Bob and I struggled with our Christmas message to you all, trying to find the right words to let you know we were thinking of you all at this time of the year, and most of all to help those of you who are apprehensive about Christmas to realise that you are not alone. Some of you have shared your stories of previous Christmases and the tensions that happened on the day. Bob and I have had those times too, some really awful times, and understand what you may be going through. But we also want to give you hope that as the years pass, the sad times may lessen.
We have had Christmases when I wished the day would just pass. It is portrayed as a happy time, with family and friends, and yet for those of us struggling with the impact of BPD, it is one of the most stressful times of the year. As I lay in bed this morning at 5 am (the cat woke me, as if I don’t have enough trouble sleeping!) and started making my list of things still to be done, I pondered about the stress that this time of the year can cause many people, let alone those of us who have someone we love with a mental illness.
It is usually mothers who do the shopping, cooking, buying and wrapping of gifts, so we are often tired and stressed, before the day even arrives. Then at the family gathering, we are often the ones trying to keep the peace between family members. The men in our lives may also be struggling but often are not able to share their thoughts and feelings, and so suffer in silence.
Our loved ones with BPD are most probably also struggling. They may be feeling anxious or depressed or angry, as they cope with their own emotional dysregulation. They may look around them, and see others having fun, going out with friends, and many traveling to go on a holiday. Our loved ones may not be well enough or have the money to do those things, and perhaps saddest of all, may not have friends around them to do any of those things.
Then there are the siblings who also struggle with the day. They too have seen the trauma and havoc this illness has caused, both for them, and for their parents. In many cases they have borne the brunt of their sibling’s anger, lived with the sadness of their sibling’s self-harm or suicide attempts, and may be embarrassed by some of their impulsive behaviours. So the tension as we sit down to the meal, even now that things are better, is palpable, for me at least, and I do my best to try to keep everyone happy. I feel like I am a puppet on a string, leaping around the table, trying to anticipate and do everything to keep everyone happy. At least our grandchildren bring us much joy and love, and brighten the day, but I know many of you do not have that wonderful experience in your lives, due to the illness, and that too is another sadness.
Then of course, there are those of you who do not have your loved one with you, for one reason or another. Some of you have, sadly, lost your daughters to this illness, and some of you have no interaction with your loved one. Their place at the table is empty and their absence is deeply felt. And yet they are there, in your hearts and minds.
I have painted a bleak picture, but sadly this is the reality for many of us. As the years have passed, and our daughter has grown and matured, and even come to terms with her illness more, our Christmases have been happier. I have written my thoughts in the hope that you will realise you are not alone in wishing the day to be over, and in the hope that you get some comfort, as you feel surrounded by the love and warmth from others in the group, as I do.
Thank you to everyone for making Sanctuary such a caring group. Bob and I hope that the New Year brings Peace and Hope for all of us, for we who are carers, and also for those we love and care for.