recently, i attended a virtual IBD roundtable discussion in which one of the panel members said something that should have absolutely not caught me off guard at all, but for some reason, it really stuck with me. “IBD brought me to a place that was extremely depressing” is what was said.. not that it was at all surprising to me, but it caught me off guard that day. so much in fact, that i wrote it down to remind me how far ive come in my journey. there was a point in my life not many years ago i did not want to deal with this disease the rest of my life. i did not have the strength of a small kitten to wake up in the morning & face my problems like a mature adult. honestly, i did not want to leave the house. i was depressed, cried at the drop of a hat & decided i did not want to be on any type of medication (for crohns, anxiety, everything). physically & emotionally, i was at a very low point.
its easy for many chronically ill patients to become depressed, as they feel overcome with sadness and the lack of control over their bodies. adding an extremely fast-paced month full of holidays & family gatherings + changes in weather can be too much at once.
christmas is meant to be the most joyous season, right? its not that i grew up hating christmas , but many years it wasnt too big of a deal to me (which is a shame). i cant honestly pinpoint one specific reason i dont seem to enjoy the holidays. i guess id tack it up to the business & stress. my mother happens to not enjoy the season as much either, so we tend to commiserate together in our different ways (hi mom!). this year, it was different. physically & emotionally, i am in the best shape and state of mind i have been in…. in years. this year, it was different though. i started enjoying the things i never had before, without getting stressed out.
but christmas, maybe winter rather, has been tough on my body so far. ive had many tests done over the past few months, with little to no answers for me to work with. these tests have been physically exhausting & demanding while working full time & sticking to a fitness routine. amazingly, ive done a great job at keeping my stress levels down, remaining hopeful the next regimen will work out better than the last. honestly, i have been mentally/emotionally GREAT the past few months… but the moment i woke up on christmas eve, i began to cry.. for no reason. i was exhausted & every inch of my body hurt. starting my day was an absolute failure. broke a glass all over the kitchen floor, spilled juice on the carpet, was sick all morning. i had a dress laid out for church, brand new from the mall, but when i finally got around to putting it on, it looked awful. nothing else fit & i had just gotten rid of most of the clothes i owned to goodwill earlier in the week. with less than an hour to go before going to church with mom & dad, i had nothing to wear and looked like a hot mess from crying. Jesus wouldnt mind me wearing sweatpants for his birthday would He?? i had no energy. why now? i somehow managed to get out the door with a few minutes to spare in time for church. still, i took a breath & didnt rush myself – a theme i knew would be important to enjoy the holidays.
after church, the rest of the night was filled with giggles from the little ones & funny stories and memories shared around mom and dad’s christmas tree. i was exhausted and still emotional, that may or may not have been apparent after crying after spilling an entire plate of food. and it wouldnt be a christmas without falling! once in the driveway & once down the stairs!
i think there are several underlying reasons christmas is hard: 1) the food – its stressful knowing that whatever i choose to eat and drink will 90% likely make me extremely sick. it never fails – christmas, easter, thanksgiving. the stress comes from wanting to indulge and being forced to make achoice – do i indulge a little knowing ill be up sick all night or do i watch everyone eat & awkwardly salivate at the sight of the rich trimmings of food. every holiday poses this dilemma & its never easy. though ive learned a large number of foods i cannot have, its harder knowing what i CAN have, especially not being on Humira which allowed me to eat some unforgiving foods. 2) being single. it never fails that im reminded at every family gathering that i am the only one without a significant other. this shouldnt bother me, but it does. i should be grateful for all of the wonderful family surrounding me, but i would love to be able to share those laughs with someone too. maybe its exhausting being reminded that ill never settle down. 3) expectations – everyone elses. its hard for patients with chronic illness to feel normal during the holidays; everyone is rushing & looking forward to things, while were just honestly trying to keep up. decorating is simplified, holiday baking is minimal and shopping on a good day for me is horrible at best(absolutely.hate.malls.).
im looking forward to wrapping up the holiday season (and 2013) tonight with the two people that have been through the most with me (& dog). after church, mom and dad & i are ordering chinese and hanging out just the three of us. i couldnt think of a better way to wrap up an amazing year.