Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Simply A Beautiful, But Often Difficult Time of Year for Those With Chronic Illness and Pain (& everyone honestly)

I realize there is all too often a general feeling of "anxiousness" that surrounds the holidays. For many of us, we work, possibly have a family, have a meal to plan or meals, have gifts to buy, to wrap, decorations at home, at work, the "Secret Santa" Gifts, house to clean before "Mom" gets there, relatives or company coming to visit, and the list can be endless for all. It is a very stressful time of year for the entire group, yet when you are dealing with a chronic illness and/or chronic pain to "boot" it can turn into a time of rather than joy and peace to stress, flares, and more pain.
We for the most part are a nation of go-getters.  We never stop, always on the run, and many times do not take care of us first. We eat wrong, we do not get the right sleep, or exercise, we put ourselves right in the middle of shopping during the height of the flu season, as well and may not have even gotten our flu shots anyway.
Chronic Illness patients do these things too. We too forget to eat properly, do overdo and vary away from our usual routines. We also expose ourselves by being out in the public more, just when illnesses from the flu, to stomach bugs, to even some illnesses such as measles, chicken pox, and so forth are out. Kids are out of school, relatives are coming in, and you become exposed to other acute illnesses that can be contagious simply due to being out of your element. We cook differently, we eat differently, often times we sleep off schedule, due to either pain, stress, too many things to do, and not enough time to do them all. So, we lay awake, stay up, or wake much too early not getting the rest we need.
Traveling is another realm that can cause issues with illness and pain. Cramped in a car for hours without getting out and stretching, bad weather that puts you in a state of anxiety, going to homes to stay and not being in your own bed, or even in a hotel, all of those things "throw" you off sync during the holidays.
We stress over "money", from buying for people, how much we should spend, and what we honestly have to spend, whether we "go into" credit card debt, or just understand we do not have it this year, so cut down spending for this holiday, and know possibly next year you can do more. Also, it is sometimes hard to tell relatives that you are just NOT able to exchange gifts. You feel embarrassed or upset. But, telling them, and not putting yourself into a large amount of credit card debt for the next year is far better. I tell my grown kids to NOT buy for us. We have what we need. Put their money on the Grand Kids, and then cut adults down, and if there are kids, then do for them, maybe you can even do something like crochet an blanket for them, make something for their rooms, if you sew well, you may be able to sew them something, or there are lots of very nice but inexpensive items out there now that kids love! You don't have to "break the bank" when it comes to kids. It is true often the little ones play with the boxes after they unwrap a gift, rather than the toys! So, whether it was $5.00 or $50.00 to them is of no consequence.
For those too ill to get out and about, being at home, tied to the sofa or bed is not a great way to spend the holidays. But at times that may be what has to happen. Some may have to schedule surgeries then, due to schedules, or it is just a time that a huge battle with a flare knocks you on your butt. Those are things we must find ways to tell our family and friends. If they love and care about you, they will come to understand, it is not the YOU want it that way, but you are not able to control chronic illness and pain. Often that is exactly when you feel your worst due to the anxiety and stress of the all too busy time of the year.
Then you may not be looking forward to dealing with some "family" or "friends" that are nosy, pushy, arrogant, rub people the wrong way, are ill mannered, don't know when to leave, never help with a thing, and so forth. Those can be the worst. Especially those that can well afford the time and/or money to help out in one way or the other, yet they are selfish enough to NOT think of anyone but themselves.
Those are the very people that can cause some of us the most grief, and also the ones that can almost ruin a holiday with their inability to see others need help and they are not the only "pebble on the beach".
Even though we would love to think our lives especially during the holidays are like those our of a fairy tale movie on Lifetime Television, or out of a beautiful book, life is usually not that way. It is messy, mixed up, turned upside down, and we must learn to make the best of it, even if the cookies crumble, the pumpkin roll cracks, the fudge is too soft, the fruit cake too hard, and the Egg Nog too spiked, turkey overcooked, ham under cooked, and no one remembered to pick up the paper plates and napkins! All seem like horrible disasters when you are in the middle of them, but in a month, I guarantee you will be laughing about it all and wondering why you got all upset, when you found a way around no cranberry salad and opened a couple of cans!
Things for me are in kind of that type of "not so simple" holiday "blueness" right now. With most of my close family either hundreds of miles away, or have passed away, or for some reason not able to be near, it can make it even more difficult. On one hand you feel "off the hook" for entertaining, cooking, and not having to lock up the dogs since no one is coming. But, then you also deal with the fact that your close family is not around, some of the are no longer here, and it can make for a sad time, and be a conundrum of feelings. I always deal with a very mixed emotional realm this time of year. Just a few years ago, before the chronic illness and pain really reared its ugly head, many things proved to be wonderful. After those, and then kids growing up, then you often look for a truly different meaning in the holiday time of the year. You reach out more for the true spirit, you look at your life and your mortality, you prefer to you have more down time, rather than all the hustle and bustle. Black Friday seems to be just another day for you, and a day you AVOID shopping!
There are still "traditions" I keep. I still send out my holiday cards. I always write my "annual Christmas letter" that goes to all of the family that is left in their cards, we order our yearly Wallace Sleigh Bell Ornament (we ordered the 10th one this year!), we usually still cook, but on a scaled down level. We do our "baking" for our neighbors, making home made "family secret" fruit cake, cookies, breads, fudge and so forth, to wrap it all up and give to our 4 closest neighbors each year. There are still traditions that we shall always keep and do as long as health and life permit. But you also develop new traditions that are nice also.
Life is usually quite "messy" through out an entire realm of our being on this Earth. At times we feel it is a little "too" messy, too complicated, too full of sadness, fear, madness (often times I wonder how how much "madness" I have :)), along with every other kind of emotional issue, physical, mental, and just those issues that we have no control over.
We would love to think we can control "our" days, and have ultimate command over our own selves, but as much as we think we might, we truly do not. Just as we cannot predict what some lunatic with guns that don't belong to him can do inside a school, a church, a college, a Mall, a Theater, or driving down a busy highway, we often really don't have control over our own actions either. Not when it comes to some things. WE cannot control illness. Oh, now we can eat better, sleep, take our vitamins, exercise, watch our weight and so forth, but ultimately that does not mean that we are NOT going to get ill with something. And when we do, we have no command over when, how or why. It just happens. So, since we can't control much of what goes on in our own world, it just about impossible to think we can have perfect say so over any one else. We can try. We can lead, guide, teach, and have faith. But, when it boils down to it, we are only HUMAN! so, all of the very things we thought we traditions, would be around forever, what we would always have in life, often times is just some silly prediction in our heads.

In chronic illness, things are often times worse for us because we already can absolutely know much of our life, our control and any thing we choose to do or not do can be changed in a moment, by illness. We can be perfectly "well" at one moment, and in an hour we may be so sick. Thus plans change, life changes, and for whatever reason there is, all of it will make sense later on down the road.
So, as you go through your last minute preparations, wrapping, bows on, cooking, cleaning, Santa, and all of the relatives and good cheer, enjoy what today and tomorrow hold. For just as so many know, often there is only that one last chance... and we are sitting on the threshold of "wishing" we would have hugged someone, told them we loved them, apologized, or just for once, been genuine and kind.
May you be blessed during this holiday and all of the days to come... with the knowledge that one moment at a time is a wonderful way to live life... as if you may not have another ..... moment again....

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