Holiday Hangover – I’m Too Tired to Tell You How I Feel

A large part of what I do as a writer is explain to people what it feels like to have bipolar disorder. I explain and I explain and I explain what it is to have a sick brain. I explain and I explain and I explain what it feels like. What it lives like. Honestly, it’s a tall order at the best of times.

But now, after the holidays, after family, after time away, I am way too tired to tell you what it feels like to be bipolar.

Some like the Holidays

Yes, I get it, some people like the holidays and family and times away. I am not one of these people. If it were up to me, I would just let the holidays pass without a word. Really, you run along and fa la la all day long while I just take a nap and work on my book.

But the holidays aren’t like that, now are they? The holidays are crushed by what we must do for the people around us and not so much what we would do for ourselves. I don’t like it and I don’t recommend it, but there it is.

The Holidays Exhaust Me

Too Tired to Say How I FeelI find being around people 24-hours-a-day exhausting. Like, I mean tiring on a cellular level. It forces me to act normal all the bloody time. I can’t relax. My brain cannot calm. Not for a second. Because I’m too busy trying to act like I’m not a person with bipolar disorder. I’m too busy trying to act like I’m not annoyed at the people in my space. I’m too busy trying to speak and be nice when all I want to do is sleep. It agitates me just thinking about how much I dislike it.

Now, I’m not saying that the family did anything wrong here, I’m just saying that I can’t handle it. At least, not without losing some sanity.

Post-Holiday Hangover

And so it takes me days to recuperate from going to see my family. I was there for five days and it takes two days of sleeping to get over it. Seriously. I can’t believe how my brain has ceased to work since my return. Apparently it refuses to take note of the work that has been piling up on my desk. Apparently it refuses to function in spite of the fact that I really need it to. Apparently all it remembers how to do is sleep on my couch.

So I’m Too Tired

So I’m way too tired to explain to people how I feel. I thank god that no one has phoned me over the last two days because the idea of having to fake a phone call right now overwhelms me to the point of shaking. I can’t explain it. I can’t rationalize it. I can only say that it exists.

Every year I do into the holidays knowing they will suck. And every year they suck worse than I thought they would. And boy am I tired of that.

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  1. I guess I’m in the minority here but I’d love for someone to ask me how I feel. Especially someone who wouldn’t pass judgement or give me platitudes. The only response I’d want is something along the lines of I’m sorry you feel so down, I hope you get better soon.

    No one ever does. My wife doesn’t want to go there. The few people I know who know I’m bipolar never breach the subject. Only my therapist ever asks me, and she’s paid to ask me.

    • Hi David,
      No, you’re not in the minority. I really have no support system either. Yes, I do have my psychiatrist but it isn’t the same thing. It would be nice to share my feelings about my illness–the ups and downs and the experiences I have had to endure. It isn’t that I am searching for pity, just for someone to actually be interested in me. Sure, I understand Bipolar Disorder can be heavy. It would be wonderful to find someone who is unafraid to “divide and conquer” this scary thing we call Bipolar Disorder. Of course, we know that isn’t going to happen but metaphorically the support would be such a relief. Imagine spilling the beans about your manic or depressive phase without judgment? Yeah, good stuff.
      I hope this helps. You’re not alone. Feel free to write back if you’d like.

      • Hi LIsa – I wish I could tattoo ‘I’m not looking for sympathy’ on my forehead. All I want is for someone to listen to me. No pity. No judgement. Just listen to me.

        I guess that’s what support groups are for and I do need to get my ass into one soon.

        In the meanwhile, thanks to Natasha for this wonderful community.

  2. The H-Word.


    My girlfriend and I got into a huge argument because I’m under a special needs trust and I had to contact the trustee for the release of funds.

    Connie is worried that I don’t piss off Mary the controller of all assets, so she mentioned The H-Word which enraged me blind.

    In USA Florida, all you need is 3 signatures to be ” Baker Acted “.


    You may want to start the new year in collecting first hand accounts of what it is like to be hospitalized in different jurisdictions.

    Also, a new avenue may be to investigate and write about the option and ramifications of a ” Special Needs Trust “.

    Please Reply.

    — Burt B.

  3. It helps if you have family that understands bipolar disorder. The way my illness goes, sometimes I’m on top of it, sometimes it’s on top of me. My extended family has people sicker than me in it, and this has helped in making me look “good” by contrast. I do try to say, “Don’t judge so and so by me, I’m high function.”

    Anyway. Over a long time I have developed a certain candor with my parents, my nearly-grown daughter, and am developing it with my sisters. It is easier when I can tell family, “I’m over-peopled right now.” Or tell them I need to go take a nap. I tell them exactly what’s going on with me and my illness in terms of what mood state I’m in and how my meds are treating me, ahead of time and when I get there (if I’m staying for a day or two). Then I tell them what I need to do to cope.

    Candor has gradually built understanding. It has helped, frankly, the more and more of my family have been put on psych meds. A psychiatric diagnosis may not be why they’re on that med, but it sure makes them functionally saner.

    I would not hesitate to tell my parents, if I had to, that Uncle Leroy (made up) and his judgmental comments are stressing me in a vulnerable state and I cannot be around him. I’d leave and come back when Uncle Leroy is gone, or plan my visits so they don’t overlap with Uncle Leroy’s.

    I am fortunate in having a bunch of sane, understanding, caring people in my family. They didn’t start out understanding, but being candid and educating them over the years has had good results for me.

    I spend my holidays with the non-toxic relatives rather than the toxic ones. If toxic people will be there, it’s, “I just can’t deal with Uncle Leroy. Let’s schedule a visit for after New Year’s and we’ll celebrate Eastern Orthodox Christmas.” (January 6th)

    Or, “Why don’t I come up early, say around the 21st, and we can have an early Christmas so I can get back home?”

    The more toxic relatives you have, the more you may have to insist on an early or late celebration with the best of the bunch. Send Uncle Leroy a Christmas card and let it go at that.

    I guess the bottom line of what I do is I create an environment for the visit in which I do not have to pretend to be normal, or only have to pretend it for short stretches–and I leave myself the option of bowing out of those short stretches if I can’t do it.

    “Mom, Dad, I can’t even fake normal right now. In the current state of my bipolar, I don’t have that much self-control that I can count on. I need to self-isolate right now to keep my problems from becoming other people’s problem. It’s really too bad that that’s happening to me right now, but I didn’t get to pick not to be bipolar. My treatment team and I are working on it the best we can, but this is the reality right now.”

    And I don’t hesitate to say, “That won’t work for me. If it was that easy, it wouldn’t be a disability.” I don’t hesitate to tell nosy, interfering people who want to tell me how to manage it, “You don’t get to talk with me about this. Anything you can think of in the time you have available to think about my problems, my treatment team has already thought of. You’re not going to think of anything they haven’t already addressed in the next 48 hours, let alone the next five minutes. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be a major mental illness.”

    It has taken me a long time and a lot of work on myself to become quietly assertive. The DBT skills help.

    • well said. I’ve had this illness over 30 years. and I haven’t said these things. I’ve felt bad about having it. ashamedly I
      listened to recipes for wellness. Now I will say, “if it were that easy, it wouldn’t be called a mental illness”.. even practicing saying that eases the shame. . I want to not be ashamed, thanks Julie.

  4. Couldn’t agree more. So glad it’s over, I swear my face gets sore having to post that fake smile on for family gatherings. I love Harry’s reply for Sam, about the tabs, I’m so going to use that one. And couldn’t agree more with you Sam, just staying alive and getting through each day is a full time job for me too.

  5. this is exactly how I feel each day I arrive home from a full day at work…

    then when the weekend comes – or a nice holiday… folks can’t understand why I am so agitated, or wanting to isolate, or just SO NOT into it – whatever “it” is… even if it includes housework and errands

    it takes so utter much energy to be ” …Because I’m too busy trying to act like I’m not a person with bipolar disorder. I’m too busy trying to act like I’m not annoyed at the people in my space. I’m too busy trying to speak and be nice when all I want to do is sleep…”

    amen sister… amen!

  6. This year has been especially bad for me. I have been in a Bipolar I mixed episode with psychosis and constant self harming episodes since September and have been trying my best to stay out of the hospital. Our holidays are usually HUGE. I know most do not have the luxury to do so, but this year, I was forced to pay someone to do almost everything, including wrapping all the presents and throwing my annual Christmas party. I called many family members and told them that I was unable to shop for them this year, and cancelled so many engagements, it was beyond rude.

    Finally, on Christmas Eve night, we (husband, small daughter, and dogs) packed up and made the trip 750 miles from home to our older daughter’s house. I plan a two week stay here.

    My therapist, psychiatrist, and I are all hoping that getting away from my home for this extended trip will stabilize me before my self harming goes to far.

    Have not hurt myself since December 23, so over a week in now. Hopefully will get through this. I wish I could sleep :(

    • Good on you, and I hope the rest of your stay has been successful. If not don’t beat yourself up too much, be proud of what you have achieved. And I think it’s great that your husband and your relationship has outlasted your illness-mine didn’t. So that must mean he’s incredibly supportive-another bonus, and that you still have custody of your daughter. I suffer from psychosis also, and my 10 yr old daughter opted to live with her father, which I battle with every day. So I guess what I’m saying is-hang in there, you’re doing incredibly well. :)

  7. Hi Natasha,

    As always you took the words right out of my brain.. I wish I was half the writer you are, my brian draws a blank half the time when I want to write about my illness these days.

    Thank you for speaking out even when you were too tired..

    Hugs to you Shauna

  8. It’s hard for me to believe that sleep isn’t listed as a treatment for down times. It’s too bad you get demerits instead. I’m too tired to rally. I want to sleep. My body wants rest . My mind wants rest . And I think my body and mind are onto something. it feels like it’s time to hibernate, and everyone’s telling me ‘but you’re not a bear”.
    Natasha, I’m new here. I’ve spent more time w your blog/ fellow commenters this holiday season than my usual significant others. And I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else this Christmas.

  9. I know what you mean Natasha. I think next Christmas I’m going to get a coat hanger, bend it into a U-shape, and afix it under my lips to form a perfect permanent smile. A bright happy shiny people person. Whoever came up with the “fake it to make it” nonsense needs to be . . . baked.

  10. As many others have said, Ditto!! My husband and kids are still home on vacation, so I am still forcing myself not to give into the days of sleep. My “witty” conversation skills are gone as are my smiles. I don’t want to eat or clean up one more special meal.I just crave silence and time alone. I don’t know how much longer I can do it. Exhaustion on a cellular level is exactly what I am feeling. I just want to sleep non-stop for at least 2-3 days waking only to drink something when I am thirsty and use the bathroom when I need to.

  11. I spent 2 days on my couch, in pajamas this week. I’m still not functioning up to par but I’m dressed and showered at least. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  12. I too have spent the last two days in bed after my last commitment. I’ve only got out of bed to eat and I had to push myself to do even that. A couple of times I dragged myself up and considered doing something. I stood there motionless for 20 seconds, decided it was all too much, and flopped back into bed.
    I hate being around people feeling and looking like death, knowing that they likely think I’m rude due to my lack of interaction and trying not to yawn because then I’ll get the inevitable “Oh, am I boring you?”. And to top it off there’s the non-stop questions of “So, what have you been doing? Are you working yet?” with the insinuation that I’m loafing around and sponging off my husband/family. I never know how to answer this question. “Going to doctors appointments and trying to stay out of hospital and not to kill myself” just isn’t a socially acceptable response. I need to come up with some sort of witty reply which stops people from pressing the issue and asking the same question ten different ways. How do you answer that? I guess you can currently say that you’re writing a book.

  13. One word in reply to your piece: Ditto!

    ALSO one tip. Well, a few actually.

    When the phone rings, or even when someone knocks at your door, you don’t have to answer! It’s not obligatory (unless it’s the Cops!) to answer the doorbell or telephone. I only just realised that a few months back and I cannot express just how liberating it’s been!

    I put the phone on call-screen so I can hear who’s phoning me and decide if I want to talk to them or not. If I don’t, to hell with them!

    As for callers at the door, I have a conveniently placed mirror so I can peak, if I want to, to see who it is. If it looks like salesman, tinker or Bible-basher, I just get on with what I was doing beforehand and let them get bored outside.

      • I totally understand the difficulties you describe. My mind tells me to sleep, but actually I don’t feel better for it, I just feel better for the oblivion and the time not having to deal or feel guilty for not doing the things that I should be doing.
        I hope you are feeling better soon and remember we are here for you too. x