You can't spell Christmas without MS and none of my holidays are ever without MS. Living with a chronic illness means that you and those close to you have to make adjustments every day, even special occasions. Because this is the season of giving, my gift to you are tips and tricks for making it through the holidays with a disease like multiple sclerosis.
- Define what is important for you to have or do. For example, "Christmas is and Christmas without…" This could be baking cookies, decorating a Christmas tree, attending a Christmas concert, etc.
- Figure out how you can have or do those important things in a different way. I was no longer able to decorate my Christmas tree and my husband doesn't like doing it, so I was able to start a new tradition where friends of mine come to my house to help. If I want to go to an evening concert, I make sure to take a nap in the afternoon so I can stay up later.
- Give yourself permission to not be perfect. You may feel that you're letting people down because you can't do everything that used to be able to do, but you need to believe that they'll understand and if they don't, that's their problem. If they're family, you're stuck with them but if they're friends you don't have to continue your friendship.
- Expect to be a little emotional, but mindful of actual depression. It's perfectly normal to find yourself reflecting on previous holidays, comparing your condition. I found myself one year suddenly exhausted putting up the Christmas tree. I had come home from work, gotten the tree out of the box, assembled the tree and was in the process of doing the lights. My legs had given out, so I was sitting on a kitchen stool but I still just couldn't do anything else. It made me cry because the year before I had put up the tree in one evening. If I'd just been satisfied with assembling the tree and leaving the rest for the next day, I would've been fine. The crazy part is that the only one who cared about getting the tree up was me.
I think that most that will agree that Christmas has gotten far too commercial anyway. We find ourselves slaves to the shopping malls and big-box stores, buying stuff for people because we have to buy them something even though they don't really need anything. Think of MS (it's you're unfortunate enough to have it) as an opportunity to return to what the holidays are really about. I wouldn't go is far as to say that my disease is a gift, but it has forced me to appreciate what I do have at Christmas time and throughout the year. Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for the year ahead.