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