The family (and extended family) are all sitting around the large table with the big Thanksgiving centerpiece in the middle of it. The luscious holiday dishes are passed around, and there are smiles on all the faces, much talk and laughter going on at the same time as the food is served.
When the meal is served, everyone looks to the head of the table, and the patriarch of the family, Grandpa, starts by saying, “Today I am grateful for…” And everyone goes around the room saying what they are grateful for. Then grace is said, and everyone digs in to the great Thanksgiving feast, as the laughter and conversations pick up again.
What a lovely picture of Thanksgiving, isn’t it? Don’t you wish it could be your picture of
the holiday as well? But chances are, it won’t be. Not when you’re a supporter to a loved one
with bipolar disorder.
The holidays, like Thanksgiving, can be very stressful for people with bipolar disorder. They can even be a trigger to a bipolar episode for some people with the disorder.
For example, being at a family gathering means being around more people, so for someone who is triggered by crowds, this would be a stressful situation for them. It would be best if you either avoid the family gathering or, if you do plan to attend it, you need to have a plan of what to do if your loved one does, indeed, become too stressed out or their bipolar disorder does become affected.
You might want to have some kind of signal that they can give you if you are not right next to them that tells you that they need to leave. Then you can make your excuses, and simply leave the gathering if your loved one becomes too overwhelmed.
Another plan might be that knowing ahead of time that this might be a problem, contact your loved one’s psychiatrist and have them prescribe an anti-anxiety medication that your loved one can take so they can stay at the gathering.
Be sure to give your loved one extra love and support during this time, so they know you are
on their side.
The holidays can also be a trigger to depression for someone with bipolar disorder. In this case, a family gathering can help them avoid the depression by not allowing them to isolate. Isolation can be a trigger to a bipolar episode.
Can you see how knowing your loved one’s triggers can help you know what to do (whether
to go to the gathering or not, in this case)?
If your loved one tends to get depressed around the holidays, try to get them involved in more
Part of the depression is a loss of interest in things that used to interest them. So try to spark their interest.
Have them help you with holiday preparations. Maybe have them help you with your Christmas
shopping list. If they are up to it, do a little bit of early Christmas shopping with them. Even wrapping some Christmas presents might help them get into the spirit. If this is something that interests them, have them help you with the holiday cooking. Have them go to the grocery store with you.
Be careful not to overwhelm your loved one, however. Too much excitement can trigger a person with bipolar disorder into a bipolar manic episode, and you don’t want that, either.
Try to stick to as normal a daily schedule as possible. That will help them the most.
Well, I have to go!