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The Hardest Part of Holiday Shopping With Fibromyalgia

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I love shopping. Well…I need a caveat for that: I love shopping for other people. I love finding things for people that will make their face light up, finding that seemingly random small gift that I know would absolutely make a certain person’s month!

Finding gifts for people has always been a passion of mine…possibly even a very strange hobby. From a friend who randomly says in February, “I always wished I’d played a recorder in school,” to presenting her a recorder and a book on how to use it in November… From a throwaway comment to someone lighting up months later. I also enjoy their confusion. “How could you possibly…?” I love it!

The fibro fog sometimes makes me forget things: why am I in a room? Did I eat dinner? And oh, which medication did I take? But I still seem to have the knack for retaining throwaway comments that usually show a longing for something. My doctors think the hypervigilence gives me a “one up” in this arena. A one up I am very happy to use in my quest for gifting.

The fibromyalgia however, has progressed and gotten worse…and Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere has this nasty habit of occurring in winter.

Leaving the house is an ordeal normally. Even with the wheelchair it is utterly exhaustive, maddeningly painful and usually takes days to recover from. That’s all just for a roll to my GP and back. I avoid all but the most essential outings when it’s cold, as it makes an already taxing ordeal virtually impossible. My body seems to have no defense against the cold. Gone are the days I used to run around in a t-shirt in the snow; now I have days where I shiver even though I’m wrapped up in a heating blanket with three layers on.

It also means 100 percent of my Christmas shopping has to be done online.

Which sounds great, and parts of it are great! There are memes showing shivering people waiting in huge lines vs. a person snuggled up on the sofa, watching Netflix and sipping tea.

But have you tried getting cards online? The selection is surprisingly sparse if you don’t want to use your own photos. Smith’s has some beautiful cards, but online…just zippo. Wrapping paper is another hurdle. Things that are so easy to get in shops become strangely more expensive online.

Then there is the disconnect.

I can’t hold it in my hand, I can’t feel it and I can’t see the exact item. I am left guessing at the quality or relying on customer reviews that range from amazing to awful…for seemingly the same reasons?

I just feel so disconnected from everything.

This seems like a petty quibble. I’m able to budget more clearly for presents when I do it online, I can review multiple products from several spots all at the same time. Etsy is brilliant for decently priced, utterly customizable items you couldn’t possibly find on the high street. I’m nice and warm. I’m able to do these things.

But I just feel…removed. From the whole thing.

I feel like there is a barrier, stopping me from experiencing the joys of Christmas shopping like I used to.

I can’t get out there, I can’t talk to people, I can’t find random things. I am curled up on that sofa sipping tea, watching Netflix. Warm and toasty whilst people shiver. And it’s lonely.

That’s the hardest part, strangely, for me. This time of year is meant to bring people together and I’m trapped behind a screen. I miss out on the special food fairs, haggling over stalls and pure human connection of markets. For all of it, I’m home and toasty, yes, but missing out. Separate.

There are many hard things fibromyalgia and my other disabilities trigger over the holidays – migraines due to Christmas lights and so on – but this one just stands out to me.

Not because it causes the most pain.

Not because it causes the most exhaustion.

It just reminds me I am apart from other people now.

That’s why at this time of the year, I try to make myself more “known” to friends and strangers in the same positions. If they want an idle chat about stocking fillers or chocolate coins, I’ll try to be there for them so, even though we shop from our sofas, we still have a sense of Christmas community.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 13, 2016
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