Chronic illness can make you feel like you’re stuck on an island all by yourself with a hurricane crashing around you — while the rest of the world is a few miles away on another island, basking in the sun, playing volleyball and living life to the fullest.
The challenges and worries that accompany living in an unreliable body can be incredibly isolating at any time of the year, but especially so during the holiday season.
On top of feeling physically isolated, it can be emotionally challenging when friends and family members have a hard time fully comprehending the pervasiveness and depth of the chronic illness experience.
During the holidays, this often means having to miss out on celebrating with the important people in your life or making health-related accommodations that might be difficult to explain to loved ones.
There is so much power in knowing that “other people feel that too” when you’re facing a challenging situation — and that is precisely the purpose of this blog.
Collecting worries from our instagram community, I wanted to shine a light on the dark and stormy aspects of managing chronic illness during the holidays to remind you that even when it feels like it; you are not alone.
My hope is that scrolling through this list help to normalize and validate your own personal experience. When you see yourself in one, a few, many, or all of the following scenarios listed below, please remember this…not everyone will “get it”, but rest assured that there is a huge, invisible network of people across the world who do.
50 Things People With Chronic Illness Worry About Over the Holidays:
Missing out on fun and events to rest and take care of myself
Navigating the dreaded “how are you” or “what are you up to?” questions from family and friends
Dealing with the judgmental reactions of others when I need to make accommodations for my health (turning down the lights, opening the windows, dietary restrictions, etc.)
Worrying I will have a flare up and knowing how hard it will be
Having to explain to family members why I’m not feeling well
Responding to unsolicited advice
Managing the expectations of others
Being misunderstood and judged by family
Explaining the unpredictability and irregularity of my symptoms to people who just don’t “get it” — helping them to understand why sometimes I am “okay” and sometimes I am not
Keeping my nervous system calm and grounded when others’ energies are swirling around me
Disappointing family by not being able to do the things that I used to be able to do
Missing out on holiday events because of a flare up or bad migraine attack
Dealing with family who doesn’t understand or respect why I need to take breaks or rest
Feeling pressure to match the stereotype of partying on New Years Eve and knowing my body cannot handle that right now
Feeling FOMO and overstimulation at the same time
Handling the way social anxiety manifests in my body
Not being able to make it to all of the things that I want to attend
Explaining to people that most of my days have both good and bad moments, and that both are legitimate
Answering questions from family at Christmas about my health
People judging the legitimacy of my pain when I do show up
Feeling like I’m a drain on my family and friends because I am sick
Not making it to special occasions
Pacing myself for events
Wondering if people will think I am “faking it” because I can hide my symptoms so well
Feeling like I am a burden to those around me
A flare up striking at the wrong time and missing time with family and friends
Feeling out of it and not like myself with family when I have to take extra medication
Having to explain why I need to lay down or take breaks in the middle of events
Managing anxiety about extended periods of time out of the house
People pressuring me to drink alcohol at parties when I can’t (or choose not to) because of my health
Answering questions about health, school or work
Having a health crisis spurred by trying to do too much
Getting a flare up while traveling or having something happen on the airplane
Anxiety about when (or what) the next attack of sickness will be
Family tension that kicks up my pain
Lowering unrealistic expectations I place on myself
Advocating for my needs when it is uncomfortable to do so
Accepting there is a difference between how much I can push myself and how much I should push myself
Being able to show up for the people I love in the way that I want to
How to manage an attack when I am not at home
Getting sick on a long car ride and being trapped
Questions about my health from relatives, how to answer when their inquiries as to why I’m not “better yet”
Sticking to dietary protocols during events
Feeling like I am taking too much medication
Handling sensory overload from crowds, bright lights and music
Comparing what I can do to what others can do
Imposing unrealistic expectations on myself just because it’s “the holidays”
People assuming that I’m not trying hard enough to get well because I’m still sick
Explaining to friends back home that I’m not up to seeing them
Feeling like I am not enough
It’s hard when the most wonderful time of the year is also filled with pain and brain fog and fatigue. May this list provide you with some comfort and reassurance that you are not alone in your struggles.
As much as you can — give yourself the gift of self compassion, guilt free rest and acceptance of the things in this moment that you cannot change.
All My love,
I share each step along my road to wellness and healing and hope that in doing so I can inspire you along your own path. Thank you so much for being here.