Serenity Now!: Some Holiday Mental Health

For those who live with mental illness, Thanksgiving can be a very stressful holiday. For those with eating disorders, obviously, the major focus of this holiday is food. Being faced with the prospect of an exceptionally large meal may bring up urges to restrict, binge, or purge– even for those in recovery. For most of us, the stress comes from the pressure of being with a lot of family at once, or the chaos of traveling. Having a bunch of family and friends gathered, while joyful, can also breed painful conflict; old wounds can be opened during this time. For addicts, it may be about staying clean. For those with bipolar or schizophrenia, it may be about staying on their meds. Sometimes even old abuse that never got talked about still simmers beneath the surface.

This was the way it was in my family for a long time. I empathize if you are stuck in a similar situation. What my therapist had me do– and I found this incredibly helpful– was make a list of the things I was truly thankful for. Things that I loved and made me want to be alive. And when I wanted to engage in family conflict, when I started to feel affected, I focused on that list.

I truly, truly hope that no one needs the above technique because you all have loving families to be with this Thanksgiving. May we all remember to be grateful for the things we are blessed with, no matter how small. Have a great holiday!

Warmth and love,

© Sarah Henderson 2010


About writingforrecovery

Sarah is a writer and poet who speaks out about issues that make people uncomfortable. Sarah advocates for causes such a sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and mental illness, and often speaks openly about her own experiences. She is determined to abolish the stigma associated with these issues and believes that it starts with people telling their stories, so she started a blog called Writing for Recovery where people can do just that. She is the author of three volumes of poetry and is currently at work on her fourth. She is convinced that there's a novel somewhere in her, and occasionally picks at the chapters so far. View all posts by writingforrecovery

4 responses to “Serenity Now!: Some Holiday Mental Health

  • crescendobird

    Thanks for saying all this, for acknowledging how hard holidays are for some of us. It’s good to know I’m not the only one…

  • Fayth

    Thank you for posting this, that technique definately helped me get through thanksgiving, and i think I may have to use it again for the rest of the holiday season. The holidays get wicked stressful and the things that youre trying to recover from seem to be so much closer to the surface.
    Thank you, and I hope you had a good thanksgiving

    • writingforrecovery

      I’m so glad to hear that you were able to get through the holiday ok. I say use whatever you have to to protect yourself, take care of yourself around the things and people that stress you out. Put your recovery first and remember that you deserve to be loved in a respectful way. I find that keeping firm boundaries is really hard around family this time of year, but it’s also crucial to staying sane. Keep doing what you need to and enjoy the holidays as much as possible!

      By the way, I did have a pretty nice thanksgiving, thank you. 🙂

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