Surviving the Festive Season for the chronically ill…

The festive season has always been a magical time for me. There is nothing like Christmas. I relish in all things Christmas… Even Boney M! Yes… I start counting down the months. People say that Christmas has just become commercial and the spirit of it has been lost. That may be for some people but not for my family!

We have traditions that span 50+ years. The things my Grandad did with his kids he carried on with his grandchildren. Since he has passed we have still continued it with his great grandchildren (My dad now has the grandad duties) just with a few new touches of our own.

We go out of our way for Christmas making sure that it’s a magical time for the children. A time that parents also get to use the “I’m going to tell Santa” card! The whole build up to it. It’s an incredible experience. Going to see the lights and take a pic with Santa. There is nothing like seeing the joy of a child at Christmas time! My mom always tells the story of how on Christmas Eve I put on my new pajamas (also a tradition) and went to bed ridiculously early because I couldn’t wait for Christmas to come anymore. My solution was to go to sleep early and get the day done with! My Dad has now started to get the kiddies to watch the Grinch on Christmas day/Eve to remind them that Christmas is not just about presents. It’s about family and love. Gifts are only one of many ways to show people you love them.

However things have changed..

For some reason I and many other chronically ill people think we should be keeping up with everyone. Rushing around to get things done. Throwing parties. Going to parties. Getting shopping and decor done. Gift wrapping. Let’s not forget the big part… cooking. For many years I tried to keep up. I did everything I mentioned above. It was so stressful and I would always end up in pain.

I tried breaking it up into smaller tasks. Adding extra time to tasks to account for time to rest in between. We go to Cape Town for Christmas so there’s lots of breakfasts/lunches/dinners we are invited to or host.(at either of my parents’ houses.

Due to baggage constraints I am limited in how much I can bring with me. Problematic. This means when I arrive I have to go do all the last minute shopping for gifts and food stuff for what I am cooking on Christmas day or for events during the festive season. So what we used to do is go to the mall for as long as I could last then go home and lay down because I was in pain and get up later and repeat the process. It was insanity. Since my disease has been acting crazy and reached a whole new level I decided I needed a new game plan!

The New Game Plan

Shopping drives me insane on a good day. I actually hate malls. At Christmas I loathe malls! I cannot deal with what looks like a bunch of lunatics set free from an insane asylumn. I like shopping online for this very reason.

So I thought why not buy the Christmas presents online? I mean I have to buy 16 presents for just the women. So I did. Bought all the gifts online! Before buying the gifts I decided the best way to do this was to have it sent directly to Cape Town. This just made sense. Why carry all the extra baggage? We wanted to reduce that! Also we would be overweight. Yes, Ive done challenges on Instagram where I try to get my baggage to not be overweight! I’m trying but as a Girl Scout our motto was “Be prepared”. So you know.. I’ve got to be prepared for any occasion or weather right? I’m a work in progress…

There is this weird thing (I guess its not actually weird it’s based on the consumer) but my fave store Woolworths doesn’t always the same things we have in Johannesburg. I decided to check my menu for dishes I would be cooking over the festive season. So I’ve ordered some of my ingredients and spices etc as well as gifts I bought from them and I’m having that shipped straight to Cape Town too! Clever girl right? (Are you allowed to call yourself girl when you’re 39? Asking for a friend). I’ve also roped in my mother to buy some things for me like the meat etc. Just reminded me ….

Mother please buy the ingredients for a massive trifle please! Thanks!

We are going away for Christmas. Part of our new making memories mission. We want the kids to have the awesome memories of December holidays like we had. This will be our third one. Living in Johannesburg and the fact that everyone now has their own family we don’t get to be together so closely ever. I love waking up to my whole family being there. It’s such a special time. So precious to me. Bonding time where we can be together all the time for a few days. Waking up to the kiddos. The teens and the little girls. My squad. I get to spend lots of quality time teaching them my ways… the ways of the squad!

The kids just love when hubs and I visit. I love them with my whole heart. My little girls are like barnacles when I’m there but the fan favourite is their Uncle… My hubby. So we are constantly surrounded by the little people. Not given much time alone. I get very fatigued during the festive season because of being on the go all the time and all the social interaction. So now because they’re fine with me not being there as long as their unccie is there I’m able to go and nap while he is with them on his own.

When I’m up I takeover although their Uncle is not off the hook. Poor Uncle has to continue to be there because his barnacles want him there. Bless, he is so good with the kids. Always showing them new things and making it an adventure for them. Speaking to them at length. Man he loves talking and with them he has a captive audience!

Most importantly I think that I have learned that I need to stop thinking and comparing myself to the pace that other people go at. I have to tap myself on my shoulder and say “hey you are going to hurt your body and then Christmas wont be fun”. Like my psychologist said at one point. “You need to remember to slow down. You are a doer and it can be a bad thing”

Prioritise Social Commitments

Thanks to my family and friends. The ones who love and understand me I have become more confident in saying no when invited somewhere when I’m ill. They are so understanding and loving about me not being able to come or if I am going to be comfortable and pain free. How considerate they are about me shows me how much they love me. I adore them for it. I’m blessed to have an awesome family. Always planning things around my situation.(even though I protest). Never judging or disparaging me for not being able to attend events etc.

Wheras there are people who have the shitty attitude “oh please she is sick again? Yeah right” Forgetting that there were times I showed up when I was ill. I’m so over it. As long as the people who matter in my life are ok with it… who the hell cares about the rest? Certainly not me. Not anymore. I’m starting to like this new Tracey more and more!

The reality is I physically cannot go to every event that I am invited to. Doing more than one event a day leaves me wrecked and my energy levels drained. It has a knock on effect because the next day I might have no energy to go to an event that day. I hate to dissapoint people but I’ve realised I really need to put myself first. It’s like battery power on your phone. With each day/event the level gets lower. Resting helps the bars go up… which brings me to…

Practice Self-Care!

Reality check. You’re not the same as everyone else. Your energy bars are always at a low. Don’t feel guilty that others are able to do more than you can! You contribute in the way you are able to. Within your boundaries. Why over do it and then not be able to enjoy the festivities! Speaking from experience here! Something new I’ve learned is that when you are planning your holiday, like me going to Cape Town, schedule rest days! Days where you plan to do nothing but recharge your batteries. I think this is a brilliant idea! Definitely implementing this this year.

The holidays don’t have to be stressful. Enjoy your time by setting limits and boundaries. Set realistic expectations of yourself. I am sooo bad at this! Something I am going to work on this festive season.

Also something else I struggle with… It’s okay to say No! Man do I struggle to say no because I hate dissapointing people. It always ends up at the expense of my health. The worst thing is I will say yes to people who shouldn’t even be getting any of my time but in the spirit of doing the right thing I say yes and then because I was in no state to go but I went anyway into a toxic environment no less and I leave a complete mess and in extreme pain. My mom had pointed out that when we go to a certain place we always come back upset and me in pain. Hubs is putting his foot down. Time will be very limited. This really helps my anxiety in having to deal with that whole situation. #mefirst remember!

So let’s recap…

  • Shop online! Why go to packed malls and stand in long queues? Besides I love that I don’t have to rummage through things to get the right size and then have to go to store that has it. What schlep! If you’re going out of town for Christmas have it delivered to where you will be staying. Also …those queues!! I’m physically unable to stand in such long queues. It leaves me with extreme foot and leg pain. No beuno
  • Get the gifts wrapped in store or at one of the kiosks in the mall. I love wrapping and maķing it pretty but it’s time consuming and I’m left with an incredibly sore neck and back. I love wrapping for you but this year y’all are getting gift bags. This year I am doing gift bags. Don’t forget I’m wrapping for 20+ people! That’s an insane amount of pretty wrapping!
  • Prep the cooking stuff up ahead. Start shopping ahead of time. Everytime you go shopping buy something off your Christmas shopping list so that when Christmas comes you have a minimal amount of shopping to do.
  • Have an emergency medical kit. I make sure I have a kit to deal with different kinds of pain. Meds for stomach bugs or cold/flu. Migraine kit. Panic attack meds and obviously band aids and bandages
  • Take shortcuts!! I am known for taking shortcuts. Years ago my brother shamed me for having various grated cheeses in my freezer! Hey if someone wants to grate my cheese go ahead. It’s hard for me to do anyway! Also there is no shame in use disposable plates etc. Who wants to spend their time washing dishes??? Not every occasion requires the fine China being hauled out. Less time washing up a crap load of dishes means more time spent with family!
  • Ask for help! There is no shame in that! Says me who is still battling with this concept *face palm*. So we will be practising this together then. lol!

I know that was alot to absorb. I hope some of it resonated with you. I hope that maybe you got some ideas and inspiration from this post. Things you will be practising I will be too! This is the first year I’m implementing the game plan so it’s going to be trial and error.

Let’s have a post holiday review! Tell me what worked and what didn’t. Share with us things you came up with that you found valuable. Let’s help each other develop game plans for things like the festive season!

I’m so excited!! So excited but filled with trepidation about tackling the festive season. I have to remind myself that I have things in place and I need to stick to that to give it a go and see how it changes my festive season.

If you already have coping mechanisms.. Please share! All advice welcome! Leave a comment below to let me know about your coping mechanisms! Excited to hear from you all!