I have to admit that many years ago I had little to no respect for people that suffered from Mental Illness.
I just couldn't understand why they couldn't get up & do something or how they just choose to feel bad for themselves. I had no idea how they could just not resolve the hurts from their pasts & just move forward. How can someones house not be clean & kept or how can someone not want to open their blinds & face the world. Make your life better. Plain & Simple!
This was of course before I spent time with a few friends who took the time to explain to me the battle in their own minds. It was also way before my personal battle with depression that over ruled my life.
When I was 12 years old, my grandparents came down from there home to stay with us over the Christmas holidays.
My Grandfather was one of my kindred spirits & an all around amazing man. He throughout the years gave me so much unconditional love it is something that I still hold near & dear to my heart to this day.
It was over this particular Christmas that my Grandfather had become a little more quirky lets say, than he normally was. The one I remember the most was a hairbrush. My grandfather enjoyed his bristled squared hairbrush so much that my parents bought him a new one. In fact they has bought one for my father as well. However the day they were moving over to my Aunt & Uncles place for the duration of their stay, my Grandfather became very concerned over this hairbrush. It was something about how he couldn't find it, & then along the lines of we took it & hid it from him. This of course was not even remotely true.
I do not necessarily remember how long after Christmas, but we eventually found out that my dear sweet amazing Grandfather was having some mini strokes that was altering his personality.
This of course is not the news you want to hear, but as we age we know what our outcome will be.
The next Christmas came around, & the traditions we had in previous years had changed both my Grandparents were still able to be with us on Christmas day.
That wasn't the only thing that changed.
My mother was deeply affected by the Christmas the year before.
The pain she held on to & somehow blamed upon herself for her fathers health changed Christmas for her. It now became a season of depression, anger, exhaustion & not an overly willing participant.
I never understood.
I knew mental health was an thing in my mothers family history. My Grandmother suffered from it & I recall those moments when she was hospitalized because of it. But being adopted it never really connected with me. I just knew I didn't come from them biologically so it wasn't going to be the same for me. I remember all the Doctor visits where they asked the family history & my mother would always reply, 'They are adopted & we do not know'. So again, I just never felt that it would affect me.
My mother was a very controlling, manipulate, domination person. When she was low, we all knew it. When she was high, we all felt it. But during those younger years I had no idea what it meant or that she ever suffered from anything in any form of a mental illness. She was very secretive about her health issues & even as I became an adult with my own children, she hid even the smallest of surgeries or health problems from us.
To protect us; Yeah Maybe. But I think it was her way to keep her control. You are not weak if everything in your health is in check.
When reflecting on that one Christmas years ago & all of them followed one thing is very apparent. My mother was never going to enjoy the Christmas season with the same gusto as before my Grandfathers strokes.
Jumping years forward & I am too a mother at this point. My daughter was the 1st grandchild for my parents & on her 1st Christmas (she was 10months old) we gathered our goodies & headed to my parents for Christmas morning.
Even though my girl wasn't really old enough to appreciate all the Christmas Hoopla she was still very fascinated by the glitter, bows & wrapping paper. But this Christmas morning was going to stick in my brain for years & years to come.
My mother that morning refused to come downstairs & partake in anything Christmas related. I personally had never seen her act this way. Although she was secretive & we could tell a happy versus sad moments, there was never ever a time where she just completely shut down.
That day she refused to leave her room & kept repeating that she just doesn't want to have anything to do with Christmas. I was completely shocked at her behavior. If not for any other reason, but she did not like being thought of as weak & this was her vulnerable side exposed to the tenth.
This was 10 years after the events with my Grandfather & my mother kept repeating that she hates Christmas cause all she could remember was that one where my Grandfather 1st got sick.
Keep in mind here for the rest of this tale, that I was young, a new mom & that I did not know my mother suffered herself from mental illness. (Let's just say to this day she has yet to confirm what we all know.)
My patience with her that day did not exist.
I told her she was being selfish.
I told her she was going to ruin Christmas for my daughter.
I told her to get her shit together & go the eff downstairs.
My father did not take kindly to what I had said & told me (the only time I had ever heard this), that I had no idea how to handle depression & that I was not helping.
I stormed off downstairs & eventually she joined us for gifts & what I would say 'pouted' like a grown child. But you know, I got what I wanted for my child & that was that.
A few more years under my belt & amazing friends I begin to understand what mental illness is all about.
I get that changing an environment can set someones anxiety off.
I understand that a certain, song, smell or food can bring back childhood trauma's.
I realize that the one pivotal moment of my Grandfather getting sick at Christmas was a defining memory that was a fixture for all Christmas there after. That when you suffer from some sort of mental illness you cannot always remove that trigger.
I know now, that I did not handle that Christmas well with my Mother. She was in a fragile state & instead of finding the compassion for her, I found the intolerance.
Our relationship had always been contentious & is no different now.
What I can tell you is that having friends that taught me about their personal struggles & having my own battle created a more understanding world.
I may not get why someone wouldn't want a clean house, but I am understanding enough to know it is not for me to judge or to know.
I may deal with my childhood trauma's differently than someone else, but we all have luggage to carry our own way. This is not for me to say either.
I can tell you this!
Christmases for me is not defined by the difficult moments that have happened. They are shaped by the memories good & bad to grow & learn from. My mother may still struggle with Christmas, I am not entirely sure, but either way this is her battle. I am not here to say otherwise.
This time of the year can be difficult on many people. But it is up to us to allow them to have their moments, their sorrow & to always offer a compassionate ear. Regardless of what creates their struggles, it is my place & yours to accept, love & be there for them. The reason may never be known to us & it doesn't need to be. It is their personal journey. We just need to show understanding.
I was intolerant all those years ago.
I was heartless.
I was selfish.
I have grown.
I have accepted.
I have suffered.
And I am going to continue to share my adventures.
Love, Embrace & Hold this Holiday Season.