(December 1, 2007)

Someone who is hurting very much right now left a response to my post, Somewhat califragelistic but grateful. This is a letter to her, and I hope it will help her deal with her pain somewhat. She asks for advice. I’m not sure I can give that, but if any of you can help her with the situation she’s dealing with, I invite your comments.

Dear “Down and out”,

When we bipolars go into a stressed mode and when our mood is affected, we often do and say things that we would otherwise not do. Bipolar disorder is a disease of the brain and will affect how we think and what we do and say. Our judgment is affected. Christmas is a time when this can happen more than normally.

I remember one Christmas a few years ago when I was worried about my mother-in-law driving. She was in her early nineties and I was really concerned about her safety and the safety of others. Because of the time of year, I was under a lot of stress. So many things to do and think about! My mood was heavily affected.

One day I talked to my mother-in-law, telling her that she needed to stop driving – that she needed to change her way of living and start relying on others more. I even suggested she go into a care facility. This was very hurtful to her. I wanted to control her so she would be safe, yet she was an independent woman who still had a lot to give. My worries put my judgement way off and I was pretty blunt. And she – in a way that was uncharacteristic for her – was very blunt with me. I could tell she was angry and in tears. (This happened over the phone.)

In the following days I realized what I had done. I apologized to her – me in tears this time. It hurt me so much to think that our good relationship might be ruined. It wasn’t. But it did take a while for things to mend between us. Now we are very good friends.

All this is to say that the stress of Christmas can do things to us – especially those of us who deal with mood issues. It can make us do and say unfortunate things.

If you can try to understand that your mother-in-law is struggling with a lot right now, perhaps it will be easier for you to deal with her. It must be very hurtful to have her children not visiting her. Please try to love her and realize that she needs you to be strong. She needs your support and it sounds like she is receiving it. And you should feel good about that.

I don’t know if this helped at all. I hope it did. And I hope you will soon heal so that you can enjoy the season.