Holidays and ADHD

The holiday season is upon us once again, no matter if we’re ready or not. In our family we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, and A and I usually do something nice and quiet at home on New Year’s Eve. But oh, the sheer chaos of the month can be a bit overwhelming.

Thanksgiving was relatively easy this year. We gathered at my mom’s instead of my house and I was only responsible for about four dishes. I enjoyed the day with my family, but my anxiety can hit a high level, even among people I love. What’s up with that? I call it holiday overwhelm.

I find myself, after the fact, looking back on the day and wondering, “Why did I say that?” “I hope they didn’t think I meant…” “I was so loud!” I have all these swirling thoughts and I try to remind myself that I’m talking about my family here, they love me quirks and all…right??

And after Thanksgiving it’s all just a mad whirlwind. Clean the house to put up the tree. Shopping. A has finals coming up so it’s study study study. More shopping, trying to figure out just what A would even REALLY want for Christmas. Holiday Baking. Christmas programs. This is added to our already full schedule with school, homework, doctor’s appointments, counseling appointments, getting A to the gym, working, and if I’m lucky finding a bit of writing time.

Now, the thing is, I love the holidays. I love the sparkly lights, the decorations, and the baking. I enjoy it. I also try to slow down the month as much as I can and really enjoy the season and taking time to be grateful and think about my blessings. It’s just very hard to slow it all down. Is it even possible to do so??

With my ADHD it’s difficult for me to prioritize. I am keenly aware of that during this time of year. With extra things to do on top of our normal schedule, sometimes it’s really hard for me to keep up with it and not get terribly overwhelmed.

I hope to make A’s holiday special though, so I can’t afford to go into shut down mode. She loves the holidays and I want her to have good memories. I don’t want to add to her stress by letting her know I’m stressed.

Funny thing is, if holidays just add stress, I could choose to skip the baking, the decorating and all that jazz…but I LIKE it. I can’t skip it! I am my own walking contradiction.

I don’t think I’d have holiday stress if I didn’t have ADHD. My “problem” comes from my lack of organization for being able to prioritize tasks as they need to be completed. I wait for the last minute to do anything and then I’m rushing around like a mad woman. I get angry at myself for procrastinating and well…you know the rest.

Is there a solution to all of this? I use lists. I use a whiteboard in the kitchen. I use a calendar. I use alarms and reminders on my phone. Even those things don’t always take away the procrastination though, so there I am, still rushing around when I don’t have to be. Oh well.

It’s important to me to do all the holiday fun things for A. She battles the PTSD and Depression so damned hard that I like to do things that I know give her joy. I like to see the smile on her face as she watches the Christmas lights twinkle and I like to share laughs as we bake cookies together. I also enjoy watching her open gifts on Christmas morning and see her excitement as she unwraps the treasures I found for her.

Little things, I suppose, but I like to think that these things become part of the good memories that she will carry with her. I don’t want her to remember only the dark parts of her childhood.

We’ve already been watching cheesy Christmas movies. Another thing we like to do. With her depression high at the moment, she likes to cuddle up on the couch in the evenings and watch something together. And everything I have to do? It can wait. And I will try my best to not get overwhelmed when things aren’t very clean, or I have too much left on my to-do list. At the end of the day the things that matter most aren’t on that list. My daughter. She’s what matters. Her health. Our memories. Being there when she needs me. That’s what’s important.

So when the holidays come and my ADHD has me feeling like I’m spinning in circles going nowhere fast, I try to remember why I do the things I do. I try to remember what’s truly important.

Does it matter if I didn’t dust the cat hair from the windowsill before I put lights in the window? Not really. Do I have to clean the baseboards before I put up the tree? Nah. Will anyone know if I take the stuff off the dining room table and just shove it all into a cabinet because I’m not sure what to do with it in the first place? Probably not. Unless it was something that belonged to them, of course. Will anyone know that I chose to make the “easiest” cookies I could instead of making beautiful frosted creations like you see on the cover of a magazine? Nope. Does it matter to anyone else if I let the dishes sit overnight because I chose to sit down and watch a dumb Christmas movie with my daughter and then she needed me to stay in her room so she could sleep? I doubt it. They will be there for me to finish in the morning after I take her to school. Will my daughter remember that I didn’t have a lot to spend on Christmas gifts? No, because she will remember that I looked for things I knew she would truly love.

And when Christmas Eve comes and I am gathered with my family, I hope they do not remember that I talked too loudly, or too fast. I hope they do not remember that I sometimes zone out, that I am a bit twitchy and I’m scattered and chaotic. I hope they remember that I love them, and that I am grateful for the opportunity to share another holiday, a meal, and some laughs.

6 thoughts on “Holidays and ADHD

  1. Sandy Ludke

    This is beautiful !!!! I agree that this time between these two holidays is the most STRESSFUL time of the year…..but you do have the right idea….you have to pick and choose what are the most important things to do are, and do right by those….everything else is just “if it gets done that’s great, but if not, well, that’s ok too !!! Lots of things on my to-do list don’t get crossed off for a loooooong time, some maybe not at all. I am older and retired, so lots of things can wait, and I am happy to let them lol. You definitely have a different situation in your life, and I think you are a most capable person in your difficult life journey. Understanding what is important in your life is a gift, to both you and A. You are awesome πŸ˜†

  2. Lisa

    Thank you for showing me that I am not alone! With our 6 kids and their spouses, 12 grandies, and being a retail widow, it’s hard enough to get through. Add to that Christmas Eve was a Sunday when I lost my mom. Funny how the 5 or 10 year mark doesn’t bother me. Yepser, Christmas Eve is a Sunday this year. Understanding where the emotions are coming from and trying to understand them, I catch the evening news and find out a friend from long ago was just killed in a auto accident. Next morning, as I am telling my hubs about the accident, I get a call from an old college friend that I’m about to go visit. She has been staying with her Aunt, as her Uncle just passed. This couple raised her after her own parents died. Her call was the sour icing on the brownie cake made with mud. She had to cancel our visit, as she was headed back home, 6 states away. Sadly she received a call that her husband was just found collapsed and non responsive. She had to make a decision over the phone to stop working on him, after 2 1/2 hours.

    So….now back to square one….sitting here reading your columns while the laundry needs put away, more to dry, fold…yadda yadda yadda. Oh, and yes, the new printer that has been in the LR for 2 weeks needs hooked up, dishwater is cold by now and…..well…..maybe….just maybe, someone else will put up all the boxes I got down to decorate for a holiday that will be unbearable. Oh wait….better close, all the presents are piled in sacks in front of the FP, yepser, they are not wrapped!!!

    Now I’m sweating because you are a writer and I will probably receive a D- for my writing…UGH!!!! Can you tell I have siblings that are teachers and correct EVERYTHING I say or write wrong? :/

    1. admin

      Thank you so much for your comment. I am so very sorry for all the stress you’re feeling over the holiday – there certainly is a lot of overwhelming things going on! Christmas coinciding with the loss of your mom I know is difficult. I lost my dad on Valentine’s Day. I dread the day I walk into the grocery store (soon after Christmas) and start to see all those shiny heart shaped boxes appearing. They just remind me of the loss I still feel.

      Holidays can be tricky things to navigate, that’s for sure. So many emotions, so much added pressure to do and be so many different things, and so many more things than usual to get done! It’s difficult to take a moment and step back, say no if we have to, and prioritize.

      Again, I’m so sorry for everything you are going through at the moment, and how difficult this holiday was for you.

      Never fear that I am judging your writing because I most definitely am not doing that! I love reading the thoughts and ideas people leave. And just so you know, I also fear being judged for what I’ve written or the WAY it’s written. πŸ˜‰

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