A Diary from the Holidays

December 17... 

I'm sitting at a local church, getting ready to cover a Christmas concert with a well-known Christian artist and I should be really happy. But I'm not. I'm sad. I'm incredibly sad.

What gets to me the most is there's no reason to be sad. It's been 2 1/2 years since I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type 2 and even before I knew I had it, I've had these cycles of depression and hypomania for as long as I can remember (it just took a while to be diagnosed). 

So, in other words, this isn't new. I know that this will eventually go away. I also know there's not much I can do to make it go away... I can just ride it out.

But it truly sucks that it's the worst it's been in a while  - and it's during the holidays...

December 18 (morning)...

It's my dad's 84th birthday. My family is meeting at a Mexican restaurant and then they are coming back to our house (I live with my parents) to celebrate. 

However, I'm still in a low cycle. It's difficult for me to socialize on my best day - and this is DEFINITELY not my best day. I dread having to hang out with the family as no one understands me and I know I'll be judged for not being social.

December 18 (afternoon)...

"Well, that went swimmingly," she said very sarcastically. 

First, I got there last and so my boyfriend and I sat at the far end of the table. One of my brothers and I have recently had some, um, disagreements on some issues, and of course, guess who I ended up sitting nearest to? 

I proceeded to be ignored by my family for the majority of the meal.

Normally, that would be a good thing but I felt hurt anyway. They didn't know I was in a low cycle. They didn't know I didn't want to socialize. So when they ignored me, I knew it had nothing to do with giving me grace for feeling bad; it was because they didn't care.

Second, the restaurant was loud. It was full and so there were a lot of people talking plus the music was really loud. I didn't bring my ear protection that I have for concerts so by the end of the meal, my nerves were shot. 

I decided to take care of myself and go out to the car while everyone waited for their checks. I told them what was going on so it wouldn't look like I just walked out on them. They looked at me like I was an alien.

Just when I thought I couldn't feel worse, they were able to make it happen.

My boyfriend and I needed to run a quick errand on the way home, so we were the last to get there. I walked in and found the family all sitting around the kitchen table. Our kitchen table sits 6; our dining room table can hold as many as 10. They were crowded around the kitchen table - leaving no room for my boyfriend and me. 

They knew we were coming. They knew the reason I needed to get out of there had nothing to do with them but was because it was loud in the restaurant. What they didn't know was that I was in a low cycle (because they don't understand mental illness.) 

They excluded us anyway.

So, my boyfriend and I sat by ourselves at the dining room table and had some cake. The family didn't talk to me except to say goodbye when they left.

December 19...

It was a better day in some ways. I visited the church of some friends I had last seen about 35 years ago when I practically lived with them. Lately, we had gotten back in touch through Facebook but had put off seeing each other. It was a fun time, though it still had some tough moments because I am still in a low cycle.

I had been looking forward to the evening's activity for a few weeks. After consulting with my daughter and her fiance', I got all of us tickets to see "It's a Wonderful Life" at the Alabama Theatre. I made sure their schedule was open, only to find out yesterday that they ended up making plans to go out of town today.

So, I had 2 tickets that no one could use. Everyone I called already had plans. I even tried to give away my ticket too so my boyfriend could go with some of his guy friends (plus, I was so down I didn't know if I'd enjoy it). 

I had originally wanted my parents to go, knowing how much they would enjoy it. I offered the tickets to them again and they said they would go.

The logistics of getting them there so that we could get a few of the limited handicapped seats in a general admission scenario was a nightmare. But we figured it out.

I'm glad I went because it was the only Christmas-y thing I think I'll do this year (outside of family stuff.) I was so tired from depression that I kept falling asleep during the movie. It was still worth all of the hassle.

December 20-23...

From all indications, this week was supposed to be really slow with work. I had some things I had planned to do personally instead.

I'm both thankful and a little upset that I was slammed with work all week. I'm thankful because when you freelance, you never know what work you are going to get so it's always good to get jobs.

I'm upset because I was really hoping for a break. Between the two, though, I'm glad I got the work. It just made this week really hectic.

There was a big bump in the road on the 22nd. My mom felt horrible and seriously thought she had COVID. She went to get tested for both flu and COVID and both were negative. We were thankful it was "just" bronchitis. Antibiotics, steroids, and rest meant maybe we could still celebrate Christmas like we had planned.

The 23rd wasn't great for her and she started to doubt she'd feel up to having everyone over. But we still had another day to make the decision.

December 24... 

Christmas Eve. It didn't feel like Christmas Eve, as I had absolutely no "holiday spirit." 

I knew mom would need help today with cooking etc, and I planned to help her. But my boyfriend was off work and he was going to come over, so I hoped to spend some time with him. We also had planned to go see a long-anticipated movie being released today and exchange gifts with my daughter and her fiance'. 

All that changed mid-morning.

Mom felt much worse, instead of better. What was the scariest was that she had lost all taste. We did some research and found that rapid COVID tests are only about 85% accurate so she planned to go back to an urgent clinic to get re-tested before having the family come over. 

I thought she and my dad had already left when I got a phone call that they needed my help. My dad couldn't find something and asked me to look for it. My mom was so weak she couldn't get dressed, which was the reason they hadn't already left.

In the course of maybe 10 minutes of me finding what she needed and starting to help her get dressed, she crashed. She couldn't hold her head up, her arms were numb, and she could barely talk. I finally called 911.

They took her to the ER and after doing lots of tests, found out she had the flu, Type A, as well as bronchitis. They were planning to release her after giving her Tamaflu until they noticed her sodium level.

My mom has major issues with her sodium levels. She has been in the hospital before for a week each time to try to fix it. But this time it was lower than even her usual bottom. They admitted her.

So, Christmas Eve was spent trying to update people and help her as much as I could from home (as they only allowed one person and my dad was already there). I tried to watch a movie with my boyfriend but kept getting interrupted by phone calls related to how she was doing. 

Then after finding out they were admitting her and knowing that my dad needed to get home, I went to the hospital. I planned to stay the night if needed, knowing that the hospital was short-staffed due to the holiday and knowing that she couldn't take care of herself. However, her nursing team ended up being great so I only stayed until about 11:15pm. 

Christmas morning I woke up to absolutely nothing Christmas-y. I heard my dad getting ready to go to the hospital. I called my mom to see how she was doing and she said she was worse and had been coughing since 3am (where was that great nursing team then?) I helped my dad gather up the things she needed before he left.

It's now 9:45am. I'm alone. My boyfriend and daughter both wanted to sleep in today and I know friends are doing their own things with their families. It takes me back to all of those years that my daughter was with her dad on Christmas so we had ours early (Dec 23rd and 24th). But those years I got mentally prepared for being alone on Christmas Day. This was very last-minute.

But I'm thankful. I don't feel happy, but I'm still very thankful that mom didn't have COVID, that she didn't have a stroke, that she had a good enough nursing team that I felt like I could leave and at least get some sleep last night. I guess I'm also thankful that I have experienced being alone on Christmas in the past. I'm sad, but honestly, I'm used to it.

It could have gone very differently and been much worse.

I know this post has been a downer, but I wrote it for two reasons:

- The first was to help those who are having less-than-Hallmark holidays know they aren't alone.

- The second was to show that you can still find things to be thankful for even when everything seems to be crashing down on you. 

I can't say "Merry Christmas," as I'm a horrible actress and don't like to say something I don't feel. I can, however, say, "I hope YOU have a merry Christmas." However, know that if you aren't, it's okay. Whatever junk you are going through will end one day, I promise. Keep going so you can make it to that day.


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