Holiday Blues

Holiday Blues

The holidays are a particularly stressful time for people who live with chronic pain. We are reminded more frequently of things we can no longer freely enjoy; things like going to parties, hosting a gathering, or enjoying the bustle of a crowd at a shopping mall. Managing chronic pain means living with restrictions, and the excesses – from food to fun – that accompany the holidays can feel overwhelming. When we can’t participate in festivities because of high pain levels, or when joining in results in a costly flare, we might sink into depression, find grief we thought we had worked through suddenly tender again, or risk isolating ourselves in an attempt to avoid facing how much our condition has affected our lives and relationships.

It is true that living with chronic pain means we have to ration everything we do. We engage in a guessing game as we try to estimate how much pain we risk by any individual action. How do I feel now, and how much time will I need before I am able to do something else? The loss of spontaneity, of being free to choose what we want to do, is one of the harshest realities we face. Forced to decline social events, we fall out of touch with friends and family, and our social circle shrinks. We are confronted by people who don’t, and in many cases are unable, to understand what we are going through, how we feel, how something they can’t even see can take such a toll on our day to day lives. Especially during holidays, with social and family gatherings and the feel-good atmosphere, this interpersonal disconnect can strain our ability to cope.

I am a firm believer in recognizing reality, of standing squarely in what is, and facing forward into whatever challenge may exist. So when the holidays come around, I acknowledge what I can, and what I can’t do. I lower my expectations. I recognize the fuzzy edges of loss, of longing, of wishing things were somehow different. I also take a good look around for what I continue to love about my life; the people who are there for me, the things I can still enjoy. I am nourished by friends, by the interests I can still pursue, by a simple moment of silence, by laughter, by reading a story and recognizing my own experience reflected in someone else’s journey.

It has taken some time, but I have learned to accept others for where they are in the moment too, what they can and can’t understand. I don’t need everyone to get me, and I recognize that many of the people I know, despite their happy holiday faces, are suffering immense invisible pain of their own. The Buddhist tradition, which teaches that suffering is a natural part of life, reminds me that while my suffering may be unique, it is not unusual.  Rather, it is a link to all of humanity, to the tragic reality of how all of us suffer in the course of living. This knowledge allows me to be tender towards myself, and gentle toward others. When I feel lonely in my suffering, I am reminded of the invisible suffering of others.

During this holiday season, I hope that you will fearlessly face forward, recognizing all that you have survived, and the shocking resilience of the human spirit. I hope that you will have moments when your heart is full, saturated with the simple, unspeakable joy of being. I wish you patience and wisdom, and acceptance. I wish you the strength to be a shining chalice, a crucible brimming with the full range of emotions and experience. I wish you grace that you may weave a beautiful and intricate cloth from the simple strands of every moment, no matter how large or how small, how achingly joyous or how bitterly excruciating. Each moment is a filament in the fiber of our being, a link from the past to the future, and from who we once were to who we are becoming. I believe that we are capable of enduring our challenges, that we are changed by our experience, and that the future represents an opportunity for us to grow in friendship and compassion for one another, despite our physical limitations. During this holiday season, I wish you hope.

Jenny Picciotto is a writer and CRPS patient who enjoys reading and playing the piano. She was a yoga instructor and massage therapist before CRPS changed her trajectory. She currently lives in Hawaii, where she facilitates the Oahu CRPS Support Group. 

© Jennifer Picciotto 11-30-18

 

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Authored by: Jenny Picciotto

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Steven

Christmas means friends and family. So, for most of us in pain first friends drop out and then worst yet your family grows far away no matter what you try not wanting to hear your ill much less being forced to suicide for a lack of medicine. Who will care for my service babbie? It is sick and many will face the end soon. Killed by the nation you trusted. I trust our savior Jesus will have room for us and I thank him for his forgivness. When it comes I hope you all will join up in the BLESSED HOPE! The reason for the season.

Elizabeth

Eloquent and elegant. Beautiful lesson for all of us.

Anne

Lovely and articulate post.

Thank you to everyone who has left a message here, and my heart goes out to all of you and all of us in pain. Wishing you a gentle, joyous holiday.

Kim

Great article. As a Christian suffering is also a part of this life to me as u feel as a Buddhist. It doesn’t make it easier but gives me hope that I learn & embrace the blessings in the suffering I have been given. There is blessings in all aspects of suffering. Suffering from CDC guidelines for pain patients being cut down on opioids & losing the little quality of life I had, is a hard pill to take, I haven’t discovered the blessing in this aspect of my life, YET. Maybe our fight will help others in the future to receive the pain management they will need. Hope everyone finds blessings in their holiday seasons😃

April Da79wn

Holiday Blues? That was gone a few years ago. With the new laws FORCING me to taper completely off a Benzodiazpine at the SAME TIME as lowering the two pain medications I am on, (extended and break-through) I am in hell. I am not OK, not surviving and not even aware of holiday. I am trying to survive and then trying to remember what the point of that is when the only constant in my life in horrendous unending pain – and I have only lowered one of the 2 pain medications. The top should be April Dawn.

Grannu

One more RSD pain warrior here… I took teasing all year long because for the first time I can remmember, last year we bought and put up an aryificial Christmas tree. Gone are the days of searching for and dragging home a real tree. It is in a room not often used, but visible every day. I did not take it down because it looked good, and I was worried about being able to put it back up again. Lots of teasing, but I figured it was worth it. Fast forward to now..disease spreading, enery gone, pain rages on… and I am very thankful it is up, cheerful and done…

Thanks to all who commented, and the ooriginal author… there are far mmore of us struggling along minute by minute than anyone woulld like to acknowledge.

Be your best you each day…one moment at a time. Celebrate alll small successes. This too shall pass…

Bonnie Holloway

Hi Jenny,
As I read your words, I realize, again, that I am one of a lot of people in pain. I see the holidays as a challenge. I can never have a normal pain free Christmas again. I will never walk upright again. Or walk with any normalcy again. I have had two back surgeries, and a neck surgery. I have rods, screws, bolts, and cadaver bones in my spine and neck. I have screws and pins in my ankle. I limp, and walk in pain every day, all day. Sometimes it’s more than I can take. And you are right. Those that haven’t been there, do not understand. They try to have compassion. But after a while, even kind-hearted people get tired of waiting on you. I don’t ask for help much. I cannot stand the look I get that says, ” do you really hurt that much?” YES ! I do. And when I see others in worse shape than I am, I feel shame that I complain. But sometimes, if I don’t let it out I feel like screaming! Thank you for your words. I really needed them. I try to count my blessings every day, and pray for the strength I need to just get up and move. I have to. My husband is ill with a badly damaged heart, and he needs me.
He is the only reason I have not just given up.
I am sorry for unloading like this. I don’t do that often. I have no one here that really understands. And they are trying to take away the only medicine that works for me and others. How cruel.
Have a very Blessed Holiday to all my fellow pain warriors.

Pamela L Townsend

Thank you for this eloquent reminder of people and chronic pain. I went to put my tree up, my Christmas college, pinecones and colored balls and twinkling lights. Just couldn’t do it. After a week of trying to put my magical Charles Dickens village up, I gave up, the pain was too.great. The Christmas tree ended in the trash. Who am kidding, I can’t do this anymore . Have to accept another chapter of what’s reality. Another loss. A very sad loss.

Darlene

What a lovely article! Its also hard on family and friends to watch us like this. It took me 7 days to put up my tree this year but in the end I am glad that I did. I also did something different around this time last year. My husband mentioned that there were new employees at his work that came from other countries who were by themselves. Their families would not be joining them for years. It was very lonely for them too. I asked him to talk to them and explain my situation and ask if they would like to come over on Christmas day to join us. The catch was that they were going to help clean up my place, set up for dinner, relocate furniture, pitch in for the meal (all I did was put a turkey in the oven) and assist with the rest of the meal. It worked out fantastic. There were 6 people from different countries and they all rose to the challenge and we had a fabulous time! I got to sit there and enjoy it all – there was good food and lots of laughter and stories about their countries and families back home. We want to do it again this year and my husband and I actually have something to look forward to.

Marci

Jenny, I can’t thank you enough for what you have written. Before 2007, I was the person in our family who did it all. Worked a stressful job with long hours, entertained often and with a special style, and always hosted holiday gatherings. I can’t tell you how much of a failure I have felt like as the accomplishments that for me, were always a source of pride and also a big part of what identified who I was, slowly had to be dropped out of my life. I could no longer work; forget entertaining…..and the huge family gatherings at the holidays where I cooked up a storm in my home which I had decorated from top to bottom; well, that surely doesn’t happen any more. As is with most of us, I have no social life anymore. If I can manage to fix dinner a couple times a week, it’s a big deal. I am simply not the same person I was. My friends have all dropped out of my life because I just can’t stretch far enough to socialize….so that went out the door. And the worst part is that I was just lost. Who was I? Everything that, for me, melded together to form my identity, I could no longer do. I really floundered around for a few years; depressed and confused. On top of that, the pain! Relentless and never ending. How could I have a life with this new set of circumstances? It took me years to figure out the answers. No, I’m not the same person I was, nor can I do the things I used to do. But once I quit moping about that, I started to find new ways; perhaps even better ways, to feel like I am still a whole and valuable person. Your words about each moment being a filament in the fiber of our being, a link that connects us from who we were to who we are becoming, rings so very true to me. You are so right on that we are capable of enduring our challenges. And we can do so with grace and dignity. That I have learned over the last 10+ years, but to read your words just made it all even more clear in my often foggy brain. Thank you for these timely and beautiful words.

nana

I agree. Add to that anniversaries, birthday, general celebrations. I tend to get moody around those times. Not on purpose.. it took years to figure it out.

Now, just scanning the internet feed depresses me. I try to take time away from it and news in general. I think all the bad, badder, worst soundbytes set us off. Not much good news abounds.

Bryan Bailey

Those of us who are suffering in server pain and can no longer get the treatment we need , because of how the government has stopped pain clinic’s. Holidays are the worse. Do to the fact that we can’t no longer function and enjoy our lives and all the things we have lost do to that. It’s sad it really is.

Jenny I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything put quite so beautifully. What you’ve written I firmly believe in, although when it comes to putting it into practice as we all know sometimes it’s very difficult. Your kind words are just exactly what I needed to read this very moment in time. These are words of wisdom to live by everyday, not just the holidays. Once upon a time everyday seemed as though it was a holiday. Sadly, the past few years the holidays have seemed like any other day and that simply shouldn’t be. With what we all deal with as chronic pain warriors, I think one of the hardest parts is other folks not understanding quite what we go through. The shear loss of ones entire family and those we thought were our friends is a complicated battle in itself. Although as you said I don’t need for everyone to get me. My philosophy is as long as the Good Lord above knows me and sees me for the good person I really am, this is all that truly matters. I see many, many people who suffer trying to put on a brave face and I also see many people look and judge me along with the rest of us. My heart breaks for both. There is a regiment that comes with one taking care of one’s self when it comes to chronic pain and many just don’t understand this for they truly can’t comprehend it. Through it all you are so very right! We must continue to move on, enjoy what time we have and be most thankful for the blessings that God has given us. Again I truly thank you for your incredible story. It has touched my heart in many ways! May God bless you always as well as all of our brothers and sisters who continue to live in chronic pain.

Denise Bault

Beautifully written! Thank you!

Rob

This is one of the most beautiful messages I have ever read. May you be blessed in all that you do…..and have the least amount of pain possible for the rest of your life.

Michael Kastner

Another well written article which serves us well by reminding us all that “we” probably are not the only ones suffering from Chronic Pain or worse. Indeed it’s so easy to get on a roll , and forget about others, sometimes. I think we can all use a reminder occasionally or more often.

Michael Kastner

F.S.T.

Jenny,

Your very thoughtful essay reflects exactly how many of us feel. I have long since relinquished even decorating my home, inside and out. Unfortunately, I view decorating my once-revered Christmas tree as a delightful project, done with passion and zeal.

I now see it as a mountainous climb, too painstakingly painful to do any more. I can probably get the wreath on the door, but that’s about all.

My living room is still rearranged from last year’s Christmas, as I wasn’t able to move things around after my disabled husband took the tree down. I just don’t go in there, and that’s how I deal with it.

I’m having a bad Fibro flare, so that’s all I can say right now except Merry Christmas to all, and keep your head up. Our redemption is drawing nigh!

Take care and God bless us all and thank you again, Jenny. Merry Christmas.