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Happy New Years Eve! As the holiday season comes to a close, I wanted to touch on something rather important. As hectic as the holidays are for the everyday person (A fever? Why, you shouldn’t have!) and the amount of time spent with family is often cited as the reason for madness (Grandma got run over by a reindeer…or a chevy), individuals with chronic illness face unique challenges that mean the holiday season is filled with both joy and pain.
The insane switch from Thanksgiving to Christmas leaves even the most sugar-rushed individual feeling tired and in need of a drink or 3. When your own body is fighting against you and 7-8 hours of sleep a night are non-negotiable, those 4 weeks become a marathon. In spite of proper rest, monkey wrenches might just throw themselves in ones path as well. You wanted mom’s homemade kielbasa? Here’s a flare instead. Until you can’t eat, you don’t necessarily realize how much socialization is centered around food. When one can’t partake it can leave a bereft feeling. Especially if it’s a tradition that holds value to the individual unable to participate.
This year, my own holiday hurricane came in the form of a medicinal withdrawal. I’ve been weaning off of an old medication for weeks but 2 days before Christmas Eve was day zero. I was completely unprepared for the symptoms that were to follow. At work I was dizzy and nauseous with a rather annoying headache. When the symptoms first appeared, I thought that I must be hungry or suffering from one of my awesome migraines. And then came the strange disjointed vision. Followed by an inability to regulate my body temperature. I called my doctor, but alas they were already closed for the holiday.
Despite my fiance’s wise advise, we drove 3 hours to see my side with the assistance of Dramamine. After a visit from ole Saint Nick and taking pictures where I look abnormally large due to bloating, the night ended with frequent sprints out of bed and uncontrollable shaking. But I’m what many people would possibly describe as stubborn, and I was determined to have a great Christmas. Desperate, I thought, perhaps it was a weird stomach bug, but the symptoms didn’t cease. Things were temporarily easier upon waking but any attempts to eat or drink ended in miserable failure. Luckily, God said let there be Zofran and that shit is good (This is the Bible according to Sam). But, sadly, even Zofran can only do so much. On the verge of needing ER care the day after Christmas, my doctor was able to contact me and wanted me to alternate my med for another week to lessen the symptoms. To clarify, that would be my terminated med that was innocently sitting at home 3 hours away.
With the patience of a saint, my fiance drove with me in a ball huddled beside him in the passengers seat in day-after-Christmas traffic for almost 5 hours. I was then instructed to sit on the couch and stay. Considering I felt like a zombie, this wasn’t really a hard command to follow. It took over 2 days, and therefore 2 doses, for me to be able to eat without a nausea aid or intense abdominal cramping. The shaking ceased slowly over time and eventually I was able to remain awake for an entire day without severe consequences.
The point of my story isn’t to inflict guilt on the healthy individuals of the world, but simply to raise awareness. Chronic illness is a ripple, a difficult, uncommunicative, wave that touches family, friends, and even acquaintances. The strain from being sick is felt, for me, most poignantly during this time of year, and I know I couldn’t have made it through Christmas alone. Without my family and fiance I probably would have landed my pale, shaking ass in the hospital, but in spite the pain I was able to remain home for Christmas.
There are amazing resources and support structures popping up every day for individuals dealing with a vast array of illnesses, visible and invisible. Some of my favorites are Spoon Shares and Just Mildly Medicated. You may notice, I prefer a heaping of humor along with any advice. Have a safe and happy remainder of the year, and cheers to whatever 2015 may bring!
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Other Sites I Recommend:
The Magical World Of: For the Disney fan in your life. She’s funny, sassy, and you don’t want to miss her March Madness series in the spring.
Abby Has Issues: I have issues, she has issues, and it’s fantastic.