This was my first Christmas holiday since my ulcerative colitis diagnosis in March of 2018. I’m following a strict grain free protocol, so many of the traditional foods that I’ve enjoyed for decades were completely off limits. Sometimes it got to me, but I would remind myself of the importance of what I was doing in hopes of minimizing the need for heavier drugs and to keep on being positive.
A couple of nights before Christmas we went to a local Christmas stroll. We’ve been attending this event on and off for around 15 years. While I was there, I reflected on last year’s walk, which was when my first IBD symptoms began. And 2010, the year of my cervical dystonia when I did the walk through blinding pain but I was determined to be there. The only problem I had this year was constantly having to constantly pull up my yoga pants which kept trying to slide down.
I congratulated myself on being able to enjoy the walk with no symptoms flaring…until I got home. As I took off my coat I felt a pain down my arm. Within a couple of hours, it was down past my elbow and I had trouble maneuvering myself into bed. With the timing of the weekend before Christmas, I knew I wouldn’t get into the doctor right away so I consulted Dr. Google which seemed to confirm what I suspected…something to do with the rotator cuff, either an impingement or a tear.
I couldn’t believe it. I had to hand off kitchen and wrapping responsibilities to my husband. Had to miss Christmas services because I could barely move my arm.
A Simple Christmas is Okay
The moral of the story? By keeping things simple, I didn’t set myself up for a letdown when things happened. I’d been very intentional about meditating on Advent this year and continuing my yoga practice. Cooking and baking were kept to a minimum anyway with my restrictions. With only one child still in school, the end of the year events have slowed down.
It’s been a simple holiday season without the stress, without going crazy with decorations, events, and gifts. By scaling back and focusing on the more spiritual side of this holiday, I found joy in the season and didn’t have too much depression as I’m prone to.
Surviving the Holidays with a Chronic Illness
Was it a perfect Christmas? No. I got a little down watching my family get dressed and go to church (I insisted they go!) But when it came down to it, I simply used my down time to offer thanks to God for his provision and to pray for families who were going through tough times. And that’s reality. Some Christmas seasons will be more challenging than others. Maybe there’s another diagnosis. Maybe there was a death in the family. Maybe you lost your job right before Christmas. Maybe the car broke down at the most inopportune time.
Life happens to all of us and while there are thousands of things that could happen that could potentially ruin Christmas, how you react to any of them is up to you. Some years, you simply make the best of things and move forward.
Here’s a few posts from some other chronic illness bloggers who share tips on surviving the holidays with a chronic illness.
Tom Seaman (who shares my dystonia diagnosis) offers helpful stress management tips for chronic illness warriors. Despite the business of the holidays, we’ve got to make time to attend to body, mind and spirit.
If you are feeling a little melancholy…….you are not alone.
I will have a lovely Christmas but it will not necessarily be a season of constant joy. It will have moments of delight, moments of extreme fatigue, moments of excruciating pain and then moments of relaxation and rest.
This is the reality for those of us with chronic illness.
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to all my readers!