Why are the holidays typically miserable for those who suffer from a mental illness?

Many have the expectation that Thanksgiving and Christmas are the most wonderful times of the year. If you or a loved one suffers from a mental illness like Borderline Personality Disorder, in most cases it's one of the worst times of the year.

I speak from personal experience because my son, Ethan James suffers from BPD. Before Ethan began treatment and accepted the BPD diagnosis, family functions, especially Thanksgiving and Hanukkah were like walking into a dysfunctional family minefield.

Ethan James, Mindy, and Ethan Carey at the Ridgefield Playhouse

The holiday season beams a spotlight on everything that is difficult about living with a mental illness. The pressure to be joyful and social is magnified tenfold. In most cases the loved one with BPD, as my wife puts it, "sucks all the air out of the room" by picking verbal altercations, and creating conflicts with family members.

Instead of mirth and merriment, they feel especially sad and dissatisfied. My son, Ethan told me once, "Everyone is happy and in a good mood and I feel depressed and worthless all the time. What's wrong with me pops?" The following video explains what it's like living with BPD. Do you know someone like this?

He became so tired of waking up every day in a foul mood, he finally asked me if I would help him find a therapist. Between his medication and therapy, he's been able to manage his BPD. Learning how to cope with a loved one's BPD can help create a stronger relationship and possibly remove some of the dysfunction at holiday gatherings. Here's how you can help a loved one with BPD according to an article on bridgestorecovery.com.

  1. Learn about the illness at psycom.net...
  2. Validate their feelings...
  3. Simplify your message...
  4. Show you appreciate your loved one...
  5. Take threats of suicide or self-harm seriously...
  6. Understand it's not their fault.

To get the full rundown on Borderline Personality Disorder, click on the National Institute of Mental Health's website at nimh.nih.gov.