A Guide to Surviving The Holidays with Chronic Illness

I’ve written for Aiming Low before about what it’s like to survive stressful times, like, say the entirety of parenthood, with chronic illness. As anyone with a chronic illness like fibromyalgia or lupus, or a dozen other auto-immune disorders knows, the holidays don’t just put themselves off because you’re tired or achy, or because your doctor told you to “take it easy and avoid anything that causes you stress.” Yes, your doctor may be smart and lovely and very handsome besides, but there never was a more useless piece of advice around the holidays.

Stress is a holiday tradition. Stress will find you even if you hide under the couch among the dust bunnies and cat toys and petrified pirate booty. What, no petrified pirate booty under your couch?? Well, you’re half way ready for the holidays then. But even if you can’t take a trip to your doctor’s imaginary happy stress free land, it is still possible to survive the holidays fully intact, without a lecture from him or her about how you simply must “take it easy,” “prioritize,” and “exercise,” and other imaginary doctor-like things.

Here are five tips to a lower stress, kind to your illness holiday:

1. Christmas dinners can be bought intact, right down to the sweet potatoes mom used to make. And they don’t have to cost a fortune. PCC in Seattle does a turkey dinner for 4 (which feeds 6 reasonable people), down to rolls and pie, for $99. Shop around, put in the oven, recycle the containers and don’t tell.

2. Keep small children in line with an Elf on the Shelf. One tiny stuffed elf reporting to Santa guarantees 25 days of model behavior. We’re Jewish, and I still use this one.

3. Buy only at stores that gift wrap. This I learned from experience – gift wrapping last Christmas eve kept us up until midnight, and nearly put me over the edge. Or maybe it did. Possibly I’m still there.

4. Squash your inner martyr. I mean, stamp on her, roll her up, put her in the trunk and dump her in the river. The kids can decorate the tree, your husband can shop, and no one will lose a leg if the nativity scene is missing a wise man, or one of the cats’ stockings is a little light on gifts.

5. Don’t wait to be told to rest, ask for help. Is this hard? Sure? Is being sick harder? Undoubtedly. *See number 4.

And absolutely top secret number 6:

6. You don’t have to suffer from a chronic illness to take advantage of tips 1 through 5.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paparutzi/2128165158/sizes/m/in/photostream/

About Peryl Manning

Peryl Manning is somewhat (and pleasantly) surprised to find herself the mother of two almost freakishly dimpled little boys. She isn’t sure she should be the one in charge though; at thirty-something she still manages to somehow end up sitting in her own gum, and last week she found her credit card in the fridge with the leftover pizza. She loves mellow moms and Ayelet Waldman; she hates judgy moms and truffle oil. She juggles kids, contributing to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Momtastic and Mamazina Magazines, and other parenting publications, with whatever grace she can summon.

About Comic Relief Roster

When a member of Aiming Low has to take a break you know it's a big deal. It could be an environmental catastrophe. A intergalactic supernova. The vodka bottle could be EMPTY!!! We have a great team of writers that hop in place when we are locked in Tahitian prisons we are out with the Chlamydia we are out.. We call these HEROES the "Comic Relief Roster".


  1. Miss Banshee says:

    Holidays with mental illness. Oh god, it’s so freaking hard.

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  2. becca says:

    I cooked two Christmas dinners and one thanksgiving dinner this holiday season. after thanksgiving and the first Christmas dinner I was dragging, by the second Christmas dinner I was a mess. then I went shopping for two children who decided the morning of the road trip that they didn’t want to come up.

    I sat on my bed and cried. rocking back and forth, snotting like a two year old while my partner held me and begged me to just breathe. I’ve had almost enough of holidays where I give, my wife gives, and my children end the season being tired and exhausted and still angry with their father.

    somebody please tell me this part of divorce will one day stop. I need to have a happy holiday, and my children deserve one too. it is about time that the ex stops being the only one who is winning.

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