Painful Holidays

We are just past the mid-point of January.  I am finally prepared to talk about the reality of chronic illness and how much worse the Christmas and New Year holidays make it.

I have to admit, the idea of family, friendship, giving and receiving, feasting, good will, and gratitude are very appealing.  And why shouldn’t they be?  Yet, it isn’t difficult to see that most people’s holidays have heavy doses of dysfunction in one or more of those areas.

I, for one do not have a family anymore.  It is hard to see others together and not to be a part of it.

Even those of you who have a family and supports may feel lonelier during the season.  

Some of the obstacles facing those of us with a chronic illness include basic mobility, travel, sitting at a dinner table for a length of time, medication side effects, gastrointestinal issues, alcohol, and so forth.

Many times, a family member or friend will try to include us.  This is well intentioned, usually.  The difficulty is that we often become the focus of unwanted attention.  Possibly it gets worse, with the peanut gallery chatting us up about the “cure” that worked for their “friend”.  

Also, who wants to spend a holiday event fielding questions, some of which are very personal.  We aren’t showing up to give a medical seminar, are we?

Travelling, even just around town can be nearly impossible if you have mobility issues.  Pain and inflammation can be a source of tears and fatigue.  I’m so thankful for online shopping.

Eating during the holidays usually means a deviation from our normal diets.  This can lead to flares in multiple conditions.  What should be a treat turns into a sleepless night and embarrassing discomfort.

New Years is characterized by alcohol consumption.  Many medications react badly when mixed with booze.  Pain medications can become deadly if mixed.  And yet, maybe we remember the years before we got sick and the fun we had.  There can be a lot of grieving.  We grieve for a life or an ability that we have lost.

As for my holiday, it was everything you’d hope for.  I was in the hospital and had two surgeries.  I cried as I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink pre-op on Christmas Eve.  The hospital sucks, but it’s worse on significant days.

So what is my mindful solution to the holiday predicament?  Simply, try not to drown.  Now is not the time to try to swim across the channel.  Rather, meet your minimums and stay afloat. 

You may have to decline certain invitations.  You may have to take more medications.  You may have to spend extra energy to prepare body and mind for other people or “that relative”.  You may have to feel lonely and cry into your hospital pillow.  It sure was unpleasant but the point is that I did what I could to not drown and see the other side of the holiday madness.

Mindfulness means we accept what comes and do what we can or not do what we cannot based on the present moment.

Can you relate?  Tell me your story!