It’s that time of year again, where the abled amongst us are in full preparation mode for the busyness that comes with the holidays. Parties, food, gifts, socializing, work functions, all those things we too used to participate in, but now for many of us the holidays mean simply watching from afar as the world carries on. No matter where you are in your chronic illness journey, it’s likely, depending on the severity of your illness, that your holidays no longer look the same as they did pre-illness. I’ve heard that therapists take more appointments during the holidays, and I know people who hate the holidays, so I know they can be hard on everyone, not just us chronic illness folks. Whether you deep down relate to the movie Elf (like me 😊) or The Grinch is more your inner spirit animal, I thought I’d share some tips to help you ease through this season.
These days thankfully shopping has taken a whole new ease with Amazon. For us chronic illness folks Amazon is a huge blessing! I used to LOVE holiday shopping as I truly enjoy giving more than receiving, but now the thought of being in a loud, busy, chaotic store uses more energy than I have to spare. If you’re like me and must do your shopping online these days I thought I’d share with you, in case you didn’t know, that people can add you onto their Amazon Prime membership, so you can get free shipping. It says in the instructions that the billing is the same, but for me it’s totally separate. Just in case whomever adds you is worried about you buying a Ferrari or anything. Technically you are supposed to be in the same household, but I won’t tell if you don’t.
Let’s call a spade a spade, it’s hard to buy gifts without any income or on a limited budget. On top of that many of us are using whatever income there is on healthcare, and funds are always tight. If you’re the least bit crafty maybe you could gift your crafts. I’m going to say something that might be frowned upon, but for gift givers, like myself, sometimes it’s less about whether the recipient loves it, and more about helping you feel like you are still participating in the world. One year I made crochet snowflakes with little hangers and sent them out in holiday cards as ornaments. Last year I put one of my watercolors on our holiday cards. Little things like that help me feel like I am still spreading holiday love, even if only from my bed. I know people often give what they can afford and hopefully people understand that I’m doing that too.
For those of you who love decorating or looking at decorations, I would encourage you to do what you can. Looking at things that bring you joy or happy memories is probably pretty healthy. If you aren’t able to decorate, maybe ask if someone could put a few little things near your bed. For those of you that can, even if it’s on a much smaller scale, put a little something up to bring your heart joy. This time only comes once a year, so dust off that silly little dancing Santa and let him have his spotlight. And lastly, if you’re able, ask someone to drive you to neighborhoods known for over-the-top light displays. They’re often so beautiful and beauty is pretty good for the soul.
Ready for a little overshare? I warned you, so you can skip over if you and I just aren’t there yet. The first holiday season I was sick, when I still was receiving short-term disability, wasn’t great but it also wasn’t the worst. It was the next holiday season when I had zero income, and a million self-imposed ideas of what I should be doing over the holiday season: from decorating, to cooking, to gift giving. The weight of it all took me into a downward spiral that, thankfully, my therapist kept me from seriously deep diving into. Even still it was absolutely awful. I was experiencing gut-wrenching self-loathing. Mostly because I couldn’t give my son ANYTHING for Christmas. In reflection, as I write this, I realize there are worse things, but in that moment, I felt like the worst mother in the world. Here’s the thing, that door ended up opening another and I also learned that holiday season, after taking a self-compassion assessment, I had no self-compassion. I had never learned, nor was I taught, to be compassionate to myself. It was then that my life started to turn into a new direction wherein I started to be kinder to myself, in other words for all you caretakers out there… I started treating myself as nicely as I treated everyone else. And, because people like to know how the story ends, after a complete sob fest of a therapy session I gathered all my courage and calmly talked to my son about my circumstances. He looked at me softly and said that he didn’t care about gifts, he was just happy to still have me. Sometimes we forget the toll, the fear and the worry, that it takes on others, who love us with their whole hearts, that we are sick full time. And in the end, I was able to get my son a couple things with a gifted gift card.
Holidays seem to go hand-in-hand with baking and elaborate meals. If you’re like me, you no longer have the energy for this type of output. In fact, feeding yourself is often debatable so feeding others is totally out of the question. If you can, order-in, let the guilt go, seriously let that s*** go, or if you can, go out. Let someone else shop, chop, and clean up! It’s your holiday too!!
And lastly, because if you made it this far you can probably relate on some level, ask for help or let people help you. If you are like me you would rather walk over hot coals than ask for help, but you know self-compassion and all that… 😊 Also, remember it’s okay to simplify where possible. This goes for everything, in life. I love the saying Keep it Simple; it especially applies to the holidays. Don’t forget to rest, more than normal. Emotionally the holidays are draining on your resources and energy output, take those little time outs of peaceful, quiet time. And I’ll close by saying that, for me, it has gotten easier, emotionally. Maybe it’s acceptance, or maybe it’s because most people have fallen away, I’m not really sure. What I’m absolutely certain of is that it’s important for you be kind to yourselves, and not just during the holidays.
Thank you for reading along today. Is wrong that I’ve seen almost every Hallmark holiday movie so far? If it is, then I don’t want to be right. 😉 A few more of my doodles below and a link to my favorite holiday video. I’ve seen it a million times and I’ve laughed at it a million and one times.