When the Holidays Stop Being the Holidays by Tawney Odin

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When the Holidays Stop being the holidays, My heart goes out to those with mental illness during the holidays, but how do caregivers of the mentally ill feel?

When the Holidays Stop Being the Holidays by Tawney Odin

The holiday season used to be my favorite time of year. While I may still enjoy dressing up for Halloween, grabbing a good pumpkin spice latte, and sharing presents with friends and family, it doesn’t have the same feeling it used to. Especially Christmas.

My mom and dad have been gone for quite some time now, and I no longer talk to my brothers or that side of the family. (A story for another time.) But, the holidays were still fun and still about family because my husband Andy and I would spend Christmas Eve with his mom, dad, and older brother Win, who lived close by. Sometimes Andy’s younger brother Michael and his wife Heather would fly in from South Carolina and join us as well.

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Missing Family During the Holidays

Then a few years ago, Andy’s parents decided to move to South Carolina. Win still lives close, but it’s not the same anymore. This is due to a couple of reasons, partly related to Andy’s emotional illness.

We used to visit on Christmas Eve because Andy would not leave the house on Christmas Day. The holidays are now just for Andy and me. We see Win on Christmas Eve but only for a short time, and we don’t sit down to dinner or even enjoy snacks.

Going to a friend’s house for the holidays is not an option because Andy doesn’t want to go anywhere on those days. It’s starting to feel very lonely.

Not Everyone is Happy During the Holidays

Andy’s anxiety and OCD make just stepping outside the house a big deal. It means he has to do his “clean up” routine each time, including vacuuming and showering. When I come home from work, when we get back from picking up groceries, when I come home from visiting a friend – it’s all the same.

Even if Andy just goes outside to grab a package off the porch, he still has to go through the entire routine. It breaks my heart and sometimes infuriates me, but it has been our life since we married.

I have tried to make the last few holiday seasons a little special. I was picking up a pre-cooked bird from the store, cooking special side dishes to go with, and doing at least a minimum of decorating. It will never feel the same, though.

Being Alone for Christmas

I miss having family around to celebrate with. I miss laughing and talking and watching football and opening presents together. I miss the big meals we all used to share and help my mom or Andy’s mom in the kitchen, depending on which parents we were visiting that year.

I never really could understand why some people hated the holidays, but now I have some empathy for what they are going through. I’ve even tried to convince Andy to move to South Carolina to be near his family again, but he has no interest in that at all.

I’ve tried to stay positive, but it’s becoming more difficult. This year will be another Thanksgiving of staying home and trying to convince my friends that it’s what I prefer.

Holiday Loneliness

It will be another Christmas of opening our presents to each other and from Andy’s family but not seeing their faces (except for visiting Win for maybe an hour). It will feel hollow like we aren’t really celebrating at all.

I don’t know how to tell Andy how much this hurts without hurting him in return, so I just don’t say anything. I wish I knew how to feel the way I used to, but this is our life now.

I hope the holidays are happy and joyful for Andy’s family in South Carolina and all my friends. Maybe it will get easier as time goes by.

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