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Why Chronic Illness Can Make the Holidays Complicated

It has been an active, interesting few months for me. I have had a little time to reflect on this past year and it has been quite overwhelming. I have been faced with a brand new life as a single dad. I have found a new job, career, car and people. Change can be good, but it is often difficult for someone with an invisible illness.

Change is difficult for many reasons. One of the mainstays of a routine is that you are able to plan accordingly. With a chronic illness, you do not know when the next fibromyalgia flare-up will be, if the day with lupus will give you enough energy, or if your Crohn’s disease will give you time away from the bathroom. Having a routine allows you to plan around those when you build in time or because you expect things to go poorly.

Holidays seem to complicate those times.

Last-minute parties, rushing to get a gift, cleaning the house for guests all seem to throw those routines off schedule and make it difficult to find time. It’s always hard to tell someone who invited you to a last-minute event “no” but people with chronic illnesses are often running on empty and we are just trying to get back in a groove. We often face so many issues in the day that when something does come up, our bodies scream, “Please no more.”

I saw a new doctor in the past two months. My PCP had gotten a rheumatologist recommendation and I was eager to see what help I could get. The doctor was kind and receptive and confirmed every diagnosis I had been given. She also started me on a new medication and did quite a few tests. My routine was soon uprooted by the new medication.

Introducing a new medicine can be hard on a person. The side effects can take hold and throw your body off. You have (yet another) pill to remember to take, make sure it is taken with food or not, and figure out if it clashes with the other six medications you already take. Your routine gets thrown out the window. Add in the fact that we are knee-deep in the holiday season and it is a recipe for disaster.

However, I am still going strong. I have been able to make a trip with my girls across states to visit family. I have held steady at my job. I have continued on with my life. Even with this “playing life on hard mode,” I have tried my best to keep myself leveled up to be able to continue. I encourage you all with invisible illnesses to not give up. In my experience, the routine will come back, and it will get better. I am proud of each and every warrior that is fighting their own battles. To those who help champion us with illness, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You truly are great people.

For those who interact with the invisible illness community, take a moment and see if someone you know is doing OK this holiday season. Reach out and call or text some encouragement. Give a little leniency to someone who cannot make it out to your party or event. Remember to give the gift of grace to those who need it.

Getty image by Kerkes.