December is an interesting month, don’t you think?
While not all of us celebrate Christmas, it can definitely be hard to escape. For many, Christmas is about sharing, gathering, giving, and joy. We look back on fond childhood memories, watch classic Christmas films, indulge in holiday food; and everywhere you go you are greeted by the sound of holiday music. The anticipation of Santa and gifts makes many people giddy; hoping they were nice, and forgetting the times they were naughty.
On the flip side, the holidays are also filled with high expectations. The desire to provide the Hallmark Christmas experience can bring on feelings of sadness, loneliness, anxiety, and inadequacy. Has commercialism hijacked this special holiday? We go through both physical and emotional stress, working extra hard to buy the latest and greatest for our loved ones. For those of us with MS or any other chronic illness it is extremely important to be mindful of falling into this holiday trap, as we really cannot afford the effects of this kind of stress.
Many feel a void, missing that special ingredient that might make things right. Sometimes that is money, family, the desire for a partner, or food on the table. For me, that special ingredient is my mother. She died 5 years ago this year and every holiday since has been difficult for me. Though I do my best to get into the holiday spirit, I still get weepy when I think of her. I miss her baking, I miss her smile and her wonderful hugs, and I think of the hardships we went through growing up. It makes me sad to think of the stress I used to see her feeling during the holidays, feeling inadequate because she could not do more. I suppose many fall into that “keeping up with the Joneses” type of peer pressure. It’s hard not to feel that way when everywhere we look we are being sold a certain ideal wrapped in a shiny red bow of consumerism.
On the flip side I get happy when I think about the endless hours my mother spent in the kitchen, preparing delicious food for us to enjoy. We would watch cheesy holiday movies together; the Grinch and National Lampoons were our favorites! We would drive around and look at Christmas lights, and decorate the house together, preparing for Santa and other holiday visitors!
Since my loss I have worked hard to create new traditions, and I recommend you try this too if you are feeling blue this holiday season. It is important to acknowledge how you are feeling and then try your best to find that new secret ingredient! Maybe that is an annual board game night, or inviting friends over to help trim your tree. Either way when we work hard to find the positive we have more energy to remember good memories, and honour them by creating more.
For me Christmas at its core is about reflection and sharing. Reflecting on the past year I have been thinking about the challenges I faced. My relapse really changed my life for the last 8 months and though I struggled with it, it has also brought me joy. That may sound odd but what I mean is without that relapse I would not have gone for CCSVI, I would not have met so many wonderful people with MS that have educated and inspired me, and I would not have had the appreciation for life to the level I do know. After my mother died I understood how delicate life is and though I thought that touched me, these last 3 years of living with MS has really put the icing on that cake. I would not be involved with the WAMS Foundation or writing this blog post had I not gotten sick, another reason to be grateful for what this relapse has brought me. Not being able to walk and being fitted for a wheelchair, to walking down the aisle this summer at my wedding has been a whirlwind to say the least! So I am also thinking about that special day of my wedding and marrying my wonderful husband and all the great support I have had from so many people this year.
I also plan to share this holiday season by opening up my home to my friends and family. I love connecting with friends over tea or wine, and if there is a chance to play a board game, my husband and I are always delighted! I am also sharing right now, with you! Sharing my compassion and hope for you all, whatever you may be going through this holiday season, and wishing you all find something to bring you happiness. I encourage you to find pleasure in the simple things and savor the time you have with your loved ones. I know this can be a hard thing to do, but the more we try and easier it gets.
Remember no matter how hard things get you are never alone. I have lived that experience this year and am so grateful for the support that has come my way! I thank you for all the support you have offered both myself and the WAMS Foundation in 2011. Don’t forget to take care of yourself during the holiday, taking breaks and escaping the madness as much as you need.
I wish you all the best of the holidays this year, no matter what you celebrate, and hope health and happiness to you and your loved ones for 2012.