Thanksgiving and a Teen Gift Guide

christmas is on its way
By Besimo – click for original on Flickr

All I want for Christmas is the same kind of uneventful day we had for Thanksgiving.

It’s been a few years since we’ve had an uneventful Thanksgiving, and I gotta admit, it was nice.  We stayed in our PJ’s all day, cooked our turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, and pumpkin cheesecake from scratch, as a team effort.  We watched our beloved Green Bay Packers win their eleventh straight game this season.

One of these years, I’ll have a bulldog. So cute!

Everyone helped cook, nobody had a meltdown.  It was such a sane and peaceful day I almost feel guilty telling you about it.  Seriously.  I can’t remember a holiday this normal.  Of course, what goes along with that is that we were shut up in the house, just the four of us (since Wonderboy is still living overseas for his internship), no visitors and no plans.  For the first time in a long time we decided that we weren’t going to have people over (as we have the last two Thanksgivings in a row), we weren’t going anywhere, and there was no agenda.  A completely low-key, unstructured day, save the noon football game on TV.

On Friday I took the kids out to do a little Black Friday shopping.  Before you panic and wonder why in the world I would do that, you have to know we were in Door County, Wisconsin, where the population of the entire island is probably less than you’d see at a single Wal-Mart.  We bought a few new ornaments for our tree, had lunch out, perused a few small businesses, and it was, by and large, uneventful.  Saturday we drove down to the biggest city on the island and watched The Muppets.  I thought it was cute and Tim was mostly there for the popcorn, so it was a win all around. On Sunday we made the long drive back from Door County to Tim’s RTC and, while the drive was fine, Tim was in catatonia mode, which always creeps me out.  I don’t know why, but that is seriously my least favorite of his symptoms.  I know I’ve said this before, but I’m pretty sure I’d tolerate the incessant mumbling, under-his-breath discussion with the voices in his head WAY more than the staring-in-to-space-locked-in-my-head-with-them stare into nothingness.  Gah.
I swear, it TOTALLY looks just like this

Now, many blogs and websites are putting together a list of gifts that are good choices for kids with special needs or mental illness. I thought I’d share a couple ideas for the teenager in your life with Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia, based on Tim’s wants and needs.  If you have other great gift ideas, please share them in the comments!

Idea #1: Headphones
Yep – headphones let Tim have his own space no matter where he is. He even wears them sometimes just to tamp down the noise in a room, even if they aren’t plugged in to anything, because they are a “socially  acceptable” ear plugs.  Smart, huh?  Skull Candy has a great assortment of ear buds and over-the-ear earphones at good prices.  To top it off, they’re cool looking, which is a plus for teens.
Idea #2: Hoodies
They are a blessing and a curse.  I don’t know a teen with a mental health condition that doesn’t live in one, sometimes to their mother’s chagrin.  A hoodie provides that extra protection to hide from the world when anxious or overwhelmed, and for that they are a great gift idea.  The trick is to get to see their faces once in a while.  This one in particular is a favorite of Tim’s, because it adds the extra tactile sensation of faux fur lining, and the softness of it is another comforting factor. This one is from Amazon.
Idea #3: Water Bottles with Straws
Meds can dehydrate or give dry mouth.  Some meds can cause a hand tremor.  A water bottle with a built in straw lets you hydrate while not worrying about pouring water all over yourself when you tip it back.  This one from NATHAN also has a clip so you can clip it to your backpack or book bag at school.  

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  • Anonymous November 29, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    My goodness, I was in Door County too for the holiday weekend, although my time up there wasn't so relaxing…our son is at the begining of his journey, and it is an awful one, lots of anger, tantrums, unhappiness. He is 11 and in 6th grade, the 3rd of 4 boys. We have just started taking him to a therapist, and he has threatened to hurt himself with knives, or jumping out window, etc…The therapist is recommending going to a psychiatrist to get him on meds, that it is a mood disorder of some sort, and is more serious than we thought. I read your blog, and I feel for you. My son spends quite a bit of time in the normal range of emotions, but then can switch on a dime, and you don't know where it comes from. Lots of disturbing noises, hurting his brother, being a poor sport when playing games, overreacting to life in general, unhappy about things on a daily basis. There is hope, I know this, it is just so frustrating and heartbreaking. I am totally with you on having a calm, peaceful holiday!! God Bless, and thanks for this great blog of yours, I am so happy I found it!!!! Mom in Mequon

  • Chrisa November 29, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Hi justme – it's hard these days to get any teen away from gadgets. The only way Tim could was to do sports. Tim qualifies for Special Olympics because of his IQ but many areas have recreation leagues for kids with disabilities.

  • Chrisa November 29, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Hi Mequon mom! I hear you about the rough holiday. I'm sorry to hear it. I have a good friend near you with daughters diagnosed with bipolar. Small world! Have you registered for a support group at The Balanced Mind Foundation? It's free, and it saved me when we were at the beginning of all this. I hope your holidays are more peaceful.

  • Anonymous November 30, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks about the support group info. I will check it out. Yes, peace for the holidays!!! Take Care….

  • November 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    I have a teen nephew with a number of mental challenges. He always gives a detailed list of things he wants, which go along with his current obsession. I'll probably just choose from the list, though I wish I could think of something he'd like that would encourage him to engage more with people and get outside — and away from his parents and gadgets. He needs that, even according to his docs. But it'll likely be a DVD from the list he provides.

  • Matthew Pollard January 31, 2012 at 9:36 pm


    Hope you are OK.

    My friend who suffers from schizophrenia, has created a short documentary about his recovery:

    Its aim is to give hope to schizophrenia suffers!

    I was wondering if you would tweet about it please? My twitter username is @matthewpoll by the way. Thank-you.