The holidays have arrived. Soon so will the droves of relatives, delectable treats, and a plethora of holiday cheer. It’s the most joyful time of year — or at least so we’re told and go all out trying to convince others of.
The holidays are steeped in tradition but, when you’re suddenly dealing with a body that doesn’t match the narrative of holidays’ past, feelings of guilt and isolation may surface, dampening your merry spirit. On top of that, our stress levels and expectations of one another are high which can aggravate our physical health and in turn, take a toll on our emotional well-being.
It’s understandable if the only part of the holidays you feel up for is the Christmas Eve sleeping while Santa and other merrymakers go about their annual festivities. However, it’s hugely important that you know when to stay home and when to adventure out. “Taking part in all the reindeer games” is not worth a major health setback. If you’re going to be curled up in pain in the backroom most of the party, a cancellation is totally justified (Don’t want to share your diagnosis with the host? Say you accidentally overbooked or your flight was cancelled.). Rejoice in the fact that you don’t have to brave the chilly whether or traffic. Should your health force you to have a holiday retreat at the luxurious Hotel Hospital, you can find tips here and here on how you and your family can still celebrate together (Bonus: a classic Christmas carol remixed chronic illness-style to get you into the hospital holiday spirit).
If, however, you’re avoiding the festivities because of anxiety around facing relatives and friends or exhaustion from the whole holiday production, it may be time to step out of your comfort zone and into the celebrations. Realizing that you can still partake in the holidays and other aspects of your pre-diagnosis life is immensely liberating. Out of shame and fear of being confronted by family who couldn’t understand my predicament, I locked myself in my room until the near end of my first Thanksgiving post-diagnosis. My self-imposed isolation remains one of my biggest F.A.P. related regrets. If possible, don’t repeat my mistake!
Don’t get me wrong, being cornered by family, friends, and acquaintances unfamiliar (or too familiar) with your medical history is trying. Inevitably you encounter the “How are you”’s and “What do you do?”’s leaving you to quickly discern how much you should explain. Take some time beforehand to identify the questions you’re most concerned about and brainstorm answers. Here’s some inspiration to help you handle holiday small talk with a chronic illness.
Just as we change over the years and in response to our diagnosis, so too can our holiday routine. Avoid wasting excess energy on meticulously recreating last year’s holiday dinner. Opt for the boxed stuffing and pre-made pie crust or, budget permitting, order your feast. Shop online and don’t be afraid to stick with gift cards or donations to favorite charities (Unsure of what to get your chronic illionaire? Check out this “sick” gift guide) Worried about traveling? Offer to host and divide the food assignments early on amongst the guests or suggest a nearby restaurant. Instead of going to the movies, rent one (or stay back and recharge while everyone is out). Take whatever shortcuts you need to spend the holidays with your loved ones. Discover more stress-reducing holiday modifications here and here.
New Year’s can be the toughest of the holiday trifecta. You have big hopes for the upcoming year but, when the clock strikes midnight, you still feel the same. Although it’s difficult to make resolutions and other plans when your health is so unpredictable, here and here are some new year’s resolutions tailor made for chronically awesome people. And if staying up until midnight is a challenge, celebrate Jakarta’s New Year’s Eve (you’ll have a great turn out since your party will be 12 hours ahead of everyone else’s).
Whether you’re watching “Elf” at home, lighting an electric menorah in the hospital, or exposing your digestive tract to your great aunt’s secret pumpkin pie recipe, the FAPvoice Team is hoping you have a wonderful holiday season!