I posted this image on my Facebook page the other day. As much as I love the holidays, it can also be a challenge for me.
I love the lights, the laughter the music, and maybe it’s the optimistic hope that the future can be better.
It can also be a time of challenges for me and reminders of what I can’t do. These reminders worm their way into my psyche when I am tired, stressed or get to busy, which makes this time of year can be even more challenging.
Along with this image on my Facebook page I wrote… “Something to think about. This time of year can be hard for those of us who need to be extra vigilant taking care of ourselves and our mental health. If I don't come to your Christmas Party, get together with you and your friends, or go to the office party- it’s not about you, it is about me. I'm touched that you would like me to be there with you- but please remember I'm doing what I need to do to keep my mental health the best it can be through the holidays, and I am grateful you are in my life.”
I guess you could say the theme for the holidays is balance. By taking care of myself, I can enjoy more times with family and friends in the future. I am also a firm believer that everything does not need to happen in one day. I’m grateful that you have a gift for me, and want to give it to me before Christmas, but I value our friendship too much to meet with you in a rush, for 20 minutes when I am stressed. If we meet like that, I am not able to give you the time and attention you deserve, and I would not be able to give you my authentic self, and I think you are worth at least that much.
A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a person. They wanted me to volunteer to do something. I thought about it, and knew I was at my limit and said I was sorry but I could not do it. Their reply was- “It’s only for a couple of hours.” I have had this comment said to me before, and would get angry, so I have had time to work on my reply. This time I said to them “If I was in the middle of Chemotherapy, would you say to me it’s only a couple of hours? Of course you wouldn’t because you know how exhausting and debilitating Chemo can be. When I am struggling with my mental health, it can be just as exhausting and debilitating, please respect that.”
We then went on and had a lovely conversation about mental health, the stigma around mental illness and why more discussion and education needs to happen around that.
As the old year comes to a close I see people posting the idea of starting the year off with an empty jar, and as the year goes by, write on little slips of paper memories, things you have done etc throughout the year, and at the end of the year-empty the jar and read them. I think this is a great idea and a good reminder that sometimes we get so busy we forget about these treasures.
Well, here is my Christmas presents to all of you.
I know the struggles I have throughout the year, and I imagine you have your own struggles and dark times as well.
Christmas Present # 1- YOU ARE NOT ALONE. No matter what or how you are feeling, please believe me, you are not the only one who has gone through, is going through, or will ever go through what you are at any given moment. You may feel like you are the only one, but you are not. I have gone through mental health struggles, I have friends who have gone through mental health struggles, and we walk along beside you, supporting you, reminding you that you ARE NOT ALONE!!!
Christmas Present #2- YOU ARE OF VALUE AND WORTH. Yes, I have had many moments when I thought, and at that time, truly believed that no one cared about me, and that my existence never had any positive impact on the world. Some of the worst times for me have been when I have felt disconnected from myself, as well as the world around me. It can be a very lonely and cold place. At that point in time I was not able to see that I was loved or that I mattered. But let me tell you hear and now, you are cared for, you do make an important contribution to this world just by being here. Chances are you have made a difference to someone you will never know about it. A smile from a passing stranger or someone holding a door open for me made all the difference to me in those very challenging days. . We don’t know what stories other people are carrying around. You may not be able to feel or see that you make a difference, or that you are cared and thought about right now, but please believe me you do.
Christmas Present #3 – YOU ARE NOT YOUR ILLNESS. I know that with the energy, time and commitment I use to focus on being well, I can sometimes feel like I am my illness, especially during the times of struggle. Times when I could hardly get out of bed and it took everything I had just to get up, or get dressed or using all my resources to go outside for a short walk, not because I wanted to, but because I knew it was for my mental health. It can be exhausting, and when I am there, I am working 24 hours alongside my illness to get better. It is at those times I need to be reminded I am not my illness. YOU ARE NOT YOUR ILLNESS!!! Please keep reminding yourself of that.
I would like you to do the following for me…
If I knew each and every one of you who read my blog, and I was able to, I would give you the following, but since I can’t, I ask you to do this for yourself.
I would give you three empty jars, decorate them if you like and do the following.
In one jar write on tags or pieces of paper would hold all the amazing things you have and did do through the year. Whatever it was, nothing is too small. It could be a slip of paper that says-“I woke up today” it could be “met friend for coffee” “went to library” “smiled at a stranger” “faced the sun and let it warm my face” anything that you did, big or small.
In the second jar, on slips of paper or tags, I would like you to write up “Things I would do for a friend when they are struggling, or something I would do to treat myself. ” These could be things like “cups of tea” walk in the park” “reminding them how special they are” etc. It could be “Going for ice crème, movie” etc.
In the third jar-place notes or tags with things that you CAN DO or have done throughout the year. If you have a job, write down things you can do at your job It could be things like “I can walk” this may sound silly, but sometimes we need to be reminded of what we can do and others cant. It could be things like being a good friend, writer, artist, listener etc., you get the idea.
Now place these in a place of prominence, and fill them as the year goes by. When a time comes that you are feeling low, or the old belief worms itself into your brain that you are your illness, you are worthless etc- which is a cognitive error- go to the jar, pull one of the tags out and read it. Be reminded of who you are, what you can do, and that you are of much worth. Take a deep breath, know you are not alone, and vow to make it for another day.
These are my Christmas presents to you, and I hope, that when you need it most, you will be able to find the treasures that are you and within you.
May you all, feel Peace, love and contentment for now and always.