Sunday, December 16, 2018

Weekly Inspiration: Living in a World Apart

Just in time for the holiday season, my latest article on the ProHealth website, Living In a World Apart, is all about managing family gatherings (especially with loved ones you rarely see) when you have a chronic illness. You can read the full text of the article at the link.

Although I always try to incorporate my own experiences into the articles I write for ProHealth, this one in particular was deeply personal. In it, I share my own experiences - many of them painful - in gathering together with extended family. My own family tends to handle difficult circumstances like chronic illness with denial and avoidance, and at least one family member (perhaps others) firmly believes that I am either "making it up" or at the very least, exaggerating my illness. Of course, learning and living with this has been extremely painful for me and created rifts in some relationships that can never be healed.

Even without those toxic relationships, attending any kind of gathering can be challenging for those with chronic illness - the noise, the crowd, the exertion of socializing, the stress of trying to stick with a restricted diet. Add to all that the fact that the illness itself, with fatigue, brain fog, and pain, can make you feel as if you are in a separate world, even though you are surrounded by family or friends. It's a surreal feeling and impossible for anyone healthy to fully understand. That's what the title of the article means, and I love the photo the editors chose to accompany it:

BUT, it's the holiday season! There are plenty of family members that love me (even if they don't fully understand my situation), and I love them. I made a choice years ago - after much thought - to maintain relationships with my family because they are important to me (and also, the troublesome family members are inextricably mixed in with the kind and caring ones). In particular, I absolutely love spending time with the younger generation - my niece and nephew and my two cousins (my first cousins though they are close in age to my own sons). They are all delightful and fun (and far more understanding than their elders), and I look forward to the few times each year that I get to see them.

So, this article is all about how to navigate the pain and take care of your own needs at gatherings with family and friends - while actually enjoying the event!

I would love to hear about your experiences and especially, what has worked for you to manage - and enjoy! - these kinds of gatherings because as you'll see in the article, I certainly don't have all the answers and could still use some help!

Enjoy the holidays with friends and family!
1998: the last Christmas with the WHOLE family there! Happy memories.

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