Last year I started a podcast around this time and one of my first posts was about dealing with the holiday season when you are chronically ill, or if you like — depressed, grieving, anxious, sick, tired and sick and tired.
It’s a tough time of year for a lot of us and now the rest of the world gets to join in. After this pandemic, we are seeing so many economic problems, that it seems the holidays are going to be challenging for not just those of us with chronic illnesses, but for everyone.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs and podcast episodes, we see all the decorations, fun commercials with people opening gifts and sitting at a table with tons of food and happy smiles and we find ourselves unable to relate. Who is missing from our table this year that makes our smile go away? How many people are choosing to pay the rent and mortgage over buying gifts and presents. How many people can’t afford a table full of food?
For those of us who deal with living sick, mentally and/or physically, this has been our challenge year after year. How to have a “happy” holiday in the midst of misery, lack or limitation. And the answer is this: You can have whatever holiday you want to have. It doesn’t have to be happy or jolly or fun. You don’t have to make a turkey or stuffing or have pumpkin pie.
The year my grandma died, my mother and I were not feeling very festive, so we decided to sleep in on Christmas and then went into the city to see a play. It remains one of my favorite Christmases to date. There was no tinsel, no turkey, no extravagance and no house full of people. It was simple, distracting and dare I say a little fun. We defied tradition, while Elphaba, the green witch in Wicked, defied gravity.
If staying home and ordering Chinese food and watching Netflix is more fun than being with family or more affordable for you, then do that. Or have a potluck celebration where everyone brings something.
If you are going to be alone, find a way to make yourself feel comforted. Maybe it’s staying in bed watching a favorite movie or maybe it’s going to a movie theater. Maybe it’s spending some time on Zoom with a friend or family member in a different state or maybe it’s calling a mental health support line. Do what you need to do.
The idea is that we don’t have to force ourselves to be happy because the season changes. We also don’t want to wallow in negativity either. We are accepting that life is what is, that sometimes we can’t change things, though we wish we could and then we go from there, taking the next step to do something that feels good or offers us a temporary distraction. Then, we get up tomorrow and do it again, until hopefully, we find ourselves in a better place.
Check out the latest episodes of Chronically Creative on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts