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If You're Feeling 'Less-Than' Because of Your Illness This Holiday Season

I am not sure about you, but this time of year is one of my absolute favorite times of the year. The only issue is that it is also the hardest for me since I was diagnosed.

It’s not due to my depression flaring up or the anxiety of the in-laws coming. That does happen, but that’s not what costs me the most right now. It’s because I am no longer the “doer” that I used to be.

I’ve always “done” the holidays. I cook, bake, decorate, hand make, individually wrap, customize, and personalize down to the last detail. You take a cookie plate to work? Awesome. I did whole cookie displays with decorations, labels, all scratch made cookies and treats, with coordinating plates and napkins. It was more experience than snacking. And I did that while still working full-time, having my art business on the side, raising two kids, and handcrafting gifts for teachers, family and beyond. I barely slept some nights and I loved every single solitary second of it! Now if you get a cookie that I made, it is a miracle. My youngest is old enough to bake and loves it, so he makes most of our holiday treats. If I make you a gift, I must really, really love you — because that doesn’t happen anymore.

I feel like a complete and utter failure most of the time now during the holidays. I look at the scrapbooks I made with pictures of our magical holiday adventures and I lose it, tears flowing down my face. First, there are no current scrapbooks. Second, I haven’t taken “good” pictures with my camera in years – I use my phone. Third, I am happy that we got the Christmas tree up already this year – that’s a win. There are no new handmade ornaments or home décor pieces gracing my home, tied to this year’s theme (which I don’t do anymore). Gift bags are my best friend and not just for the hard-to-wrap items.

This is hard for me. I want to be able to create the kinds of experiences that I once did when the kids were younger. I want them to have memories of magic happening – maybe I secretly also want them to remind their friends how awesome their mom is for making things for them. Instead, I’m so tired from yesterday’s decorating that today I am still in my pajamas and laying on the couch. There are no cookies baking. There are no presents already wrapped and under the tree with handmade gift tags. I haven’t even started shopping yet.

But the truth is my kids don’t seem to really care too much. Yes, there are times when they might say something about the lack of cookie varieties or why the tree isn’t up yet, but normally they are truly wonderful and just go with the flow. For that, I can say, I am blessed.

Here’s the truth:

I want you to remember that your family feels the same way.

They are just glad you are able to share this time with them.

Curling up together to binge-watch holiday movies means so much.

Sipping on hot chocolate while helping with tasks and enjoying holiday music will stick with them just as much as your more elaborate efforts, sometimes more.

Since getting sick, I’ve found that I am more engaged in the smaller moments than I was before. I spent so much time creating and making the magic that I rarely sat down to enjoy the ambiance of it. The moments I create now are different, more personal, and in a lot of ways, more special. Cuddles on the couch while laughing at Buddy burping loudly or singing along to “White Christmas” means so much to me and to my family.

Being chronically sick is not fun and it takes a lot away from you. This time of year can be particularly hard for a lot of people, me included. I’m not saying I don’t still fight myself on what I expect to do versus reality, because I do.

However, I have learned over the last six or seven years that I need to let go of some of those expectations and go easy on myself.

The best gift I can give myself this holiday season is a bit of slack and empathy. I’m not the same and neither are our holidays, but that’s OK.

So if you’re feeling “less than” this holiday season because of illness, I have one wish for you:

Enjoy and embrace the small moments and create memories that warm your heart all year long.

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