My Illness Doesn't Take a Holiday

I recently celebrated my 20th birthday. The week before, I was extremely excited, and couldn’t wait for the day to arrive. The morning of my day of birth, I woke up with sharp stomach pain, stiff joints, and throbbing pain in my back. When speaking with my mother on the phone that day, she apologized for the fact that I did not feel well on my birthday, saddened by my unfortunate circumstances. I simply replied, “My illness doesn’t take a holiday mom, it doesn’t care that it’s my birthday.”

My simplistic reply illuminates a truth that is understood by thousands of people worldwide. Chronic illness doesn’t care if it’s your birthday and you want to go out and celebrate. It makes no difference if it’s Christmas and you have family functions all day that you need energy for. It doesn’t matter if it’s Thanksgiving and you need the appetite to eat a normal meal. Chronic illness doesn’t take a day off, especially not when you want it to. There have been several times when I’ve had to sit out on holiday activities and things that I want to do because of my illness. There have been multiple days when I wished that my body would simply give me a break for just one day, but
that’s not how illness works.

Illness doesn’t discriminate. It does not suddenly dissipate just because you have a big day ahead, or a lot to accomplish. Illness does what it wants, leaving those affected with minimal control. It runs its own course, and typically you just have to find a way to fight through the storm without letting it overtake you.

For anyone who has loved ones with an illness, try to understand that there are no off days. Some days are better than others, yes. But there isn’t a single day when your illness isn’t looming in the corner, tapping on your shoulder, casting a shadow wherever you go.

Please understand if we’re not always the most enthusiastic on holidays or if we have trouble finding the energy to celebrate special occasions, it’s not because we don’t want to, but rather that we have to celebrate differently. Please be patient with us, we’re doing the best we can with the hand of cards we’ve been dealt.

To those like me who are living with an illness, keep fighting the fight. Push through the hard days, and celebrate on the good days. But most of all, don’t beat yourself up about the fact that you can’t always be 100 percent. I know that holidays and special occasions are a tough time because you want to be at your best and do all that you can, but you have to understand that you can’t always do that. Know your limits and stick to them. Learn to come to terms with the fact that your illness doesn’t take a holiday, and you don’t get a break. But everyday is a new fight, and there are good days and bad days. Do what you can to fight the shadows, especially during the days when everything else takes a day off, but your illness doesn’t.

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