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UC Makes Me Antisocial During the Holidays, and That's OK

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Hey ladies! Who wants to get together for a little dinner and drinks after work?

Happy Holidays! We’re having a little party this year… who wants to come?

Anyone wanna check out the ugly sweater party downtown?

Thanks, I love you, but no thanks.

Well, allow me to back up: I do enjoy spending time with friends most of the time. I love an ugly sweater and reasons to celebrate the season.

What I don’t love, however, are crowds and long bathroom lines. I don’t enjoy having to get creative with declining drinks (I don’t drink anyway) or dodging strange foods floating around on passed trays. The anxiety that comes with all of this honestly takes away from any chill enjoyment I may feel. If you want to hang out one-on-one on my couch, I could be excited for that!

I’ll be the first to say that I love the holiday season. I love the lights, general merriment, hustle and bustle, gnomes all over — I love it all. However, what I don’t love all the time is having ulcerative colitis (UC) during this time of year.

I tend to go back into my shell and only come out for those who I truly feel safe and comfortable around. For me, those people are my friends I’ve met through the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation or those lifelong friends that understand what my UC means. I like to think that I have tiers of friendships; those top-tier ones are the ones that experience all of me during this time of year. The middle and lower tier are ones that I’ll see if I’m feeling pretty good and confident about using an “out” if I need it.

Sometimes I have to think of this half-hibernation, half-celebration approach as a full self-preservation tactic. If you live with any chronic illness, you know that one big party can knock your energy for the next week. Spreading energy and anxiety out over several gatherings can feel cumbersome and annoying, so I tend to practice my “no” a lot more this time of year. Instead, I decide what I truly don’t want to miss before the New Year arrives. I don’t want to miss my best friend’s Christmas party. I don’t want to miss my walks with my mom group. I don’t want to miss quiet time at home with my husband and 9-month-old son.

Not only do I not want to miss those things, I want to be present and energized for those things. That means the rest is a maybe. 

Being antisocial is OK year-round, but it can be especially important to find your balance during the holidays. It’s your time; delegate attendance how you see fit. If you’re nervous about how to go about that, here are some of my best suggestions. 

  1. Just say no. I am a self-described “recovering people-pleaser,” so saying this complete sentence has always been tough for me. But try it on for size the next time someone asks you to attend, and you don’t want to. Just say no. 
  2. Plan ahead. Write down the things you definitely want to be around for, and plan the rest according to that list.
  3. Take “buffer” days. These are the days I put in between busy days, where I do absolutely nothing. Even if I feel OK, I still take them.
  4. Don’t skip your own traditions. Lean into the holiday traditions that you enjoy and that fill your cup. Don’t compromise any of those for other commitments. 
  5. Check in with your doctor. It’s the end of the year, which is a great time to connect and make sure your prescriptions are filled, procedures are scheduled, and future appointments are set. 

Regardless of how you spend the holidays, enjoy them for you… not for anyone else.

Originally published: December 5, 2022
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