It’s the Holidays and I don’t feel good.
Does that statement sound familiar to you? How exactly does someone with chronic illness cope on the holidays? That’s a pretty good question, and one I think deserves some attention. For me, the holidays coming along this year only meant more struggle than enjoyment. This was my reality for more than one reason this year, and could very well be for others with a chronic illness as well. I’m currently pondering how to provide my family with the best me I can. It means resting more during the day, missing other activities so I can be physically capable of attending family events. As well as depending on family for more of the work on the holidays.
I also have other factors that are at play here. I am not out of work by personal choice, as in I did not just up and decided to stop working because that’s just what I wanted to do. Rather, I’m facing the holidays and suddenly dealing with the reality of physically not being capable of keeping up the demand of working. How does someone process that, right at the start of the holiday season, when everyone is shopping and attending Christmas parties and having family meals to celebrate? It’s a lot to take in, but to do it all right at the peak of such a joyous and productive time for many, that’s just a thought that’s more daunting than one might think.
Can’t you just make time for me
This is kind of how it feels when someone who is chronically ill feels when everyone gets together and suddenly they feel like they missed all the news. Family carrying on a conversation that you haven’t got a clue about. Sitting silently in a chair, possibly in a corner off to yourself. You don’t do this because you are not social, or just don’t enjoy the time with everyone. You do it because you don’t feel good yet again but you want and need to feel normal at least on the holidays. You don’t converse much because you feeling bad has kept you out of the loop, but you also don’t want to bring anyone down by talking about how you don’t feel so great again either.
You watch family disperse to beat the crowds and catch the holiday deals. You listen to all the cool gift ideas they have for others and maybe even about the great personal wishlist item they scored for their self. There is music and laughter and parades on TV. Children are playing and you jealously watch as you can’t scoop up that grandbaby or crawl in the floor to play with all the little nieces and nephews.
Chronic doesn’t skip the Holidays
While I mentioned the things above, some are my personal experiences and some are things I see and discuss often with others in similar situations as me. In my case, this part is a bit more connected to my personal holiday chronic illness struggles. When I came up with the heading to this section my thought was I sure wish I could just not be sick during the holidays. Instead, I got up Thanksgiving morning felt more exhausted than usual, got ready and piled the kids in the car. I started it up, put it in reverse and immediately back in park. I as quickly as possible ran in the house and began throwing up. One of the many symptoms that regularly interrupt my days.
Once I was done I straightened myself up did some quick oral hygiene and out the door, I went. I spent my morning on the couch while my former mother-in-law finalized the Thanksgiving meal. I used to arrive and jump in and help finish things up. Not this time though. The kids filled that role. My daughter usually does, so that was nothing new, but the boys helped too for a change. I usually do like most and eat until I’m miserable. Again, not this time. I got small portions and only ate what I had. My appetite isn’t much these days.
We left knowing I was already exhausted and all I did was sit on the couch and make the hour drive there and back. My mind was already lost in the madness of that chronic brain fog by the time we reached home. My daughter having to remind me I was dropping her off at her boyfriends', and then quickly asking why I passed the road. I came home and rested in bed for those next few hours until having to be at my sisters for the next event. Somewhere I am typically at before everyone else, but this time, I arrived in the mix of everyone else because I had to practically drag myself out the door.
Holidays can be challenging for your loved ones
This really goes to cover both sides of the fence here. Not often I branch out and talk about being on the other side, but it deserves just as much acknowledgment as our side does. As the holidays continue to unfold keep this in mind. Your loved ones may not really understand how to approach all of this with you. They may not ask you to bring things thinking it might add to the already difficult to balance tasks you have to juggle. They may not push to drag you into the mix of all the activity thinking that you need the rest and not the hassle of holiday shopping or of being pressured to be actively involved in the days' activities.
If they just let you sit in your chair kept to yourself they may be trying to respect that you are just too exhausted for anything else. So I encourage if you want more please communicate with your loved ones during the holidays. Again, both sides of the fence here. If you tell your loved ones you want them more actively involved please talk to them about it ahead of time. We can plan our tasks to conserve energy where it’s needed most. The same if you want your family to include you, step up and ask to join. They may not ask not for lack of caring, but for respect. So please communicate and you and your loved ones will all handle the holiday stress much better.
Last but not Least, Please Give Lots of Love
I say this because it is so difficult to emotionally process being sick all the time. Add a loved one struggling with the new onset of symptoms, or worsening of symptoms. Some may even be financially struggling because suddenly they have the challenge of starting disability and the holidays can become depressing real fast if someone feels completely alone. The workload can be increased causing those still working to be having more pain and more frequent flares.
Just make sure that you take the time to show others they are loved and not only will it possibly make their holiday better, but it will make yours better too. As always stay strong, and #KickSomeAS