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What People With Chronic Illnesses Need This Holiday Season

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For many people, and especially children, Christmas is the most wonderful time of year. But for people with a chronic illness like myself, it can seem like a personal hell we have to live through every day until the world and temperatures return to normal. I feel like it’s a miracle to survive the holidays each year. I hope to share with you some ideas on how to make it through the holidays or help a loved one.

I received my fibromyalgia diagnosis two years ago after three years of symptoms, ranging from chronic, debilitating fatigue to random bouts of stabbing pains — everywhere. I’ve been sick for so long. Migraines are terrible, but for me, they’re just a symptom of a larger disease. I truly appreciate what all people with chronic pain feel. Even if it isn’t as severe as my illness, I still understand what they’re going through. Pain doesn’t discriminate between one person to the next.

I’m so tired all the time. Most people during this time of year are rushing around doing a thousand things and going a million places. They don’t take a moment to slow down and enjoy their friends or family. I feel like if people just slowed down and took in more time to enjoy art, music, books and poetry, it might just make the world a better place.

I believe you should be present, be merry and, most of all, represent the spirit of Jesus Christ at this time of year. If you aren’t Christian, do the equivalent. Be a light in times for others even when you are in dark times.

If you’re like other people with chronic illnesses, I know chances are good there’s a major food you can’t eat. Whether it is sugar, gluten, dairy or otherwise, it can make the holidays a nightmare. People no longer want to invite you over because it causes them stress and discomfort. I try to let the host off the hook by saying I will eat beforehand or bring snacks. I still want to be part of real life, and I don’t want to be a burden. You should also have available a list of foods you can/can’t eat if the host requests one.

How can family members or friends help? They can be understanding and compassionate above all else. It helps when we feel we will always be loved. I try to practice this every day with my children, so they see Mommy loves them. No matter how much I hurt, I will return to normal. Sometimes the seas are calm and sometimes they are rocky. We all ride on this ark together — two by two.

Friends and family also need to understand that people with chronic illnesses can experience depression during the holidays. It can revive memories and flashbacks we would rather forget. It makes me especially sad because I have few living relatives. I don’t receive many calls or cards at Christmas. I made it a goal this year to handwrite Christmas cards to anyone who needs one this time of year. No questions asked. I also included some handmade earrings. I didn’t know most of the people I sent them to. I only knew they needed to feel some love this holiday, and I had some to give. It brought me joy.

Consider asking what you can do for someone who is sick or has disabilities. If they’re like me, they’ll probably refuse help or say they’re not sure what they need, which is true most of the time.

Here’s a list of what people with chronic illness need this season:

• Lots of love.

• Compassion

• Joy

• Ask for a list of three to five go-to foods you can pick up at the market and drop off. (Mine are always electrolyte water, kombucha, Late July sea salt chips, paleo beef jerky and any type of citrus.) I don’t always want food prepared for me, since I don’t know what’s in it and can’t take a chance to have a new food make me ill.

• Ask when it’s OK to visit and show up. (If the person isn’t well enough for visitors, drop off a card or some other small token of your appreciation.)

• Call and leave funny and sincere messages.

• Tag them in something fun on Facebook or send them a tweet.

• Send them funny memes or videos (if they like them).

• Reach out as many ways as you can and make them feel loved.

• Always tell them how much they mean to you.

Here are more gift ideas:

• Slippers

• Robes

• Socks

• Books, comic books and magazines.

• Heating pads

• Portable heaters

• Electric tea kettles

• Pillows

• Flowers (ask about allergies first).

• Bottled water

• Stuffed animals

• Coloring books and markers.

• Art supplies and craft kits like crochet, sewing or beading. Think of something nice to do in bed or sitting.

• Tens Unit

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Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: December 20, 2016
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