For the majority of the population the festive season is a time that brings with it unwavering joy and excitement. The prospect of some time off from both school and work to spend with family. The good food, festive films and gifts. Family traditions that have stood the test of time like the post-Christmas dinner walk, that no one wants to miss out on.
But for those of us with chronic conditions like M.E. the festive season comes with a few more challenges. Often making the time of year particularly anxiety fuelled. Christmas ends up being all consuming, permeating into all energy types. The cognitive tasks: coming up with gift ideas, the logistics of who is visiting when. The physical tasks: braving the supermarket, wrapping the gifts, eating the meal. The emotional tasks: the conversations, the socialising, the managing of other people’s expectations of you. The tasks listed are just a snippet of what could be a never ending list.
If you feel overwhelmed just looking at those examples, just imagine doing all of them and more on a battery that only charges to 20%, takes about 3 hours to run out and 3-5 days to recharge back to 20%.
That’s the reality of the festive season with M.E.
All the things often wouldn’t get done at all without the help of supportive friends and family coming to the rescue. Picking up those last few gifts on your behalf and wrapping them to save your precious energy supply.
Each year I always find myself in a situation where I overthink my every move in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Considering carefully the energy expenditure of each activity I do, spacing tasks throughout the week with bigger rest periods than normal. Trying desperately to walk the tightrope between managing okay and triggering a flare that could land me bed bound on the day we are meant to celebrate.
Well this year despite best efforts I am feeling far from fabulous. Pushing through to the end of the university term has finally caught up with me and I’m paying for it, big time. Despite Covid-19 regulations minimising some of the in person plans we had as a family, something I’m sure we have all learnt this year is that Zoom fatigue is a very big problem! So the day is still going to be alot for my body, that is very much finding being a semi-functional human hard right now.
In an attempt to stop myself making comparisons between this year and past years because of both Covid-19 and my health, I’ve compiled a little list of reminders to help me make it through the festive season amongst the uncertainty. So I thought I would share them just in case your body, brain or both are being particularly bothersome at this time of year.
- It is okay to rest- The day doesn’t have to be 100 miles an hour, taking yourself off for a power nap or lie down is more than okay
- You are allowed to prioritise what’s best for you, even if other people don’t seem to understand- I think sometimes it’s easy for the people around us to forget that chronic illnesses don’t just disappear because it’s Christmas (if only).
- You aren’t the only one going through this- Lots of people find Christmas difficult for a multitude of reasons, even those without chronic illnesses .These people may be able to socialise or trudge round the shops, but it doesn’t mean they are having the best of times. All is not how it may seem from a social media post.
- You are not obliged to tell extended family anything you don’t want to discuss- This includes discussions around your health, you don’t have to tell them no matter how insistent they are if you aren’t comfortable to do so.
- You know your own body better than anyone, there is absolutely no need to overdo it for the sake of meeting other people’s unrealistic expectations of you.
- You are doing the best you can.
The impact of M.E. at Christmas doesn’t stop when the day ends. There will always be the payback days no matter how careful you were not to over exert yourself. Don’t beat yourself up about this, you can’t help it. Take the next few days to rest and engage in gentle self care, being kind to yourself and giving yourself the same amount of grace you would give a friend going through the same.
Festive fatigue and M.E at Christmas is something I don’t think is spoken about enough. If you are reading this and don’t have experience of M.E I hope this has given you an insight into how much effort 1 day can be. If you too have M.E. I hope this has resonated with you in some way or another.
Wishing you all a Happy Holidays and a Very Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!