The holidays are an emotionally charged time of year. Physical demands aside, the mental and emotional expectations can be enough to sideline you during the season. Whether you yearn for the place you call “home,” wish for a life companion, or dream of healthier days -- the nostalgia can catch you off guard. Every. Single. Year.
Even if you anticipate these natural inclinations and make a point to take extra good care of yourself and your emotions, especially during the holidays, you may still find yourself in a funk.
When living with chronic disease and daily symptoms, you’re forced to prioritize like never before. This means learning to say “no” to many activities, letting loved ones down gently, and allowing plenty of time to rest and build up reserves for those times when you do accept an invitation.
No matter how much you practice gracefully declining invites, spending a quiet night at home with your feet up, or taking a “safe" dish that you’ll tolerate to an event - there are still those fleeting (or not so fleeting) moments of regret.
Waves of remorse where you wish you could throw caution to the wind: drink wine, eat freely, and dance through the night without the pain and symptoms that follow as surely as a kiss beneath the mistletoe.
It’s during these times that I get the holiday blues. I become acutely aware of my physical setbacks followed by a sense of discouragement, loss, and longing for simpler days.
As the year end approaches, I tend to reflect on my physical health. While certain advantages are not lost on me such as my functioning organs, minimal reliance on meds, and the ability to be physically active and to work from home - I also find myself yearning for freedom from the bonds of pain and fatigue.
Like you I’ve seen countless doctors and practitioners, done everything they've asked of me, yet experience limited success. I even made my health my full time job for the past five years in hopes that I’d be recovered by now. I’ve battled viruses, autoimmunity, heavy metals, pathogens and more. I’ve sought guidance from counselors, healers and God - remaining open to every possibility.
Those days when I hurt the most I can’t help but wonder, "Is this is it? Am I destined for a life filled with pain?" I turn inward and listen and the answer is always the same...
I don’t know if, or when, my physical torment will end. I don’t know that I’ll ever become symptom-free enough to resume social norms and certain life experiences. I don’t know if I’ll stop feeling the isolation of disease, and I certainly don’t know if I’ll feel less pain.
But I have to believe that I will.
I have to trust that my experience serves a purpose and therefore that every meal I make from scratch, every supplement I take to support my system, every hour that I spend resting, every sacrifice my husband and I make to experience comfort over normalcy - I have to believe that each effort is inching me forward.
Just as I believe that every good choice you make is moving you toward total and complete health and healing.
While the idea of sitting back and wishing for a miracle or a “cure" is appealing, I don’t believe that is the sole answer. Although it would certainly be a lot easier, it would also disempower us in the process. No, I prefer to take an active and intelligent role in my health and to keep the hope alive by becoming educated and enlightened for my clients and myself.
If you’re feeling discouraged that you haven’t seen the progress you expected by now, or because you don’t have the energy for all the traditions of the season, know this one thing: I can’t promise that your pain will go away - even if you do everything right. I can’t guarantee that you’ll reverse your disease or become symptom-free, and I won't simply wish for a drug or a cure for you - I realize it’s way more complex than that.
Rather I’ll share what I've observed in my own self care, as well as my clients’: it’s the hope and determination that propels us forward day after day. Even more than that, it’s what we do with that hope and determination that significantly impacts our outcomes and improves our quality of life.
This means making ongoing tweaks and consistently good choices. Removing processed food from your diet to reduce inflammation, measuring lab markers to gauge your progress, going to the gym to energize the immune system, meditating to re-wire brain patterns, breath work to oxygenate cells, resting to restore your soul, and carving out time each day to give your body your best.
That’s the difference between progressing and plateauing. It’s not wishing and waiting. It’s using hope to act deliberately.
Use hope to act deliberately.
As you head into the New Year, take note of your health. Focus on all that you've accomplished this past year (heck, write it down) and set positive intentions for the year ahead. You’d better believe that’s what I’ll be doing, and I trust such efforts will pay off for each of us in our own time. Miracle or not.