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What to Give (and Avoid Giving) a Loved One With Fibromyalgia This Holiday Season

Fibromyalgia is an invisible disease with a myriad of health problems that are always changing. The one constant of fibromyalgia is the inconsistency. One minute you’ll have sharp, stabbing pain in your hips, the next you’ll have a dull burning ache in your shoulders. Your digestive system betrays you. Foods trigger flares, you’re sensitive to noises, smells and lights. You experience pain in every part of your body and your emotions course with anxiety, fear, anger and depression. You are constantly exhausted.

Fibromyalgia is a disease of silent warriors. We don’t have a disease which is easy for others to see. Often, we keep to ourselves – both because we need peace and quiet to heal during a flare and because we don’t have understanding from those around us. For me, it’s often because I’m trying to forget and put my focus on other things.

The holidays are hard on us.

That doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the holidays. I love seeing my family and friends. I love indulging in the food and every year I aspire to decorate my house until it’s dripping with cheer.

After combatting brain fog and pain to get through my holiday “to do” list, I’m normally starting to drown with anxiety by the time I get to our family gatherings. The heat, crowds, noise and smells become difficult to bear. I often step out into the snow to gather my thoughts, get some fresh air and regroup. I love everyone deeply, but I’m simultaneously struggling to control my body and my mind. It’s work.

In the spirit of love and fellowship, I would like to suggest some gift ideas (and items to avoid) for the person in your life with fibromyalgia. Kindness and comfort can go a long way.

1. Smells. People with fibromyalgia are often sensitive to smells. I recommend avoiding scented candles or lotions unless you are sure of one they enjoy. Non-scented lotion, lip gloss or nail kits are nice to help combat the dry skin many of us are plagued with.

2. Foods. Gift cards for restaurants convenient to their work or home. These help save energy by providing a meal at their convenience and allows them to chose foods they like.

3. Pain. Soft sheets/blankets, orthopedic pillows, lap desk, socks, convertible mittens, massagers, heating pads, weighted blankets or hand warming mugs. We struggle with all types of pain and temperature sensitivity so products like these would most likely equal a win for you! Be watchful of massagers that vibrate since many of us dislike that sensation and heating pads that don’t shut off automatically. Brain fog makes it easy to forget to turn things off.

4. Comfort. Journals, stuffed animals, soft robes and scarves. Depending on your person, these items might help combat anxiety and provide comfort when we’re trying to rest. Adult coloring books with colored pencils or markers are therapeutic and serve as a nice distraction.

5. Entertainment. Concert tickets/sporting events are fun, but purchase with care. It’s hard to plan ahead when you struggle with chronic pain. Gift cards toward books, music, online games and other items that can be enjoyed at home are a nice alternative. Magazine subscriptions are affordable and enjoyable.

6. Patience. Your time, understanding and friendship are the greatest gifts that can be received.

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Photo via Tom Merton on Getty Images