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Preparing for the Holidays With Fibromyalgia

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‘Twas the week before Christmas and the cold kicked in. This old soul wrote a note to her friends as the dread kicked in. Memories of old flooded in. 

There is nothing more scary than the holidays since my diagnosis of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Wrestling in my head are thoughts: what, how and where to shop or whether to go to a friend’s house. Over the years I have decided to have a quiet Christmas and New Year for two reasons: 1. I have felt obliged to be around family when I really wanted to be alone in my house, and 2. the drama that comes with planning one day could induce a coronary.

Going to friends’ houses induces panic attacks. Why? One has no control over the environment. Too much noise, too much sensory stimulation and the challenge of leaving within your three-hour slot. Trying to avoid a flare seems a good idea but when the drugs interact, sleep is my only option.

What to do? What to do?

Since my diagnosis I have chosen to spend Christmas on my own, although depression has affected most of the past days. This year I am having friends over.

I plan for the day. I start shopping in early December for those I want to buy gifts for. The shopping spreads through Beauty Base, ASDA, TESCO, ALDI and Pound land. Days are set aside for these momentous tasks. The funny part of the preparation is the mystery of disappearing trolleys as shopping bags are carried in to avoid pain.

My tuppence is decide how you want to spend your Christmas. If you choose to spend the day with friends, tell your hosts in advance that you will attend and things may change. I find being clear on when I will be there and what time I want to leave helps. I am fortunate I can borrow a bed to lie down if it is a very close friend’s home. Always stay warm and wear loose clothing.

Write a shopping list and a budget. January is also a month. Plan your meal for the holidays. I include Boxing Day and any possible extension day of the bank holidays.

My meat is bought from the man with a van who turns up at the square with fresh organic meat and that is one action for one day. This bulk buy allows me to purchase meat for the next month and it goes into the freezer.

I decide what vegetables I want and where I will buy them from. Parsnips and sweet potatoes are my favorite seasonal vegetables and I have been known to hoard them throughout winter.

I tend to do all the marinating a day or two before and rest on the 24th, as I go to an early evening Carol Service.

I sleep in and slowly slink out of bed to a good healthy breakfast. Memories of growing up as a child always make me melancholic remembering my dad’s attempts at breakfast that were regrettable. Pots, pans, dishes and cutlery were left everywhere. This meant cleaning had to be done before the main meal.

Decide what movies you want to watch or books you may read. I tend to fall asleep after a large meal so some things don’t quite work out as planned.

I plan my pajamas and have my house cleaned before the day. I have fortunately found an organization called Grant A Smile from London, who help with my monthly clean.

The emotions that come with Christmas sometimes can be awkward. You move from the happiness of being alone to the sadness of being on your own. You may realize your vulnerability and a good cry helps.

Depression can be an ugly thing to experience. That is my battle plan; I would love to hear yours.

Meanwhile, have a merry Christmas, and you know the drill – pace yourself, take a break and make sure your pill bottle is nearby.

Enjoy the pudding and leave the clearing up for the next day!

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Photo via Steve Debenport on Getty Images

Originally published: December 21, 2017
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