“When the bloom of the Jacaranda Tree is here…

Christmas Time is Near!”

From Christmas Where the Gum Trees Grow, An Australian Christmas Carol

Photo (c) Megan S, December 2013
Photo (c) Megan S, December 2013

Christmas is usually a time of excitement for me. By now I’ve usually set up our Christmas tree and sorted out what I want to get everyone for Christmas (even if I haven’t bought them all), and I’m usually looking forward to all the celebrations; but this year is different.

I haven’t set up our Christmas tree yet, I have struggled to get the energy to even think about most of my Christmas presents, and I’m not really excited and looking forward to the upcoming celebrations (at least not in the same way as I usually am). Instead I’m still focussed on just trying to pace myself and get a better grip of this illness. Having said that, I am still looking forward to some parts of Christmas.

To me the most important parts of Christmas are the catching up with family and friends and celebrating together. This has already started for us this year. My sister is leaving for overseas this weekend, so I did an early Christmas brunch with her, my brother, mum and step dad. E and I also caught up with a group of our friends yesterday afternoon which was labelled a “Christmas Catch Up”. Both of these events were great as they were fairly small groups and just involved catching up and having fun, no expectations of presents, extra input from me, or staying for any particular length of time. They also illustrated to me that no matter how low key the event is, I’m going to be using a lot of my precious energy up at these events.

After each of the two events I have felt extremely drained and have literally crashed on the couch in a ball of pain and exhaustion. I’ve relied on E or my mum to make sure I still did all the things I needed to the rest of that day and the following day.

The next big Christmas event I’m aware of, is E’s family Christmas gathering on Christmas Eve (I’m sure others will come up in between and I have asked about when my work one is). This event, although not big in terms of the number of people there, does have certain expectations; presents and a sit down dinner. E and I have already had a chat with his mum about cutting back a bit on the presents next year because we’ve both found this year to be very stressful and she has agreed we can make them not an expectation next year. Dinner should be OK because everyone there knows what I’m going through and I’ve already been told I can go and rest when I need to, but it will still be a very long afternoon/evening and I’m going to need to rest up a lot before and after.

I believe E and I have agreed that this will be the only major commitment we make this year. Unfortunately this means that, unless by some miracle I have lots of energy, we will not be participating in my family Christmas lunch on Christmas Day. In some ways I’m grateful for this, as it is a very large gathering with lots of people. In other ways I’m a little disappointed, Christmas and Easter are the two times of the year that we see a lot of these people. Overall, I’m not going to feel too guilty about missing my family Christmas this year because we saw most of them at my sister’s farewell the other week.

All other Christmas catch ups will be paced out both before and after the actual day so that I have time to rest in between each event.

How do you deal with the expectations of family and friends during the holiday season?

Do you have any tips on getting through my first Christmas with chronic illness?