A chronically ill Christmas

The holidays mean something completely different for those of us with chronic illness.

You know you're from Pittsburgh when Troy Polomalu is enshrined on your tree

You know you’re from Pittsburgh when Troy Polomalu is enshrined on your tree

Someone who isn’t blessed (cursed?) with one of these lovely diseases often finds themselves stressed after the holidays.  All the hustle and bustle, the shopping, the cooking, the traveling the entertaining usually takes a toll on the healthiest of our society.

Imagine what this time of year does to someone with an illness that is negatively affected by stress.

Merry Christmas!!

This is my 8th year celebrating while sick.  The first one was absolutely awful.  I could barely drag myself out of bed.  And when I did make it to my family’s annual holiday party, I was ridiculed, put down, cruelly made fun of because I couldn’t help with the clean up.  That is why I live 1500 miles from said family.

I have learned over the years to pace myself.  To not get so damn ambitious and try to do EVERYTHING that is associated with this time of year.

As most people with chronic illness know, just leaving the house can be an ordeal.  The crowds at the mall or a store can just suck the energy out of you.  For me, it seems the larger the crowd, the more my energy is drained.

I have learned to do as much shopping as I can online.  I have had an Amazon Prime account for years, and that helps tremendously.  Its $80 per year, but it pays for itself.  Being that I have many relatives far away, including my bonus son, just eliminating the chore of going to a store, fighting with the crowds, then going somewhere else and shipping said gift is lifesaving.

My bonbon tree.  The colored ones are oreo and the brown ones are peanut butter.

My bonbon tree. The colored ones are oreo and the brown ones are peanut butter.

I also plan my baking and cooking carefully.  I do a little bit at a time.  For instance, I baked a bunch of sugar cookies for Sunshine’s class party.  I doubled the recipe so we’ll have cookies here for Santa.  I cut out and baked the ones for Sunshine one day, then decorated them the next.  I froze the dough that I’m going to use on Christmas Eve.  I’ll cut out, bake and decorate those in phases too.  It all doesn’t have to be done at one time.

And no matter how much I wanted to make a gingerbread house from scratch this year, I conceded that it probably isn’t going to happen.  So I bought a pre-made gingerbread house that me and Sunshine can put together.

I also made my dessert for Christmas dinner WAY in advance.  Bon bons.  Fairly easy to do, just a lot of mixing.  I really need a good hand mixer.  So those are chilling in my freezer until Christmas.

I’m trying to pace myself.  My parents had a party yesterday, and I did more than my part.  I cleaned, cooked, mixed, entertained.  But I did it all on my terms.  I rested very frequently.  I would do something for 10 minutes straight, and then rest for 20.

My FAVORITE light display

My FAVORITE light display

I divided the wrapping over a series of weeks.  I started shopping in November, and as of right now, everything is wrapped and hidden.  I did a few things one day, a few things the next.

I have gone out with Sunshine on three separate occasions to look at Christmas lights.  I picked the warmest nights and we spent some much needed “Mama-Baby” time just driving around and admiring the displays.  Its the little things that make this time of year so special for me.

I am nervous about traveling to a colder climate this week after all the excitement.  After 20 minutes of sitting in one position, I freeze up and it’s hard to move.  I’m not looking forward to a three hour flight.  But I get to see my bonus child and my husband’s family and friends, so it’s worth it.

So I’m learning.  Its been difficult over the years, but pacing myself seems to work.  And it  is a hard lesson to learn.  But each year it gets easier.  I don’t have to do EVERYTHING that is associated with this time of year.  I don’t have to do the parades, the insanity, the mad rush.  It’s my own.  I do it to the best of my ability.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Saturnalia or whatever you celebrate this time of year.  Enjoy the season.  Enjoy your loved ones.  Don’t kill yourself trying to make the “perfect” holiday.  Your health is more important, and you will enjoy it more if you aren’t completely sick for the holiday.

Thank you all for the kind words you have shared with me.  I really appreciate it.  Those of us blessed (cursed?) with these types of illnesses need to band together because no one else understands.  Take care of yourself.

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