Bipolar Disorder and Thanksgiving Part One…………..


Let’s Make Thanksgiving Great This Year!



There is a commercial on the radio where I live here in Portland, Oregon that always makes me laugh. It says… ‘Beware of the holiday horrors! Buy all of your holiday presents now, the day after Thanksgiving and save yourself the stress of waiting until the last minute!”    Oh, it sounds like torture to me! When did Thanksgiving become so much about Black Friday sales? In case you didn’t know, Black Friday is a sales day after the Thursday Thanksgiving here in the United States. It’s called Black Friday because it’s a day businesses can make enough money to balance the books instead of being in the red!


As a person with bipolar disorder or a person who cares about someone with the illness, there’s a good chance you have had some difficult holidays in the past.

Thanksgiving is a family holiday based around a traditional dinner held in honor of the dinner served between the people who ‘founded’ the US and the people who found the country way before any British showed up- the Native Americans. The food usually includes the following: Turkey, stuffing or dressing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pies such as pecan or pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. Many families have a Thanksgiving dish they remember growing up. For me, it was my grandmother’s homemade corn bread dressing.  I had many wonderful Thanksgiving holidays while growing up – mostly in Alabama.

As I got older, the holidays became a fun time with friends.

And then…. they just became too much.

Is it the same for you? Maybe you don’t want to cook, don’t have the $200 to spend on a dinner for eight. It might be you don’t like your family! And finally, the hardest is when you don’t have anywhere to go. It doesn’t mean you don’t have friends- it might just happen they are all with their families and yours is out of town.

It may be that your family is here, but the atmosphere is stressful. I’ve seen a few snarky faces at Thanksgiving. It’s hard to have to be happy and united for a day.

It’s a lot of pressure.

Start thinking now of what you want your Thanksgiving to be like this year. You get to decide.


PS:  Thanksgiving can be wonderful, but it’s usually challenging when bipolar disorder is an unwanted guest.   That’s why we have to plan ahead!

7 comments to Bipolar Disorder and Thanksgiving Part One…………..

  • anonymous

    I just hate the holidays! Thanksgiving is next week and my ex told me he didn’t want to help me through this illness anymore. Any last minute suggestions?

  • Sandra

    Julie, even before I got to the end of your blog, I just knew I HAD to invite you to my house to celebrate Thanksgiving! You are cordially invited to attend, and to bring along a guest! Airfare this time of year is pricey, but you’d have fun and enjoy the area – I live in Stafford, Virginia, which is just south of Washington, DC in a very historic county – first settled in the 1600’s, boyhood home to George Washington. I could go on just about my lovely area. But I won’t!

    I do hope you would seriously consider coming here for Thanksgiving some day, as it is by far my FAVORITE holiday. Why? I dearly love having a full table of family and friends enjoying a meal that I’ve planned for and enjoyed preparing. I usually don’t get to cook or bake so elaborately since I commute to work, but that is one day where I indulge myself! Turkey, gravy, fluffy mashed potatoes, butternut squash, veggies, homemade cranberry sauce and homemade dinner rolls… And then there’s dessert! I bake a very good pie – so far, I haven’t found any pie that beats mine for either taste or appearance (my grandmother said, “Never trust a woman who doesn’t like her own cookin’.”) I bake cherry, pumpkin, apple, and caramel-pecan for dessert. I may also add a trifle or pumpkin roll, as well, depending on the number of guests we expect.

    I love the sound of the Thanksgiving Day parades on TV and the smells of turkey and pies emanating from the kitchen. I don’t feel the stress that Christmas brings (the present issues get me stressed) and I am in no rush to rush Christmas, so the entire weekend is one to enjoy. I do not hit the stores on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I’ll quilt, or garden, or some other enjoyable activity, and munch on leftovers for meals (mmm!)

    I hope someday you may be able to share a similar feeling about Thanksgiving. At any rate, feel free to consider yourself invited to our home for the holiday!

    Most sincerely,
    Sandra J. Sweeney

  • debbie

    Amen! This year my husband and I decided to do just that…..say no and do our OWN Thanksgiving. I was always going to other’s homes for Thanksgiving but hauling half my kitchen over there. We decided we would have a small dinner at our house. If it ends up us ALONE, well what’s so bad about that! We have ruffled feathers and caused a massive fruit basket turnover but we have never been happier and we are looking forward to Thanksgiving for the first time in our 33 year marriage! We call it ‘house rules’ now. You are welcome to our home, but you will follow our ‘house rules’. My husband likes to say, ‘Be nice or leave’. It has put a hault to much traffic but those that come seem to be the ones we wanted here anyway. And the meal is just part of the day. The parades, ballgames, naps, shopping and being with people you love is the other part. Enjoy!

  • About being lonely on the holidays and about dealing with family…

    I sing in a choir and the director is awesome. We’re really like a family and as he closed the piano yesterday, our last rehearsal before Thanksgiving, he leaned over the piano in his lecture stance and just looked at us. Lord only knows what’s coming when he does that. Lol. He proceeded to say that if we should find ourselves alone on Thanksgiving, with no place to go, hungry, and feeling sad ’cause we’re lonely that we could come to his place and celebrate Thanksgiving with him. Awesome! He said there is no reason any of us should not be with other people to celebrate Thanksgiving with a good meal. There will be lots of people there. He even said we can crash for the night if we want. He lives a good half hour or more north of most of us and he even said if we need a ride that he’ll come pick us up. What a blessing. It really made my day to know that he cares and that his students really do matter to him.

    Now I’m trying to think of a way to convince my mom into letting me go to his place instead of her sister’s! lol. She has decided she wants to go see that side of the family. I guess she talks to this sister frequently but the other sister she never sees will be there and so will one of their sons’ families. Oh yay. I know NONE of them, except for one aunt. And I find myself in this predicament again that I find myself in often. I don’t have anything to talk about EXCEPT MENTAL HEALTH! except choir, and what can you really say about choir? It’s like my life revolves around mental health and treating my illness and that’s not always something I want to talk about. So what DO you talk about when someone asks you how you’ve been and what you’re doing with your life? Usually I just lie and say I’m doing well and use my work for my DBSA group as a “job.” I’m ashamed of where I’m at. So what do you say?

  • The holidays are a hard time for some of us. I have had a lot of difficulties in the past being sad and stressed out. I remember one Thanksgiving where I slept until 3pm. It really angered my girlfriend since the day is supposed to be about togetherness and thankfulness. I was not feeling very thankful at the time.

    I have spent a lot of Thanksgivings alone even though I’ve been around other people. Family can be traumatic in itself. Everyone has their quirks.

    To me, though, it is so important to be there. To be present with everyone else. If you get stressed out I would take frequent breaks and be alone for a minute. That’s one skill that has helped me compromise my need to hide and still be there with family.

  • Alexis

    Holidays have always been extremely difficult for me. I used to work every one so I wouldn’t have to deal with them. Now I do my best, usually inviting others who don’t have any family or are alone. It seems to help. Stay well!!!

  • sherry vosburgh

    Last time I saw my brother on the day of my mum’s funeral, he swore at me, whereupn I threw a cup of water at him and he then called me all the obscene names under the sun and hit me twice on the thigh.

    We’ll all be eating Xmas lunch together.

    How should I act? We’ve both said we forgive each other by email. But he still denies having hit me, despite my 2 bruises and my photos of them, which I have shown my sisters.
    I’m roasting a chicken tomorrow for myself and maybe a girlfriend. I’m only half American. And I live abroad. I’m not thankful for Trump but at least I’m alive and I count my many blessings.