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20 Things You Should Know About People With Chronic Pain During the Holidays

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The festivities of the holiday season aren’t always as joyful for people with chronic pain as they are for others. Energy and pain levels don’t become more manageable simply because it’s December — in fact, hallmarks of the holiday season like social events, shopping, cooking, entertaining and travel can make chronic pain even worse. Add in pressure from friends and family to participate and questions about health, and this time of year can be extra hard on chronic pain patients.

To help loved ones better understand the challenges people living with chronic pain conditions deal with this season, we partnered with the US Pain Foundation to ask our Facebook communities what they wished people knew about them during the holidays. Hopefully, greater respect for the complications of chronic pain in the holiday season will create a more sensitive, inclusive and peaceful celebration.

Here’s what they said:

1. “The holidays have a tendency to highlight the loss and all the things we miss out on because of chronic pain — and that can leave us feeling sad and isolated.”

2.I wish people didn’t feel obligated to ask me how I’m doing or feeling. Sometimes I don’t want to talk about it or maybe I just don’t want to talk about it with you.”

3. “They should respect that I can’t have a drink, I’m on so many medications and pain pills. Just appreciate that I showed up and that I’m trying.”

4. “The holidays are exhausting. Chronic pain doesn’t care that it’s the holidays and it’s supposed to be busy and you’re supposed to have a good time. That pain will always be there and the activity of my holidays can make it so much worse.”

5. “I save myself for work when I am not working because I have to support myself. I enjoy the day off for the holiday because it gives me an extra day of rest. You will need to come to see me. I am not traveling.”

6. “If I have to cancel it’s because my body is not cooperating, not because I didn’t want to see you; chances are, I was looking forward to it but my body had other plans.”

7. “For every festivity and gathering, however ‘normal’ I may seem, I pay for it later.”

8. “The energy to make cookies or wrap gifts takes at least double the energy it does for a healthy person. I do it because I love the people in my life but I’m tired and hurting. I did all I could and I do feel terrible I can’t go sledding or shopping but what I do I do out of love.”

9. “I wish my family and friends understood that some days I feel well enough to socialize and other days I can barely get out of bed. Unfortunately that means a agreeing to attend a social event may result in a cancelation.”

10.That we are trying our best. Us sitting down instead of offering to chip in isn’t us being lazy. Us being there at all is more than likely taking every ounce of energy we have. We get depressed around the holidays and do everything we can to try to enjoy it. If we seem down please understand that we can’t just ignore it, regardless of how happy everyone thinks we should be.”

11. “How hard it is to do the simplest things. Getting my Christmas tree up will probably take a few days. Regular people can do things like that in a few hours. Don’t worry, I won’t let pain win. That tree is going up some how some way.”

12. “When someone asks me ‘How are you feeling?’ I reply with ‘good’ or ‘great’ because in my mind it’s my way of being polite. I don’t want to be negative. I don’t want to say I’d rather be home in bed. Understand that even though I said ‘I’m good’ I’m not.”

13. “I can be in pain at home by myself, or I can be in pain with the people I love enjoying their joyous activity. Keep me involved! If nothing else, I can just soak up the loving energy from my spot on the couch.”

14. “Please understand if I have to get up from the table in the middle of dinner. We always have a large number of people (usually 30 to 40), lots of kids in not enough room. The anxiety of all of the people is overwhelming and because we are very cramped in, someone is bound to hit my RSD [reflex sympathetic dystrophy] arm and set me into a worse flare.”

15. “It’s very easy to become overstimulated with the crowds, music, and lighting. Some of us need to retreat and recollect. Hyperawareness is exhausting.”

16. “I appreciate the amazing feast you made, but please don’t keep telling me to eat or feel offended when I don’t eat a full plate. Pain can be incredibly nauseating, and there is no doubt that under any other circumstances I would be eating three slices of pie, but these aren’t normal circumstances you’re familiar with. My normal is different.”

17. “Cold weather makes me hurt much more and being social for the holidays is more difficult and often impossible.”

18. “I wish they understood how much I miss being able to do all of the wonderful things they are enjoying during the holiday season. When I see their holiday photos, I get a mixture of happiness for them and sadness that I wasn’t included. I would enjoy an invitation even if I had to turn it down.”

19.I wish they understood that bringing extra guests isn’t ‘fun’ — it’s more hard work, more taxing on my already taxed body, and that getting to the actual holiday is like running a triathlon after you’ve already been running a marathon.”

20. “I wish people understood that if I’m spending time with them during the holidays… they are special because I choose to use my ‘limited abilities’ as time spent with them and they are worth any sacrifice I may need to make to allow me to be there.”

What do you wish people knew about you during the holidays? Share in the comments below.

Originally published: December 7, 2016
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