitting on my kitchen floor crying – because family members are supposed to be your best friends, and mine simply…aren’t anymore.  I know Christmas is supposed to be the happiest time of year, but for everyone out there struggling with Christmas cheer for one reason or another – know that it’s okay.  You’re not alone in that.

Also, you should probably get a dog.  One concerned beagle look and a couple of face licks later, I was feeling much better.  Now I’ve gotta get back in there and make the rest of the food for our Christmas Eve potluck tonight.

Merry Christmas, everyone – especially to you blog folks who have showed me so much support that you’ve practically become family this year.  I don’t know where I’d be without you.  Thank you so, so much.

I Forgot the Crake

Mom: Are you picking your nose?  Kid: No, I’m scratching a bug bite that’s in my nose.

Why can’t I be that clever?

I’m visiting some family in Kansas, and I’m glad that I like them so much because there’s really no other reason to visit Kansas.  For real.  I asked my cousin what there is to do around here, and she said, “We do have a museum about our varieties of prairie grasses.”  I blankly stared at her after she said this.  Was she joking?  Nope, not joking.  Oh boy.

When you’re hanging out with five kids aged eight and under, you really don’t need activities (especially prairie grass museums).  They say quite enough to keep you entertained.  Yesterday we played in the backyard and tried to make a pile of leaves, but my cousin doesn’t have a rake.  This conversation ensued:

C (six years old): Hazel, do you have a crake?  (note: he calls a rake a “crake.”  I don’t pretend to know why).

Me: Yes, I do, but it’s back at my house in Michigan.

C: Can you go get it?

Me: Um, no.  I would have to get on another airplane.

C: Just take our car!

Me: I wouldn’t be back for another day!  Sorry dude, I can’t go get it.

C: *sulking* You really should have thought about bringing your crake while you were packing.

Now that I think of it, I have never seen anyone with a rake on an airplane.  There is no way that’s legal.  I wonder if anyone has ever attempted it.

Kids are so much fun.  I submit that they’re the best and worst possible thing for mental health.  When an eight year old hears you walk in late at night, and she has to run out of bed and sprint across the kitchen to give you a hug goodnight and say she loves you…well, there’s not a lot that’s better than that.  I’ve heard that having your own kids is not always so awesome, though, so maybe it’s good that I’m just visiting (even though I didn’t bring my crake).

Did You Know I’m a Sex Maniac Stalker? Me Neither.

My grandma recently retired from her job as a secretary at a doctor’s office.  Every once in a while, she still tells me about her patients.  Over breakfast today, we were discussing the book Fast Girl by Suzy Favor Hamilton (the protagonist in this book has bipolar disorder).  My grandma took this opportunity to impart upon me the following information:  “We had a few patients who suffered from manic depression.  That’s another term for bipolar, you know.  Manic depression.”

Yes, Grandma.  I’m familiar with the term.

“Dr. Keith told me to watch out for those manic depressives.  They’re complete sex maniacs.  They just have sex with everyone.  And my brother, he knew a woman with manic depression, and she stalked him.  Like, really stalked him.  It was so creepy.”

Okay, that felt a little like a stab wound…

“Insane asylums really need to make them a higher priority.  I mean, they’re out there wandering the streets untreated.  Who knows what they can do?  They need to be in a home for the mentally impaired.”

Knife twisted.  Thanks Grandma.

After this monologue, I figured that would be a very inopportune moment to reveal that I am one of these scary “manic depressives.”  What if she kicked me out?  I have nowhere to go until my plane leaves on Sunday.  The thing about grandparents is that it’s very difficult to change their minds on things.  Still, on behalf of myself and everyone else in the mental health community, I felt like I had to say something.

“Grandma, I seriously doubt that everyone with bipolar disorder is a sex maniac stalker.  Actually, I’m positive there are people who aren’t.”

“Yes, of course you’re right,” she said.  “But you just have to be careful.  You never know.  Actually, some of them are very smart.  Did you know that many very gifted artists and writers have been manic depressives?”

Again, I’m quite familiar with the concept.  I’ve only spent infinity hours researching this topic…but I don’t say that.

“Yes, Grandma.  I’ve heard that.  It’s great that they’re so creative…many of the best artists of all time have been mentally ill.”

She looks a little pensive.  “I wonder why all the greats are insane?  What’s different about them?  Hmmm…  Well, their brain unlocks different levels of creativity, I guess.”

Yes, let’s please focus on that instead of the fact that they’re all stalkers.  We talked a little longer in this new vein of less offensive conversation, but honestly I was ready to hop off of that before she started asking uncomfortable questions.  You never know with grandmas…she started our time together this week by asking if I’m planning to get pregnant soon, and just today she said, “Hmmm…I don’t think you need plastic surgery yet, but you will when you’re older.”  Grandparents say the weirdest things.  I didn’t want her to ask about my mental health, because I am the worst liar ever (just ask my husband).

I texted my husband after this exchange, and he said, “Don’t let her get you riled up…you know who you are.”  And really, he’s right.  I do.  For a world where people are bent on “finding themselves” and “discovering their true identities,” the fact that I know who I am is actually a pretty big accomplishment.  Perhaps “who I am” is a bit insane, but hey, at least life will never be boring.