Happy Holidays & Happy New Year!
By Emily Glossner Johnson
It’s almost become a cliché to say that the holiday season can be a difficult and lonely time for some people. I think this is because, when saying this, one is stating the obvious. Society, the media, advertisements, other people, etc., tell us that we’re supposed to feel joy and happiness at this time of year. But if you’re lonely or something bad has recently happened to you, or if you have an illness or any other kind of calamity has befallen you, then it’s difficult to feel joy and happiness, especially when you’re being inundated by the message.
I happen to celebrate Christmas. Having a mental illness during this time of year causes me to walk a careful line between enjoying the holiday and being overwhelmed by it. As for decorations, I love to decorate the house and I pretty much have it down to a well-run system. As far as shopping goes, I rely on lists and try to get my shopping done well before Christmas. When it comes to entertainment, I’m fortunate that others in my large family do the entertaining but if it were my role to entertain, I’d again rely on a lot of lists and try to keep things small. Cooking for Christmas, since I don’t do the big entertaining, consists of making cookies, something which I love to do. I bake when I have the time and inclination so that I don’t get overwhelmed by it.
How do I deal with the expectations of feeling joyful and happy during the holiday season? I take things day by day, moment by moment. I try to continue to do the things I do throughout the year to stay well: medication, meeting with my psychiatrist, feeling the love and support of family and friends. I also try to exercise, meditate regularly, eat right, and get enough sleep. None of these things are unusual for me. I try to do them all throughout the year. But in December, they become especially important.
My writing is also very important to me during this season. It’s always important, but around Christmas, it gives me a chance to escape into other places when the going gets tough. I’ve written three new short stories in the past month which may tell you something about how good writing is for me when life is busier than usual.
A holiday I really enjoy is New Year’s. Of course there’s a bit of sadness because it marks the end of the holiday season, but the start of a new year always excites me. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Rather, I make goals for myself for the coming year—most of them having to do with writing. I’ve stuck with my writing goals for 2014 and plan to do the same for 2015.
I wish you all a happy holiday season and a Happy New Year!
Emily Glossner Johnson writes monthly blog articles about mental illness and the challenges and triumphs it brings to the writing life. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995, Emily is familiar with the pitfalls and high points of being a writer with a mental illness. Emily aims to encourage others through whatever challenges they may face when writing—whether it be a mental illness, a physical disability, or some other obstacle. Emily wishes to communicate to others that they are not alone. Even for writers who don’t have a disability, Emily hopes that her articles will inspire, educate, and enlighten.