Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Kinda Dreading the Holidays

My brother called me a few days ago drunk, and I see the signs that this may be a bad Christmas for him. He has bipolar disorder and his trouble times are usually around Christmas and New Years and late summer early fall. Around Christmas if we leave him alone he gets depressed, if family comes to visit he gets stressed, either way he drinks and it makes matters worse.

The run up to Christmas and gifting and wrapping gifts is a big deal for him. It’s like he’s planning a campaign with limited funds and he always seems to fail on delivery and timing. Either he wraps things late or ships things late or ships to the wrong address or causes some drama with the gifts. The gifts are often inappropriate and strange finds he gets in thrift stores or eBay, like stuff he bids on that he got stuck with and he tries to ‘spin’ them as gifts. Occasionally they can be very thoughtful and nice, it’s such a mixed bag.

So much of his self worth is tied up with them, but they are often a burden for the recipient. I have a pile of gifts of his from last year still wrapped and sitting in my kitchen from last year, in hopes that my other brother who’s in an on-again off-again divorce estrangement situation might come by and pick them up and he could drop off the birthday gift that I was reminded I’d forgotten about in his drunk phone call. I joked to my sister that it would be like a hostage exchange.

Judging by dystopian Holiday movies, maybe everyone feels this way around Christmas. But families with mental illness in the mix seem to be extra-specially dysfunctional around the holidays. I usually try to engineer an excuse to avoid some of the holiday weirdness, but it seems my escape hatch was thwarted this year with scheduling mishaps, so I’ve resigned myself to grin and bear it.

Is anyone else dreading the holidays? Or looking forward to them for that matter? I’m torn between wanted to commiserate with someone or be inspired that things won’t be that bad.

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About all I get from it is peace at work as most are gone, i blew a couple grand and gave the shit out already…

Put me in the dread column this year.

My husband and I talked about holiday plans back when we both assumed he’d be back on medications by now. Nope. Husband went to the appointment expecting a prescription (and prepared to be made as hell about it) and the psychiatrist put the decision back on him (probably the only thing to do under the circumstances) so no possibility of meds for another couple of months. Sigh.

In his defense, my husband has been trying to get out a little more and he’s definitely trying harder to be kind to me at home, which has been nice. However, he is still intensely paranoid regarding any connections/associations between myself and his family (e.g. he just turned off the tv when he heard me coming downstairs for more coffee and then turned it on again once I was safely back upstairs again, so I know he is texting with his family about an ongoing football game but does not feel safe doing so with me in the room).

So guess where we are supposed to spend Christmas? Hah!

Add in driving several hours in traffic to get to the airport plus one or two away-from-home overnight stays due to late booking of flights (not his fault - his family is in chaos right now) plus the usual airport holiday turmoil and I am dreading it intensely.

The thing that keeps me going at this point is the hope that he’ll be unable to face the stress and he’ll pull out last minute - which is not great either, as spending four days together over Thanksgiving with no escape for work was not fun for either of us and this will be even longer. I definitely will have to find excuses to go into the office. Work is the place where things (sometimes) feel normal these days.

I’m trying to be more positive myself, so I should also share that, yes, although there are degrees of dysfunction, I do think most people experience more stress than usual around the winter holidays, and we do all manage to get through it each year.

And in terms of my personal life, my husband is starting to want things again and to ask me for them.

I usually make a very tasty eggnog from scratch when we put up the tree. Because the whole tree buying business was so stressful this year (he came with me at his request - very brave of him but hard),I was too tired to even consider it.

But I guess it has been on his mind, and he actually asked me a couple of days ago if we could have eggnog - preferably the one I make, but if it’s too much work for me, then a premade version. Made me feel very good and more celebratory than I’d been feeling :slight_smile:

Personally, I think the holidays can cause dread in almost everyone. I used to hate all of the preparations for just a short time of togetherness, which almost always had someone in the family having a blowup with someone else in the family (happened almost every year). So, over the years, I have “toned down” my expectations and my reduced the overload in preparation/participation to make things more manageable. This year’s plans are really simple, shopping is done already, and I don’t feel as stressed. My daughter and I take nightly walks around the neighborhood to look at the lights, but we agreed that neither of us misses the urge to go all-out like we used to.

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The holidays suck. To me they are just another day because Xmas about 36+ years ago my brother became fully schizophrenic and tried to commit suicide, and My brother has been incarcerated in a California state hospital for 34+ years.

Although my family celebrate Xmas; I can only remember it being a tough time for my brother. My sister and mom do not speak of the past. I don’t want to spoil Xmas for my wife and son, so I silently remember what happened because time doesn’t heal all wounds and you can’t just bury the past without damaging yourself emotionally.

You should not get stressed out during the holidays. Give yourself a break, forgive yourself because you don’t deserve to feel guilty over things you brother did/does, which you can’t really control.

Take care of yourself first.

I guess this is where the contrarian maybe the holidays aren’t so bad sentiment kicks in. I have a friend who has a tragic background with the holidays. Her brother died in a car accident on Christmas Eve and years later her employer died on New Year’s Day. Both of these events upended her life. She has every reason to hate the holidays, but I helped her yesterday setting up a Christmas tree.

She wanted it for two pets she rescued this year for their first Christmas. She fully expects them to knock it over and has decorated it with all unbreakable ornaments, as sort of an invitation to the chaos gods. I’ve pointed her to articles and videos about deterring pets from attacking your tree, but she will have none of it. Seems a fitting and poetic metaphor for the holidays. Saturnalia traditions have roots in the hope of renewal of the Solstice in the bleak of winter. I guess embracing the chaos is one way of celebrating. The tree looks and smells nice, and I think her pets don’t quite know what to make of it. Give them time, I suppose.


Yes I feel holiday anxiety too. I have lots of theories, but mostly:
adding the sincere wish to please,
on top of the potential financial strain, and the unreasonable material expectations my son tends to have, and his birthday also in the month,
on top of the seasonal expectations of general cheeriness and goals for decoration and celebration,
on top of short daylight and long dark days…

and this year my husband suffering with a bad hip with surgery scheduled after the first of the year…

I always say I am just going to do what I enjoy and let the rest go, but it never seems to go that way.

Yes, @Chuong_Ha , I think you have given the best piece of advice. Time does NOT heal all wounds, and we all tend to make ourselves guilty for not being able to help our loved ones more than we are able to help them. I have had to teach myself and my ill daughter not to “pick at the scabs” of the past emotional wounds. I pretty much do as you do and don’t speak of the past. You sound like you are handling it fairly well, and your brother too, as he at least recognizes that he can be dangerous to others so stays in the hospital (I read your other post). I hope you continue to take good care of yourself.


Update: so far the holidays went surprisingly well. My brother actually shipped his presents on time and his anxiety about delivery was minimal. Best I can tell he kept it together with minimal drinking. I only endured one rambling delusion-ridden drunk phone call. I suspect my sister’s hand in this. She can sometimes coax him into keeping things together for a while on command.

After trying to avoid visiting my other brother with the on again/off again divorce situation, I had a fun relaxed dinner with him and his family. The tensions and proxy wars of the past that kept me away weren’t on display at least. I relayed this news to my sister’s family today (who were more successful at avoidance) and all were amazed.

I inadvertently defused some of my brother’s gift giving anxieties with a series of silly mistakes. I accidentally sent Christmas goodies intended for my parents to their old house which had changed hands. My parents decided they didn’t need the extra calories, so I hope the random beneficiaries enjoyed their gifts! I also shipped this brother’s gift to myself and overlooked it in a pile of boxes, so it didn’t arrive in time. I’m not sure if it was schadenfreude or empathy, but he certainly got a kick out of my mistakes and overlooked the lack of a timely gift.

So far so good, but there’s still New Year’s Eve to navigate… I gifted myself a copy of Dr. Amador’s book from the proceeds of a gift card, so maybe it will come in handy. :wink: