[Note: I am going to start using "loony" as a generic term, in place of "consumer of mental health services," and "normal" as the term for the "not-yet-diagnosed." You are welcome to discuss that if you wish.]
Anyway, next week, I will turn it around to guide my loony readers into appropriate gift-giving behavior toward the normals in their lives.
Crazy Meds can be your one stop shopping for "Straight Jacket T-shirts, when you're crazy enough to let your medication do the talking," with a range of messages for any diagnosis, medication or level of "in your face." The lettering is made by arranging capsules, for that homemade, from the heart touch. You can even order custom messages, but it costs more, because Jerod has to pull out his pill bottles. If you are shopping for me, medium size, long-sleeved, and black, of course. My favorite message: Bat Shit Crazy.
There are other gifts targeted to differential diagnoses, as well.
For the person in your life who talks back to his/her voices, but is trying to "pass" as normal, what could be more thoughtful than a blue tooth telephone?
Purse or pocket-sized hand sanitizer makes a nice stocking stuffer for your loved one with OCD -- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Don't ask somebody in the "Whale Shit at the Bottom of the Ocean" stage of depression, "How can I help?" Simply tell your friend that you are going to arrive at his/her house at whatever o'clock on whatever day to clean the house. Your friend doesn't even need to get out of bed. You can use the hospital method of rolling the body from side to side to change the sheets. For the frosting on the cake, leave a pot of soup in the kitchen when you go. For that matter, leave the cake. Important tip: this gift may not be welcomed by somebody with OCD.
Art supplies make a nice gift for any diagnosis. Those in the manic stage of bipolar might especially like spray paint. Or glitter. Again, your OC friends have certain limitations -- no clay, no fingerpaints.
Almost anybody with a mental illness could use a toy carpenter's work bench, that thing with the pegs you pound through to the other side with a hammer, and then turn over to pound through again to the original side. The old fashioned wooden ones are charming, but if self-harm is currently an issue, they do make them in plastic nowadays.
Recently, when I was invited to a large dinner party, my very thoughtful hosts designated a safe room to which I could (and did) withdraw when things got overwhelming.
If your loony is spending the holidays in confinement, loose change for the telephone, Nicorette patches or gum, and real French Roast coffee brought in at visiting hours (and labeled "decaf") will bring a little cheer to the stay.
Deep tissue massage is a great reliever of depressive symptoms. Some people use it weekly in lieu of medication. Ask the potential recipient first whether massage or even a whole day at the spa would be welcome, or if it would just stir up issues.
A health club membership is nice, if your loony has expressed a desire for one, but likely to ignite a scene if you have been nagging about exercise.
I saved the big ticket items for last. We loonies are always bemoaning that ours is an "invisible" disease. There are no x-rays, no blood tests to prove our suffering. But there does happen to be physical evidence, not for the diagnosis, but for the propensity for it. People with schizophrenia have larger than normal ventricles, the spaces inside the brain containing spinal fluid. People with depression or post traumatic stress disorder have small hippocampuses (hippocampi?) Getting the proof will take a bit of effort. A full MRI scan, pictures of the brain from dorsal, saggital and coronal perspectives, will run you $400-3000, depending on who orders it and who pays for it. If that's you, don't expect a discount. But if you can get your loony into the right research study, he/she may be able to get a slide or two of the relevant features printed -- truly a one of a kind gift.
And then there is that fMRI machine I am always wishing I had. It prices out somewhere between $1,000,000 and $2,300,000, depending on the power, with an additional $500,000 to build the lab. Oh well.
You know, morning talk shows, magazines, even Science Friday on NPR all have their suggestions for holiday giving. but I do believe that this one is a first for the mentally interesting. DVD and book selections will follow, as well as suggestions for the normals who do so much for us the rest of the year.
clip art from microsoft