It’s the most “wonderful time of the year.” The holiday season has officially begun. For those of us with chronic illness and pulmonary hypertension, it can be hard to look at this season as “wonderful.” Christmas will be here in just a few short weeks, but I feel like I’m still recovering from Thanksgiving. The holidays leave almost everyone feeling a little more stressed than usual. It’s especially difficult to keep up with all the hustle and bustle when it takes a toll on our physical health.
Eight years ago, my biggest worry during this time of year was making it through finals week. My thoughts were “Just one more exam and I’ll be able to enjoy my vacation!” Looking back, I am jealous of that time in my life, where my main concern was passing the Western Civ final and thinking about where I would celebrate afterward. I stressed about finding that perfect ugly sweater for Christmas parties and what to get my family members for Christmas.
Now, I have different worries this time of the year. I never would imagine myself having to think about this eight years ago. With another procedure being scheduled, I worry that it will be scheduled close to Christmas. Will I be able to enjoy the holiday as best as I can or will I be recovering in bed from a surgery? Will I have the energy to make it through the holiday parties that my friends are planning or will I have to cancel at the last minute? Do I even want to go to the parties knowing I probably will feel awful for a few days after because of staying up later than usual and having a few drinks?
Should I make something for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? What if I don’t have enough energy to make food even though I offered? If we are traveling to my aunt’s house, how many oxygen tanks do I need? If I start not to feel well, is there a place for me to lie down and rest? Will my family think I’m depressed, or will they understand that I actually don’t feel well even though I “look great?”
Most of the worries I have as someone with a chronic illness and pulmonary hypertension revolve around how I can take care of myself during this holiday season. How do I keep up with self-care when the holidays seem to be about doing for others and giving to others? How can I possibly make time for me? It’s important to take care of myself through the holidays. It is even more crucial at this time. With the extra stress and worries, it’s easy to get lost in thinking about others. How can I possibly give to others this Christmas if I can’t even give myself time to relax and rest?
Other worries that many of us have are about what family and friends will think of us and how they cope with our illness. This has come up as a recent worry for me because all of our Christmas and holiday events are with other people. It is difficult and stressful for those with chronic illness when family members just don’t seem to “get it.”
I cringe inside when I hear “you look great!” from a family member who means well but doesn’t understand that deep inside I feel far from it. I get caught up with maintaining an image of “fine” in hopes of not bringing attention to myself. I put on makeup, a “holiday best” outfit, some lipstick (to hide that cyanosis), and a smile. With this exterior, nobody would know what is actually going on inside.
The holidays take work for anyone. When faced with chronic illness, the worries are less about finding the perfect holiday outfit. Our worries are more about how to take care of ourselves and what family and friends will think of us when we can’t make it to a Christmas party or show up with store-bought food and limited energy.
What are your worries this holiday season and what can we do to make our holiday a little less worrisome and a little more merry?
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.