Holidays usually bring to mind, special memories created with family, friends, and workplace (a crazy office party?). I/we have had many years of happy and fun holidays. From my childhood to Mike and my first holidays to the first with our children and now our grandchildren. Then I became ill… Chronically ill…I’ve spent many years since, attempting to recreate those ‘pre-illness’ holidays. I can’t do it, I just can’t do it. Holidays now can represent more stress than fun. From the decorating to the baking and gift buying, it was ‘dizzying’ in itself! I do have plans for great holidays this year, but I also know to expect detours. Planning ahead, for me, has become essential. I’m talking about planning ahead for the ‘what if I get dizzy/nausea/sick while I’m cooking/socializing or whatever’ situation. You know, a backup plan, for your plans! We have missed countless family occasions since Labyrinthitis hit in 2003. The possible memories lost. This year, it will be different, period. It will be different because I have backup plans for my backup plans!
I’ve learned planning and pacing are crucial. This year, I am going to do something I’ve really missed and that’s baking! For many, many years all my gifts were baked goods or homemade/handmade something. The first year we gave ‘purchased’ gifts, our families were visibly dismayed! This is a huge compliment, of course! But, the fact of the matter is, I am no longer up to the days of giving a box (9″x9″x5″) of homemade goodies. Three layers deep of 6-8 varieties of total decadence! I used to bake Baklava, make Chocolate Truffles, Various Nut Brittles, a huge variety of cookies, and bread (Pumpernickel is our favorite!). This holiday season I won’t stress to bake a dozen leaves as I used to, but I will bake at least one loaf. This year, I will pick two or three of the other goodies to do. Yet, likely may only get one done. It’s alright. It really is.
I do my best not to dwell on all I can’t do any longer, it’s not healthy, I realize that now. After many years of doing just that… My number one goal this season? Make our grandsons happy and look at life through their eyes for awhile! As much as I loved Martha Stewart style decorating of years ago, I think she made women stress to be perfect. I was one of those women. Now, just getting the Christmas tree up and decorated is a huge accomplishment! One year, we settled on a Charlie Brown style tree, a live tree, but almost dead. As I placed the few, tiny ornaments, needles dropped profusely. That was our Christmas tree that year! Pitiful, but it sufficed. It was one of the years our grandsons weren’t here. That year, I crawled into bed and waited for New Years, this is ‘Holiday Blues’ in its purest form. It’s not always just the children that lose when their parents divorce, grandparents can get caught in the mess also. That’s our case and it sucks, to be honest. Christmas is a religious holiday for some, of course, but I feel it’s mainly for the children.
I love the aura the Christmas season brings. The decorations, the lights, the smells, the sounds…I’m sick of missing out and I’m sick of being sick. So just how can I change this situation? I have my backup plan for the ‘ifs’, if we get invited to a gathering or if we invite people or if…Here’s how I anticipate handling plans not going as planned…
- Mike is always essential to my backup plans. He knows that look. He sees when I’m struggling or nearing an overload. He’ll come by me, hold my hand, put an arm around me, steady me. He sees me sweating profusely. Prior to this, I never sweat, seriously, never. So he either pulls a chair over or we go sit on a couch for awhile. A quiet bedroom is even better. Get my bearings and try again. Having a ‘wingman’ in your corner is important.
- I no longer even try to hide the fact that I do have issues because I was ‘lucky’ enough to get a Vestibular Disorder. I talk to others about it. I try to raise awareness of Vestibular Disorders whenever I can. It may not be the best party talk, but I’d rather talk about it than have others make assumptions…”How much did she drink”? I don’t drink any longer, there was a time I did, but it doesn’t ‘mix’ well with dizziness…
- Pacing myself has been a ‘given’ for a long time. Life is scheduled so I always have a nap/rest time, before or after whatever. This is one thing my family does know and accept about me. “Margaret needs her nap”… It’s okay, I promise you!
- Driving around to look at Christmas lights and decorations used to be a family tradition, but can be difficult now. This doesn’t mean that I don’t try to go. It means it may be a shorter ride. It means Mike would scope out an area that had static lighting (not blinking), I can handle that better for some reason. It means I might get dizzy, but I will try.
- Last year, I (finally) told my family that I just could no longer do Christmas gifts. It literally broke my heart, but on the other hand, I felt a sense of relief. The stress of getting out in the holiday chaos had become overwhelming. I continued to load my old responsibilities on Mike, holding him to my old standards. Guess what? I never planned my backup man could overload! It was unfair of me to do that to such an important, irreplaceable ‘wingman’. Think about talking to your families about backing off of (or out of), to save yourself…You might be surprised and they ‘get’ it now!
- Know that the ‘Holidays Blues’ is a real thing. Be mindful of your Mental Health during the season of happiness. Reach out. Talk with someone. Get help if needed.
Most of all, I hope you are able to enjoy this time of year with loved ones! May it be everything you wish for.