The holiday season can be tricky for people dealing with illnesses that most don’t understand. For me it is Chronic Tendonitis and recurring vertigo, for others it’s fibromyalgia (Edit 3.5 years later: LOL – turns out I had fibro all along!) or celiac’s disease. There are a multitude of other illnesses that people just don’t know about and so when the holidays come around and they’re confronted by said illness, it’s hard to process.
There are five things I’d like for you to keep in mind as you face this holiday season:
1. It’s your choice whether or not your illness will keep you from enjoying the holidays.
This is the most important rule for the holidays. Even though we’re sick and weak and fatigued and ready to crawl into bed and never get out, it’s up to us to keep a positive attitude. Life is hard (something I find myself saying all too often). That doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve living.
2. Listen to your body- it will tell you your limits.
If you notice that you’re struggling (well, more than usual) to get out of bed in the morning or to do simple tasks like styling your hair or cooking a meal- it’s time to cancel something. Your body is warning you that you’re in the danger zone. If you push yourself much further, it may call it quits.
3. It’s okay to say no.
I know you want to go to every Christmas and New Year’s party, but that just isn’t realistic. It’s okay to tell your friends that you can’t make it to their party. They may be upset or disappointed, but that’s where number four comes in.
4. You have to decide that your health is more important than what people think of you.
I’ve faced the disappointment of friends as I cancel attending a party or hanging out. Sometimes even just chilling out on the couch with a bunch of movies is too much for me to handle. There comes a point you have to be okay with that. I’ve lost a friend or two here and there because I simply couldn’t keep up with them. It’s sad, and sometimes it hurts, but it’s a part of life. As my friend, Kaylah, always reminds me: the important people will stick around.
5. Be sure to take a break.
It’s okay to sit down every few minutes and just breathe. If you go to a party, or perhaps have the guts to host one, don’t feel obligated to stay active the entire time. Your body needs rest. Allow it to do so. If people offer to help- accept their offer. I’m a control freak, so I understand the internal battle with this. This rule of thumb is perhaps the most crucial rule for chronically ill people who still want to have fun with friends.
I hope these rules of thumb both help and encourage you during this holiday season. If you have a friend or relative who is also dealing with this lifestyle change, feel free to share. Sometimes I think our friends need more encouragement than we do!