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Christmas can be a tough time of year for anyone. Christmas with schizophrenia is just about impossible.

I’ve been suffering with schizoaffective disorder for many years. This Christmas, however, was my first back home near family since I’ve been formally diagnosed. I’ve had a lot of trouble this season.

I don’t know what all has contributed to an increase in my symptoms there have been a lot of factors that seemed to be seasonal. Finances are tight at Christmas time, children’s anxious anticipation and “I wants” are exhausting, looming family visits are nerve-wracking, a worsening of the weather (I work outdoors) can be painful, changes in amount of time family is at home from school is disrupting, and the subsequent worsening of symptoms all add up to a lot of stress and anxiety that snowballs into larger and larger problems.

Even though my meds seemed to be keeping up with my hallucinations they stopped doing so probably from all of the stress. In the past two weeks I have been hearing from the Dragon and it seems like I’ve grown a little soft from his attacks while he was beaten down by the meds. I went home after working only 90 minutes one day and didn’t even go in two days later. When they asked why I would be gone I simply said that I was too schizophrenic. That seemed easier than exaggerating the state of my physical symptoms that come along with a bad schizophrenia day like dizziness, headaches and stomach/digestion issues. My work was actually really supportive of me. That was a welcome surprise. But I have officially burned up all of my sick leave now and don’t have the annual leave to miss more work and still get paid.

I don’t spend a lot of time around my extended family anymore, seeing my parents at most once a month and my brother and his family once or twice a year. I really don’t have a relationship with more distant family members (except for one aunt) even though I wish I did.

With me, the topic of my disease didn’t come up, it was unspoken. In my absence though my wife was grilled about it. Talking about these conversations later with her made me feel like I was someone to be talked about not talked with. If they really want to know about me, then they should ask me. This made me feel handicapped, like they thought that I am incapable of having a logical conversation about my condition. I want to be part of the dialogue. I’m still relatively healthy and, when not in episode, fully capable of rational conversation and quick thinking.

But the blame isn’t on them. They are just trying to not offend me and not make things awkward for me. If only they knew that it is more awkward when I’m interpreting every little glance and word selection essentially trying to read their minds. It would be easier if they told me what they were thinking rather than leaving me guessing (which is a terrible thing for a schizophrenic to do). And if they really want to know what it is like, who better to ask? But this lack of talking really got to me and stressed me out – one relative in particular sent me running for Klonapin twice.

But I made it through. I hung close to my wife, who I know always has my back and is a social genius. She also kept tabs on me as well. Each night she told me, based off of how I was acting when it was time for me to take my medicine and when it was time to go to bed. It probably sounds like I am a child that she is taking care of… but when it comes to my mental health that really is how it has to be in order for me to function as well as I do. I would have had a very difficult time navigating this visit without her.

But our Christmas is now behind us. I am safe in my own bed writing a blog post. The holiday visits are over. The extra holiday spending is now complete. The children are loaded with gifts from their grandparents with their wanting satisfied for at least a little while. We are back into a regular winter-break routine. Everything is growing simpler. But the weather, well, maybe this surprise cold snap will surprise us by leaving quickly.

For now I’ll be focusing on my management strategies and doing my best to make it into work everyday, getting through each day without having to leave early and coming home and being as present as I possibly can be for my wife and my family.

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