The best lesson is ‘have hope’

The holidays can be a challenging time to go through, whether you have a mental illness or not. We are supposed to be full of cheer and good tidings to all, while simultaneously we are taxed for our time and our wallet. There are parties to attend, family to visit, foods to prepare and presents to buy. We are supposed to enjoy the sweets and treats that come from Thanksgiving till New Yearís Day without gaining a pound. There are sappy movies and sing along songs to experience. With each year that passes I seem to lose a little bit of that childhood wonderment over the holidays.

What if you know you will be alone during the holidays, or are homeless, looking for a warm spot in a cold world? What if a disease has brought you into circumstances that others may not know about or want to acknowledge? What if you are a veteran, home now, but still fighting the war of PTSD? Possibly you could be watching a family member going through a mental illness, and no matter what you do, you canít reach them? Would you be feeling hopeless in a world where everyone else seems to have happiness?

One of the hardest parts of my mental illness is the isolation I feel physically and emotionally. During the holidays, this is heightened. Sometimes it feels that the world is spinning around and around at a breakneck pace and I am on the outside watching as a mere spectator. Schizophrenia has altered lifeís milestones for me and this causes me to sometimes feel isolated from society.

You may also feel the pain of isolation ó possibly family that didnít invite you over, a loved one who is gone, or a situation that no one else knows about that is causing a separation from those you care about. Isolation can be so hard to handle because it feels like there is no one out there to understand what you are going through and help you.

I have written about schizophrenia and what it has taught me. However, I have come to understand that the best lesson I have learned is to have hope: hope in the fact that tomorrow could be better; that there is joy in helping others and strength in sharing with others that tomorrow can be brighter. Only you may know the struggles you are facing during this holiday season. Hope first came in the hand of a family member guiding me to get help. There is help and hope out there for you.

I am extremely fortunate my mental illness was caught early and my treatment and recovery has gone so smoothly. A large support system has been there to help me in the recovery of schizophrenia. My family has been extremely supportive and understanding through this journey. However, my heart breaks every time I hear another story of someone else with a mental illness that has not been so fortunate. The thought of someone spending time alone during the holidays due to a death, separation or a broken relationship is hard to understand and handle.

In this season of Christmas lights, candlelight services, of candy canes and gingerbread houses, let us find someone to help. Whether this person is a complete stranger or a dear friend, may we find the time in our schedule to support them. In this world there is no lack of people in need, and we all, at one time or another, can use a little help in our lives. During this holiday season, may we all find the time to be a light to someone in need and give them a sweet memory to cherish.

Mindfulness is brought to you by NAMI Montelores, your local NAMI affiliate. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nationís largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI recognizes that the key concepts of recovery, resiliency and support are essential to improving the wellness and quality of life of all persons affected by mental illness. NAMI provides support, education, and advocacy for individuals and families through community classes, in-service trainings, support groups, and more.

Randy Davis is a member of NAMI Montelores . He can be reached at

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