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When Chronic Illness Makes It Difficult to Feel Cheerful During the Holidays

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With Christmas approaching, it’s important to understand that not everyone may be cheerful. I used to stress myself out trying to figure out what gifts to get everyone. This year, it’s very different. My family has chosen to do a “gift-less” Christmas and instead enjoy spending time being with one another. It’s the first time we’re doing it, and although it feels weird, I couldn’t imagine it any other way right now. My family has had our share of bad luck all around this year, and we’re happy to just be together, eat some delicious food and create a lasting memory.

For the past six years, all I have wished for while ringing in the New Year was for the next one to be better. At first, it was because I couldn’t find a full-time job due to the tough economy, and I watched as everyone around me was succeeding in their own way. Then, when I finally achieved my career goal, I was struck with sudden illness and now don’t have the job nor my good health anymore. It’s been a very humbling thing to watch my life fall apart in an instant, now only hoping each holiday season that the year to come will help me to find some happiness within and even the slightest improvement in my health.

I was proposed to in the summer of 2016 by someone who loves me unconditionally and devotes his life to trying to help me smile each day. I can honestly say that the day he proposed was the last day I felt a spark of happiness in my body. It solidified for me that despite all the hardships and life changes that go along with chronic illness, he was still willing to be with me and to take care of me each and every day.

With an upcoming wedding to plan, I faced so many health issues this year and had more procedures and tests done on me than I have ever had in my entire life. I endured more pain than anyone should ever have to have. It wasn’t until my pain management doctor told me that he talked to other patients about how tough I was that I realized this was my strongest year. I don’t know how, but I managed to find the strength within to get through three spinal injections and two nerve blocks without any anesthesia. I went and am continuing to go now for almost a year to physical therapy, which left me completely drained afterwards. I had MRIs, sleep studies, blood work every other month and two trips to urgent care. I developed migraines that lasted for days on top of my rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, Sjogren’s, anxiety and depression.

My weekly calendar was filled up with four to five appointments each week. I don’t know how I did it, but I woke up each day and did whatever I needed to do so I could tell myself I did everything I possibly could health-wise.

My anxiety and depression are at a record high for me. The holidays are supposed to be merry and bright, but it’s very difficult to put on a happy face when you are so down inside. I’m positive that most people who struggle with chronic illnesses can relate. As I see people shopping in stores, I wish I could be doing that for my family, but I currently have no income and am waiting for my disability hearing date to come up. It’s all so very true when people say you should go out there and do everything you want to do in life because it truly can change in an instant.

For those who don’t know what it is like to live this kind of life, I wish for you to not judge others by the way they look. We all have our own struggles beneath the surface going on. Although you may be cheery and love this time of year, think of those who aren’t so lucky to have what you have. Be kind. Be generous. Be selfless. Ask those around you if there is anything you can do for them. Acknowledge that invisible illness is a thing… it’s a thing so many of us are facing and struggling with.

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Photo via Kerke on Getty Images

Originally published: December 11, 2017
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