Christmas Traditions

Merry Christmas! The day that we have been planning for months has finally come. The presents have been wrapped and now unwrapped. Food is cooking and traveling has commenced. Every family has their own traditions and plans for this time of the year. I didn’t realize how different people’s traditions are until my husband and I met.

On Christmas Eve, we spend time with my husband’s family at his uncle’s house. There will be my husband and I, my husband’s parents, my sister-in-law and her fiance, our niece, his aunt and uncle, and two of his cousins. The first year we were together and went to his uncle’s house for Christmas Eve, it was awkward. We hadn’t spent much time with them, so I didn’t know how to act at first. I remember seeing all of the delicious snacks they prepared and only eating a little bit so I could save room for dinner. After about two hours, I realized that this was dinner. So naturally, I stuffed my face. It was so different from any party that my family has, so it was a huge surprise for me. We laugh about it now and I know not to worry about pacing myself. It will be quiet and we will be able to catch up on what has been going on in everyone’s lives.

On Christmas we spend time with my family. We will go to my aunt’s house which will be filled with about twenty people running around. We are a big Italian family, so it is both loud and full of an unimaginable amount of food. First there is a table full of appetizers, then a table and counter full of entrees, and last-but-not-least a table full of desserts. Granted, we wont be able to eat much of it this year, but that means we won’t leave uncomfortably full. My family will continue to feed us (regardless if we say we’re full) for hours. It’s always over-stimulating and everyone tries to talk over everyone else, but it’s family. We will receive our gifts from our Secret Santa and watch the children play until it’s time to go home.

I was talking with one of my friends recently and she told me about her and her husband’s holiday plans. They spend Christmas Eve with her father’s side of the family, Christmas morning with her husband’s family, and Christmas evening with her mother’s side of the family. Oh, and they have to fit her husband’s step dad’s family in there somewhere. I don’t know how they do it. That sounds exhausting!

No matter what your plans are this holiday, I hope you get the chance to sit down and relax. This is the time to reflect on the past year and focus on what you are most grateful for. Family is worth appreciating and spending time with them is what the holidays are all about.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

It’s in the Genes

The older I get, the more I realize that mental illness is something that a lot of people in my family struggle with. I’m not just saying “my family is weird” because honestly I think all families are in their own way, but there are a lot of diagnosed (and some undiagnosed) mental illnesses that have taken advantage of the people I love.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one-in-five adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year. Additionally, many studies find that having relatives with mental illness can put you at a higher risk for having a mental illness yourself.

Growing up, I always knew that my father’s mother was different than the other adults in my life. She has never been able to take care of herself and has always been socially inept. When I was a teenager and originally diagnosed with Dysthmia and generalized anxiety, the conversation started with my mom about my paternal grandmother. I eventually had the opportunity to ask my father about her medical issues and the only answer he had for me was “she is bat-sh** crazy.” Mental illness has never been understood or accepted on his side of the family.  He told me that she has mental illness, but he doesn’t know what diagnosis she has.

As I became an adult and was a part of “adult conversations”, I realized that other members of my family have O.C.D., generalized anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and/or addiction. On one hand, I was relieved to find out that I was not the only one struggling with mental illnesses in my family. On the other hand, I was frightened that this is something I could pass down to my children in the future.

Realizing how much distress my mental illness has caused me and my family, I worried that my children won’t have a chance to escape it. Then I realized that although we each struggle with mental illness, our lives are still full of love and happiness. We still have opportunities, experiences, and achievements. Our lives still have meaning and they are worth living.

Mental illness is still a taboo for a lot of people, but it’s a common occurrence among adults and children alike. Chances are, there is someone(s) in your life that struggle with mental illness. Have an open mind and listen to what they have to say. You don’t have to understand (or like) what they say, but it is a very real thing to them and you should validate that. Accept their fears and support their journey to wellness.

Love Always,

Elizabeth