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Thanksgiving and Family Nightmare
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Thanksgiving and Family Nightmare

We have to drive down and see our families for Thanksgiving.  We always do this once a year.  My bipolar has gotten tremendously worse.  I can't interact with people at all it seems.  I have so much anxiety that I can barely get myself out of the house.  I am pretty much terrified of what's going to happen Thanksgiving.  It's a 14 hour drive with 3 kids and 2 dogs.  So that's going to have my nervous system thrashed in itself.  Then I will have to deal with all the judgemental family members.  Last year I broke out in hives on the way to see my mom that's how much of a mess I was.  My husband is forcing me to go.  It is his one time to relax he says but it is a total nightmare for me.  I have a former alcohol problem so my pdoc is not likely going to give me anything like benzos to keep my calmed down (which is probably what I need).  Is there something else I can ask for that will keep me from freaking out and losing it?

  
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497950_tn?1255867527
oh yeah...I am on Wellbutrin SR 150mg and Lamictal 50mg right now
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Avatar_m_tn
Sorry your being put in this situation, I dont think short of a stout narcotic to knock you out there is a med for this. My opinon is the problem lies with your husband nit understanding the serious nature of what he is asking you to undertake. There are some i am sure that will say go for your family , I wont as i know how different things can trigger episodes that I' m sure everyone wants to avoid. My suggestion is to just tell him why you dont want to go an stick to your guns, just let him know you are not tring to restrict him from going if he want to on his own. Good luck
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497950_tn?1255867527
thanks for the reply...he really doesn't want to understand how serious I am being when I say how much anxiety I have...he is normal and just will never understand being crazy like I am...yeah, an episode is not ideal at all and would be hugely embarassing for me....they would all be like 'there she goes again, do we need to take her to the hospital again?'...I know my pdoc is going to up my lamictal (because he always ups everything on me)  I was thinking about asking about Atarax or Hyzine, those would help with my hives and keep my calmed down I think....we'll see...oh yeah, to top it all off, I am going to be pmsing while I am down there.
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585414_tn?1288944902
I would say that if its something coming from you that's a specific mood change then its a medication issue. If its something less, then talk therapy would be of help. But part of the problem is that your family has to accept the fact that you have a psychiatric disability. I would say that a support group for family and friends such as one run by NAMI is a good start. My family was very supportive of me having schizoaffective disorder. In fact, when I was hospitalized and allowed on pass, my grandparents would drive me to college and that was how I got through one year. Now that I am recovered from that and have advanced tardive dyskinesia I had to explain it to family members but now they understand. But there is the opposite angle. In thinking about this I want to be more supportive of my mother who has bipolar disorder but she puts herself as the authority figure in an aggressive irrational manner at times and when I was a child I had no idea what was going on and she didn't know she had bipolar then and it could be frightening . Your husband must be supportive at all times but remember with young children, a parent is an authority figure and rightfully so, so if you are going through mood changes it might be good to give yourself a personal time out as it might otherwise impact on them and they not realize it and then when they are older explain it in more detail to them. However, realize what sets off moodswings and stress and set up accomodations so you can step out of these situations. If you let people know in advance what these accomodations are, then it will be easier for everyone concerned. And perhaps its best to learn to cope with occasions in this manner and through talk therapy and family therapy than raising medications every time there is a problem. Holidays are supposed to be enjoyable but can be "anniversary dates" of unpleasent or stressful events in people's lives, even for those without a psychiatric disability so realize that family conflicts or difficulties are extremely common.
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Avatar_f_tn
I understand how hard it is - I avoid the holidays with family like the plague.  I almost ALWAYS can count on an episode before, during, and after.  The anxiety of before and the anticipation of when it's going to happen - usually at a function, and the after of the deep depression.  I can't remember the last holiday that I enjoyed.

My ex-husband (yeah, I know that's weird - but we are discussing reconciling) wasn't supportive in the past either - when we were married.  But after being diagnosed and him seeing me on the proper meds with the proper therapy, he has been really supportive.  This year we are having 1 Christmas (rather than split between the two houses) with our son and are avoiding the family thing altogether.  Actually, my family is worse than his.  He has learn to understand that me having an episode doesn't make it easier for me - OR the other members of the family.  He and I have gotten pretty selfish about my health coming first.   We invited grandparents to come over Christmas morning, etc., for brunch - but I know my family won't come - so that's a big WHEW for me.  

Another option you might try - if you feel most anxious about the going to somewhere else - you might try to maybe convince your husband to ask the family over for a very casual desert or finger foods after the big family event - or even another day.  It seems like me being on my turf helps with the panic; paranoia; and mania....then depression.  

BP s*cks, huh!  
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497950_tn?1255867527
I am glad someone else goes through the same thing.  Thanks for that.  I am stuck and I have to go.  The hives have started already.  I have a plan now.  Things to keep me sane:  yoga, walk my dog, tea, and if that doesn't work whatever pills my pdoc gives me.   Thanks for all the replies, they are very helpful.
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Avatar_f_tn
If there is someone in particular that gets you going, just avoid them entirely.  Explain to your husband that you aren't being anti-social, but you have explained the situation and since you are going, you want it to be as pleasant as possible for everyone - including yourself.

For me -it's my sister....she gets me going every single time.  I avoid her like the plague.  I can GUARANTEE and anxiety attack and then a manic/depressive episode within a week.  
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497950_tn?1255867527
I love my dr so much!  He gave me atarax to keep from having a nervous breakdown during Thanksgiving.  Still going to do my yoga, walk my dog, and tea and then the atarax.  thanks for all who replied much love to you all
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Avatar_f_tn
That is wonderful.  I know you are relieved.  Maybe you should pull a crazy on them anyway.  You will be nice and relaxed and you could have a controlled crazy on them and scare the beejeavaz out of them.  Oh come on, we have to laugh at ourselves, sometimes!

Rach
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497950_tn?1255867527
lol...that would be hilarious
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Avatar_f_tn
Come on!  Maybe some crazy eyed, throwing ****, screaming hissy fit - it would be fun to do it and actually have some control over it and in my case - remember it!

Just joking.  I am glad you are feeling better about going.  
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675923_tn?1296241611
I would bag the drive, have your husband take the kids and dogs. He may find out he is the "crazy" one for putting you through this. LOL.
I suffer terribly through the holidays and after 28 years the family finally understands. I have been called the anti-social one whether I show up or not. I'm tired of taking drugs just to be around family at the holidays. I get so manic the day of Christmas I take our Christmas tree, decorations and all, and put them out the door when gift opening is done. It is a joke with the family now, but it really isn't a joke with me. I don't think it is the "holidays" so much for me as it is the time of year. It is dark out when I am home and I am unable to express myself outside (gardening) during this time of year. As for the extended family, they have come to understand my episodes after I've been more open with them, and they are supportive. Don't be afraid to be who you are. Bipolar is not contagious!!!!!
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585414_tn?1288944902
Actually sometimes people get all emotional in advance and it turns out not to be that bad. Just today my mother got into an agitated mixed state about a minor disagreement. Unrelated to this I had cancelled on the family Thanksgiving dinner (which is in a large catering hall with other people we don't know) and then I remembered she was upset about her fiance who passed away. I realized I had to be supportive. As I've posted I have advanced tardive dyskinesia and I knew that even though I had nothing mentally that would impact on going that the physical spasms and pain would prevent it.  
   So I set up some minor accomodations for my physical disability and said to her "you see. That could have been an emotional issue but I solved it factually" and pointed out to her that the whole issue of the agitated mixed state once she sees a psychiatrist (which she will) could be handled another way and I e-mailed her the Mood Tracking Chart from here. Its not that I am putting her down. I have schizoaffective and have been wildly manic in the past before recovery and she has cylothymia but she was the one who before recovery was always pressuring me to "stay on medication" so I felt it right to comment back but rather than put her down told her I could be a resource for a variety of issues such as information and resources and benefits advocacy for elderly relatives and promises I make are ones I keep.
   And that's how I see it in general for everyone having been through it. Expecting a "crisis" will create one. Finding factual solutions in a judicous manner for what seem like conflicts will solve them. Believe me. I practiced on political debating sites and I would deliberately look for users flaming each other and then settle it so the discussion went on. Now I can use these techniques in the real world. I can't say my physical disability won't create some problems at Thanksgiving. There will be moments when there is extreme pain. But that's part of my life now. I advocate for new treatments but it won't change overnight. But in supporting my mother she is now learning to find her emotional trigger points and defuse them herself. My philosophy with her or anyone else is "instead of creating a mountain out of a molehill, step over it" and most importantly "stay factual". What if everyone rationally analyzed what would go wrong and set up accomodations so it wouldn't and was just glad to be alive and that their family was and to enjoy the last commercially unspoiled holiday and a genuine family celebration. I know I will. Maybe things would work out differently. Worth trying...
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665370_tn?1237087966
when im really sick and im forced to go to something, i usually freak out and leave...something like that...he's not being understanding as to how you feel...others should at least try and understand your situation, and your not being there shouldnt matter as much as long as your happy...you may physically be there, but menally you wont be....you might be a wreck...beeeeen there!!!!!!!

I also think 14hrs is crazy! we travel only 12hrs to see most of our family...very rarely...but with kids and dogs!! wow girl, you're one tough chickie!

xoxoxoxo
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Avatar_f_tn
I do the freak out and leave thing, too.  More than once I have exploded at a family event.  Then I usually go into hiding during the depressive side of the wonderful BP.

One observation about worrying about an episode and creating one - most of the time we worry because it has happened before and we don't want it to happen again.  Most BP's don't have the factual facilities that most do and it's hard to see the events as others might.  We see it as a train moving toward us, even though it might miss us - it's still scary.

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691724_tn?1230686244
I googled 'bi polar thanksgiving' because this is the first Thanksgiving I am losing it. I am not on meds right now. I am supposed to be cooking the turkey, picking up my mom 1 hour away. She also is bi polar among a few other mental disorders. I am feeling unraveled right now. My kids are bugging me about putting up a Christmas tree. I don't have any patients or desire to do anything holiday. I just need to get thru to tomorrow.
For your visit with relatives. I don't think you should be going but if you insist ( and it is your decision to go or not) What I would do is bring some things to occupy my mind and focus AWAY from people. Reading material, books, magazines, write letters to people you want to touch base with. Take a stack of Christmas cards and fill them out by hand while you are there. Even if you have no intention of sending them out, writing them out will distract you from your surroundings and help from being overwhelmed. If the weather permits, I would suggest going for a walk/stroll while you are there also. (you can tell everyone you want to get your motabolism going) :)
I won't suggest any new medications to request as the side affects may cause problems also.
I hope something someone suggests will help you. I honestly do.
Happy Thanksgiving?
How about a happy day AFTER thanksgiving.
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561706_tn?1333950874
I feel like I could write a ton about Thanksgiving anxiety, but I'll try not to go on and on.
First off, I'm glad you're planning to use some relaxation and distraction methods.  They will definetly help your medicine to work it's best.  I like realtomatoe's suggestion of things to help you focus away from people.  

The best thing is that you have an awareness of your triggers related to the holiday - that gives you a huge leg up in managing your health during a potentially difficult time.

I have no family to spend the holiday with, but a friend has invited me to spend the holiday with his family.  His mom just died so the kids are putting it together.
I am nervous about what to wear.  That is always the focus of my anxiety.  I'm also stressing about what to bring. I don't cook and I don't know what to do.

This friend is a former boyfriend and we reunited plutonically last year.  His family is so nice, but I'm still getting a stomach ache over this. And despite myself, I feel like I have to impress my old  boyfriend with my looks.

The "anniversary" aspect for me is that my parents are gone and I'll always be a "guest."  This group is so nice, but I still feel like the outsider. A feeling I have all the time with my Bipolar.
Just thought I'd share that so maybe somebody else could relate.
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585414_tn?1288944902
Well I think that in what some people described that other people in the family have bipolar as well, that everyone be supportive of each other. Usually this is inherited so it often occurs in at least one other member of the extended family. Everyone writes as if it is them vs. the family or vice versa. However, Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of year that brings that family together. Why not use it for that? People could support your recovery and you be supportive of their concerns. Everyone is experiencing some havoc and hell in their life especially now in the reccession. People in the families could join together to bring love and support to each other. I've seen families where that happenned and I've seen families such as mine where it didn't happen as much as it should and I changed that in a constructive manner. And also a lot of the anxiety and mood changes people are worrying about are not for specific events. If people worry about anxiety and moodswings in general if one is in a labile state or affect they will occur. Think of what would cause them and find a way to create accomodations around them but don't expect them or anticipate them or look for them. That's a sure fire way to enable them. As for new medications for bipolar, first of all as they develop new medications they are more targeted so they have less and less side effects. This list is clinically accurate and up to date and has all known medications that are being used off label for bipolar and could be prescribed by a mood disorders specialist:
http://www.psycheducation.org/depression/meds/moodstabilizers.htm
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Avatar_f_tn
I know this is weird, but I swear that my Mother would be as happy about my bipolar diagnosis as me telling them I was HIV positive.  (No offense to HIV patients)  She just absolutely can't talk about it.  I haven't talked to her since my diagnosis - she is ignoring me completely.

SO, I am not going to a function on that side of the family.  I guess in part because I am being a chicken, but in a way not to make her uncomfortable even more.  I don't want to sit there and be watched like some odditiy, also.  She thinks it's all a bunch of bunk, and I need to snap out of it, etc.,  I have tried to educate her, but it's no use.  The bad thing is that she is getting older and we really didn't think she would be around this holiday, so I might miss the last holiday.  At least (in my chicken way of thinking) she won't be uncomfortable with my issues.

I am trying to just not worry so much.  Whatever happens happens.  If I freak out - it won't be the first time, and if I sit and don't speak it won't be the first time either.  
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585414_tn?1288944902
No offense taken but its strange as my mother was completely accepting of a friend of the famly who had hiv in the early years of the epidemic and died of AIDS. She was relatively accepting of the schizoaffective in me, before recovery. as was the family (I was an in patient and they made an arrangement so I could go out on pass so I could keep up with college, my grandparents drove me back and forth, that was in 1991). She has difficulty now because of the psychomoter agitation from the tardive conditions that can be distressing to other people but its autonomic and the best I can do is walk it off. It might disturb other people but it doesn't set off an agitated mixed state as it does in her.
   I want to be supportive but part of her bipolar issues are acting controlling and as I'm an adult and recovered I am trying to stop that but it can be hard for her. I told her about Thanksigiving that she should keep track of the mood chart and talk that over with her therapist and to absolutely not go into an agitated mixed state. She was partially agreeing but about to start on me but a friend of my grandparents walked in and she saw that I could speak to him normally and was polite and friendly to him, and was indeed recovered but had to suppress (note suppress, that is hold in, it can be very painful, as opposed to control them, which is impossible) the psychomoter agitation and she could see it for herself. So she agreed and I walked her through some accomodations I could set up for myself. She was upset that I was "being controlling" back and I said "we are both consumers. We both face discrimation and should advocate together. You just got denied coverage because the mental health parity law won't go into effect until January 2010" and she saw my point and truthfully I think this Thanksgiving is going work out well for both of us. Disclosure if done right can actually be empowering, on both sides.
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Avatar_f_tn
As always, I respect your information.  I used the HIV characterization to reflect that she isn't at all accepting of my mental illness.   It's almost like she would be more comfortable with a terminal illness of sorts than deal with our issues.  My Mom is VERY controlling and doesn't like things like that messy mental illness things. ...after all, it's all in our heads!  ARGGG!

I think I will do the mood chart over the next few days.  That's a good thought.  I am trying for this holiday to be the first that I don't lose it or end up in the bed for days.  SO, I am being a big chicken and avoiding stress where I can.  

Thanks!
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