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Chronic Snarkopolist: The Holidays and Chronic Illness, What A Joy

Post Published: 22 December 2010
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Category: chronic autoimmune conditions column, Chronic Snarkopolist, Column
This post currently has 13 responses. Leave a comment

Hello my loves.  A new year is quickly approaching. The holiday season marches on.

It is complex these times. Many memories mix with memories of sadness, others with promises of renewal and hope.  Some reflections of the past, tinge with sadness and grief; some with joy.  To live is to experience these in abundance.

Life is complex in some areas and so simple in others. Everyone has stories. Everyone has loss and pain.  Everyone has joy and happiness. When dealing with chronic illness it is to explore these with more complexity.

I keep remembering that many people will hold special memories now. Some will have more pain and loss. And some will have more joy now.  And many will forget that we all have personal memories.  Many will forget that we all walk in this world.  Some people are just self absorbed.

A friend and his wife just had a holiday party at their apartment complex to get to know their neighbors and no one came. They felt bad. I saw it as a sign that no one wanted to show up and feel stupid and foolish. No one wanted to reach out. It is hard to open up. It is difficult to remember that we are not isolated and we need each other. People are often selfish unless they are taught or reminded otherwise.

I used to think I didn’t need any more friends until I realized who and what friends were. What surrounded me were people who enjoyed my sense of humor and wit. But they were not friends. As my life changed and my health deteriorated and my marriage crumbled, I saw who my friends were. It was then that I realized how important it is to invest in real relationships.

My friend Vi once passed on the amazing wisdom of her fiancé. He said to her, “Spend time returning the calls of the friends who call you. Stop calling the people who don’t answer the phone.”

That advice sounds so simple.  But when I stop to think about it I realize that we all secretly believe that the people who run away from us are more valuable than the people who are RIGHT THERE in front of us.  Somehow we lie to ourselves! We tell ourselves that the people who are hard to reach are valuable diamonds and the people who are there for us through the thick of it are cheapened because they are too easy to access.  This is also known as “the nice guy phenomena”.  Why do we reach for the diamonds?  In reality they are false zirconium.  The people right there calling us and engaging actively in our lives are the people who are our real investments.  Those are our friends.

Friends are different. Some cannot handle tears but can clean a cat box. Some can teach me to cook gluten free but cannot handle the sight of blood. I have learned over the years not to question friendship but to accept that real friends show up time and time again.  My dear friends have not cared if I gained weight from the drugs I was on or if my mood was unstable (as long as I apologized later and behaved better).  My real friends have been in my life for various amounts of time but all of them have accepted me and I them.  They have called me, loved me, propped me up, and accepted the love I have given to them.

The new year and holidays are certainly bringing some sad memories and pain to some. And for those of you who are sad, I want to tell you I’m sorry. It sucks to be sad and sick.  It sucks to deal with the additional pain of illness and sad memories. I’ve heard too many painful stories to imagine it is not here too.  If you need any help it is out there and I can give you a contact. Just ask.

If you are happy now, I’m happy for you.  Gather these joyful times and hold them. Let them bolster you.  We all deserve to have special memories.  There can be both joy and sadness. And you should never feel guilty for the joy you are feeling even if others are not happy.  I have had lovely joyful times during the holidays.  It is OK to have good days, good times, and still be ill. You are allowed to have good days. You are allowed to have happiness. I’m giving you plenty of permission!

What do you think? Is it more difficult to be chronically ill during the holidays? Do people chastise you not to be down or unhappy now? Do you feel guilty for being happy around people who are not well? Do you feel pressured? Are you reliving painful times? Do you have mixed bitter sweet right now? Are the holidays more difficult when you are chronically ill? Tell me! I must know!

I’ll be back same time next week! Kiss kiss!

Melissa

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13 Responses to “Chronic Snarkopolist: The Holidays and Chronic Illness, What A Joy”

  1. Monica says:

    Hi Melissa,

    Whether feeling up or down, your stories are so real and right on they make me feel alive and normal.

    I appreciate your generosity for sharing your words with us every week, and I wish you a wonderful holiday season.

    Mucho gracias amiga,

    ☮ ♥
    Monica

  2. Liliana says:

    Melissa,
    Your words speak what is on my mind. This is the first post by you that I have read and you have a new follower here. 🙂 I am chronically ill and the holidays can be so very difficult to get through sometimes. It feels like a job acting like I’m cheery and happy so everyone else can feel good about enjoying the holiday. I’m not always sad and sick though. Some days are filled with so much laughter that someone invariably comments that I sure don’t act like I’m sick. That baffles me. I’m not normal, sure. 😉 But I’m not abnormal either. Chronically ill people don’t all act the same way wearing scowls and frowns on our faces. We have good days and we like to share good times. I’ll be sharing this link with others so maybe they can understand me a little better. Thank you for writing this. Merry Christmas!

  3. Jessica says:

    Hey Melissa,

    I read your article out loud to my bf and couldn’t help but start crying when you said you were sorry. This year the holidays are going to be a bit rough. I became anemic out of no where, so severely that I was hospitalized and given a blood transfusion. Im so greatful for my anonymous donor.
    However, after all the embarrassing and painful procedures, doctors are stumped. They can’t find the bleeding. My levels go up and down like a roller coaster and im always tired, fatigued, and have bone pain. My rheumie says its not the lupus. But up’d my plaquenil. My hematologist just prescribed iron. My primary tested me for leukemia after I went to him for bone pain and bruising in my legs. Blood work came back negative but he is suggesting a bone biopsy. Im so frustrated and I miss being myself.

    Anyways, thank you for the article. I hope all my fellow lupies have an enjoyable holiday.

  4. Linda R says:

    We can’t control what others think or do, but we can control our reaction to it.

  5. Beautiful, just like you!

    xoxo,
    Joanna

  6. Amy says:

    Melissa,

    Holidays are hard being chronically ill but I think my family is starting to understand my limitations finally with this being my 6th holidays in a row that I have been sick. This year, as sick as I am, I’m really enjoying the holidays for some reason.

    It might be that I finally don’t feel any pressure to do anything that is beyond what I know I am able to do. It might be that we are broke and these holidays have involved no presents/shopping/crowds and aren’t going to… I don’t know what is different.

    I’m the sickest I have been at any Christmas in the last 6 years but I’m trying to allow myself to enjoy the parts that I can. And I think it is working.

    Thanks again for sharing your writing with us all. I love reading your articles.

    Love,

    Amy

  7. Judanna says:

    Thank you Melissa for showing how wide our arms can reach, wide enough to embrace all on this site at this time of year. I was so excited to see my almost 89 yr old grandma today & I had to cancel, because while out w/ a girlfriend for lunch yesterday which is a “Blue Moon” event for me, I started getting a sore throat which by last evening was joined by an earache & now explains why I have had a very sore lower back for 2 days ! Came down w/ something & after doing all the wrapping, computer buying, sewing of sachets & making of dream catchers, while taking part time patients & doing all the IVF appts & counseling w/ my fiance`, I have some microscopic bug trying to fight me ! If I don’t make it to my mom’s tomorrow 1 & 1/2 hour away, I will not be able to see my son who’s face I haven’t seen in 2 years. Then tomorrow night is a party of my fiance`’s family & Saturday is his family as well. Part of making homemade gifts for people is the joy I see when they open the present. I REALLY want to see ALL their faces. I just may not be able to this year. Thank you for allowing me to share this by your welcoming submission !
    Love,
    Judanna

  8. thealphap says:

    Melissa,

    What a beautiful post. You really nailed who friends are and the importance of having them. Especially us chronically ill who like to take on the world all by our lonesome.

    I think being chronically ill is more difficult around the holidays because I expect more of myself. I think I should be able to work 50 hours a week AND cook all the fantastic foods I normally do. Not to mention ensuring everyone else has the most thoughtful present from me.

    Okay, I’m exhausted just from typing that, let alone doing it. It’s important for us to choose our attitudes, especially this time of year. That doesn’t mean we have to be fake, but we can choose to look forward to the good times and what the next year will bring. We can choose to hang onto the warm moments that will be happy memories. Sinking into how lousy we feel or how bad things are will just lead to further misery.

    Now, I’m off to complain about how bad my broken bones hurt to my best friend so she’ll run to Starbucks for me. 😉

    • Judanna says:

      Thealphap,
      Boy, sista I feel your pain with those broken bones. What have you broken during this “Most Wonderful time of the Year ?” And what’s up with all the pain @ night ??? Is it that we are trying to heal too quickly by doing too much during the day or that the outside temp drops w/ added dampness & we become the walking Barometers ? With Osteo & Fibro, I sure as BEEP feel like one ! Broke Tibia, Fibia & partial Achilles tear w/ Peroneus muscle damage. And as I fell, I broke my fall with my right hand & “Jammed” my shoulder ripping the labrum from the bone.
      Managed to get through the first half of Christmas ok. What about you ? Just hurtin’ now cause it’s midnight. And not a Creature is stirring. . . . .not even my cat’s catnip mouse ! But Fireworks just went off in my neighborhood ! (THERE must have been a Santa siting !)
      Love,
      Judanna

  9. Robin says:

    I should have read this yesterday. I feel overwhelmed, even though I think I shouldn’t. And when I think about what I “used to do” which seems like a lifetime ago, I wonder if I just imagined I did those things or what.
    Today at work it was “why are you so quiet? what’s wrong with you?”…can’t people be quiet once in a while? And I explained myself but still “why so quiet?”….

    thank you for publishing this, I should print it out and carry it with me at all times

  10. Linny says:

    Thank you, you have written a beautiful essay on this subject.
    So well you convey what so many of us experience. Also validating our shared stories. Makes me able to sit a bit more quietly because I feel understood and part of something that others know too.
    So very different the world looks to the innocence of those who have not known trama.
    Being on this other side of the window we can see the riches of life as well the painfulness and sorrow.
    Never again will we take the goodness of people lightly. If someone opens a door for me I will remark how very kind of you. I notice others march thru an opened door without a glance toward the person who held it. Appearing an attitude that would expect nothing less for themselves.
    Who are we? What is happening, what wakeup call can we suggest to the blind and selfcentered. Is it our place to praise or scold? I prefer to praise, but often willing to scold. Is this bad?
    Are we a balance? Are we messengers? Do we have a purpose too?
    Just wondering what some of you think and notice as well.
    Love, Linny

  11. Lolly says:

    Beautiful said.

  12. RBK12217 says:

    Love reading your blogs and twitter posts. You never cease to make me think and smile – sometimes I have trouble doing these things at the same time! I appreciate your input and points of view. Thank you for your voice. 🙂 RBK

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