Christmas used to be very expensive for my husband and me. We bought gifts for all of our nieces and nephews, our parents, and then there were close friends and another family member here or there. We also had to buy gifts for parties we would attend that held white elephant gift exchanges. Christmas is no longer expensive. Most of our nieces and nephews are grown up with jobs of their own, and we have agreed not to exchange gifts with most of our parents. And for better or worse, we hardly get invited to any parties with gift exchanges anymore.
I love the holidays, though and my husband put up our little Charlie Brown Christmas tree today (yes, it has one red bulb). On Christmas morning I want my stocking to be filled and placed beneath that tree. I love the idea of filling Christmas stockings, and it is about the last tradition I follow.
So, there is more money left for my husband and me to spend on each other if we wish (we don’t get too carried away). Here are some of the things I have bought this year, or that I want that I think make great gifts for people with a mental health issue.
A weighted blanket. I bought a weighted blanket for my husband and me about six months ago, and we both love it. The adult ones are expensive (they will run you about $150) but they are something you can keep for years, so the price is worth it. Our blanket weighs 15 pounds. The theory behind the blanket is that the weight helps make you feel contained or safe. I haven’t tried using it when I have a panic attack, but I assume it would help a little bit. One thing to be aware of is it is warm so in the summer you might find that you kick it off while sleeping. I love mine, so if you have a Santa in your life who buys you bigger gifts, this might be just the thing to put on your list.
Noise canceling headphones. This is something on my Christmas list this year. One of my friends recommended these to me a year ago because of the difficulty I have traveling. She said she loves hers, and they help her with the noises in airports and on planes. I think the elves are making me a pair of these as I type this.
A Smartphone. I held on to my flip phone for years, claiming that I don’t need a Smartphone. I argued that I was home all day in front of a computer and would have no use for a Smartphone. I love my Smartphone so much, and it helps me tremendously. I can talk on Skype or another application to people during the day which is a fantastic remedy for how I isolate socially. Also, it allows me to check e-mails when I am away from home and read Facebook helping me to maintain a writing community and stay in touch with friends an family on the go. Lastly, Snapchat has added so much joy to my life (I have written a whole post on this). Anything that brings laughter to my life on a daily basis is worth having and holding onto.
Another great gift is a writing class or a few hours with a writing mentor. I have taken writing classes from UCLA Extension and Gotham Workshop and individual writers. I also use money that I would spend on therapy to pay for a writing mentor. All of these things help me try to become financially independent by supporting myself with my writing, and they help me to write more which is therapeutic. I found if I can write during a panic attack, then eventually the anxiety will subside. Also, writing out traumatic events has a therapeutic quality whether you share your writing or keep it to yourself. Writing is very helpful in managing a mental illness.
Books are a great gift. Novels can help us escape to a different world, and memoirs can help us to find other people like us. I read memoirs by people with schizophrenia as frequently as I can find them. It helps me to know I am not alone. There are so many good reasons to purchase a book, and they don’t have to be new. You can find great books at GoodWill, or second-hand stores, and if you don’t want to spend any money then wrap up your library card and put it underneath your tree – it is a gift that will give to you all year long.
If you know someone who is crafty or you like to shop on Etsy, one of my favorite things in my home is a handmade quilt. I love wrapping myself up in my very own blanket. I am like a kid with her security blanket. I love mine and gifting one to someone else, or buying your own is a present that if taken care of can last the rest of your life.
Of course, fluffy socks, a pair of yoga or sweatpants, an oversized sweatshirt, pajamas, a luxurious robe, a magazine subscription, adult coloring books, or sketchbooks and pencils can all make those difficult days more comfortable and easier.
My husband said I am a great Christmas present shopper. I hope this is true; I try to put a lot of thought into what I buy people because I don’t like to waste money and I don’t like to add to people’s junk pile or the things they want to send to GoodWill. Last year, I bought my husband a ginger beer making kit with copper mugs included because he likes to have the occasional Moscow Mule cocktail. This year, I bought him an Ancestry DNA kit. We are both going to get our DNA tested to see where our family comes from and to see if we can connect with relatives around the world. I would like to know if schizophrenia runs in my family (I have a second cousin with it, but I don’t know of anyone else).
So hopefully if Santa is you, or someone you know, you will get the items on your wish list. Leave him (or you) a big plate of cookies and make sure to include in your list that you have been more nice than naughty this year.
Here’s to your health, both mental and physical!