Momming with Mental Illness: Holidays and Traditions

So, the holidays are a time with tons of activities and lots of people time, right? Well, ideally, but I am not anywhere close to an ideal place right now, and I still want to give my family an amazing season full of memories without setting myself back. Here’s how I have been working on that balance this Fall, and what I hope and plan to do going forward.

October Traditions

We have a number of family traditions that we keep for October, and I feel so happy that I was able to follow through on all but one this year! The one we missed never came up, and I’m hoping we can do it next year again.

Apple Picking: We go to Carter Mountain Orchard every year in mid October to pick apples and enjoy the food and fun there. I was able to do this with very limited anxiety because we went on a weekday so it was only moderately crowded and we mostly kept to ourselves. it was a great day and a major victory for me.

Pumpkin Patch Day

We have gone to Lloyd Family Farms the past three years to enjoy all their fall activities, and while it was harder than Apple picking, (possibly due to my being tired already when we got there) it was a good time, and memorable in all the right ways.

Trick or treating

Okay this was REALLY hard. So many people, so many strangers to approach, so many irrational fears about illness. But totally worth it for the memories, and I’m coping with the fallout emotionally and physically by taking the rest of this week to focus on self care. I don’t often need to do this, but I want to heal, not just charge through and risk a bigger crash. But look at these sweet babies!

So, now it’s November, and I’m looking at what I can do, with where I am right now, to create beautiful and rich holiday memories for my family this year without overwhelming myself and spending January in a bad bad place.


I’m actually equally sad not to be in SC with my family and super excited to make my own Thanksgiving dinner for the very first time. We have spent every major holiday of our marriage with extended family, and that’s great, but this is something I’ve always wanted. Ultimately I’d like to host a family holiday, but that’s not this year!!!Tomorrow I’m going to start menu planning!

We have one family tradition for Thanksgiving so far, and I’m really excited to do it for the third time. We make a paper tree out of construction paper, and each day add leaves to it with something we are thankful for written on them. Each family member has their own color, which makes the pictures easy to decode.

Here is last year’s, that I’m about to take down and replace with a fresh one!

I’m thinking of other traditions we can create, hopefully ones that will work whether we travel or not. One thing we are going to do is donate to at least one Food drive. The kids will have lots of fun activities and art projects in school, I’ll find fun ways to teach them the meaning of the holiday over the next few weeks, and include Lexi in some recipe testing. Maybe she and I can make a trip to Target or Hobby Lobby for table decorating supplies. A bit of a stretch, but it would be fun to go to a couple of the grand illumination type events at malls and such this month.

December/Christmas/New Year’s Eve

We have many wonderful Christmas traditions, and there are so many ways to celebrate richly, even if you’re limited, like I am, in your ability to mix socially.

We have an amazing Advent devotional, based around the Jesse Tree, and I’m looking into a way we can make our own Jesse Tree to go with it this year.

We love driving around and enjoying the Christmas light displays around Richmond-we are the tacky lights capital! Here are a few shots from last year.I think we went out at least a half dozen times!

We also love decorating our home, and the tree. Lexi and I had a special time doing that last year, and I look forward to that again this year and maybe even getting to decorate outdoors some too.

Last year we didn’t really make Christmas cookies, but I’m hoping to pick that tradition back up with gingerbread and shortbread this year, and maybe deliver some to the fire station.

There are a handful of drive through and walk through Christmas light displays I’d like to do again. I’m hoping we can do a couple Angel Tree gifts this year too. We also like to buy coats to donate for kids who need them.

Something new I’d like to do this year is have the kids make Christmas gifts for some of the people on our list. This both gets them involved and saves a bit of money. Most of our gifts will likely be handmade this year.

Speaking of gifts, we do a very simple and special tradition for the kids gifts-there are only four from us.

  1. Something you want
  2. Something you need
  3. Something to wear
  4. Something to read

Now, there may be multiple parts to a gift, like a stack of books,but they are wrapped and packaged as one gift. This way there’s no drama over how many gifts, and the focus isn’t on that, hopefully. They also get a Christmas Eve box, with a set of pajamas, cocoa, popcorn, a book, and a movie, and Santa brings them each one gift. This year I may also add one gift from each other to the tradition.

We have a New Year’s Eve tradition of Chinese food, and I’m hoping to include our friend Max in that, and maybe a breakfast the next morning at Cracker Barrel?

I’ll probably add more things as time goes on, and maybe God will make more social stuff possible, but regardless, we will have a very special holiday season. It’s not about pushing yourself somewhere you’re not ready to go, but making the most of the resources you have!

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