I always remember with a chronic illness that when it comes to Christmas and holidays really to keep your expectations realistic. You cannot live with this ideal fantasy Christmas that never exists let alone have unreal expectations of yourself or you could give yourself more pain, more fatigue, and possibly depression.
What I have always understood also is that I cannot go to every invite I get. When I was working, well, that took pretty much everything I really had in me. And weekends were recuperation time. So I really had to choose any celebration wisely based on the amount of energy it would consume and when it was. Was it a Friday for example, a Saturday… an impossible weekday or Sunday? Was it going to have a lot of people or be loud? Or just a few people or a small dinner? Was it far or close? Had I not gone to that person’s last year. Is it for family or just work? All considerations. All variables. A social life and working with chronic pain and chronic migraines, well, they didn’t go together but I sometimes squeezed one or two events in at Christmas. Depending on the day. Not always. Not every year.
But there was always family which was the most important thing of all. I have a fondness for Christmas. A lot of nostalgia mostly.
I love my memories of it but I do not expect the present to adhere to them. I don’t have children so I don’t have them to create memories for. And I don’t have the energy to be more than for my family than I am or wish I were. I don’t expect more and I cannot be more. I just want to touch the golden bits of my memories I love so much. I just want to hold onto the love I feel for people close to me. I want to buy presents for people I love and watch them open them. I love the anticipation of presents. I love the thought and love that goes into them. I love what is wrapped around Christmas. I love eating and talking and gathering. I love the essence of it, although it changes each time, it is the same. I wish I could have more of everybody I know and care about, but know I can’t have too much so I will take what I can take and hold onto to. And I will never be disappointed in that.
So this year I went to a Christmas work party of my spouses’. We had a small party at our house for a few of his work friends. And we went to play cards at one of those person’s houses. That is pretty impressive social interaction for two introverts if you ask me. Two hermits really. Intentional on my part. Pain makes your life small. Especially when you have too much of it, it exceeds your capacity to cope and you are working. Your life shrinks in an attempt to compensate. Which mine did a long time ago. It doesn’t work of course. Well, it does and it doesn’t. You manage to hold down a job, sort of. But people are not designed that way. To cut up their lives until just one part is left. You suffer from that. And that is why your coping strategies begin to crumble. You begin to have nothing left to Live for because you are Not Living. One of the first things a psychologist will tell you for mental health, with pain, or depression, or both… is leaving the house, see people, socialize, go for a walk, just be around people… Be In the World. And you wonder ‘how do I do this?’ People are gone. They left long ago. I had good, wonderful people and in order to work, to be the functioning person in society you all told me is good I had to stop doing things, seeing people, being in the world. And you then wonder ‘how can I do this? I have no energy. I’m in too much pain after work. I need to rest on the weekend. There is no pain gap for people if I find them. People need attention and I have none to give them.’ That is the sad thing about chronic pain. And the awesome thing about the internet. But I will say introverts like me… we slowly seep into hermits without even noticing because the lack of a social life is so less painful. But the complete lack isn’t healthy. And it isn’t fair I think on my spouse, as introverted and sweet as he is, and as nice as he is to say it never bothered him that we only went out every six months. Even though I encouraged him to do so on his own once my brother moved out he sort of just became more of a hermit too. I didn’t want him to lack engagement in reality because of me.
So being off work, and trying to see if this does improve one’s outlook on life, I thought Tis the season to be Merry. I doubt I would have done so on my own but my spouse works with someone who is a little more extroverted than we are. We went to the Christmas party because a few people he knew were going to be there, otherwise that likely would not have happened. But this particular friend decided it would be a fine idea we have a gathering at our house and set it on us that we should go about doing that such that we went about doing that, even though we had no idea how to do that. It was a great idea. Since then I didn’t have to travel. I got to meet a small number of people in my own home. Then she invited us to her house to play cards which I loved the idea of since my spouse and I used to play cards all the time when we were younger. Again small groups of people and I love that sort of thing. And I love that my spouse is getting out there doing things. And sure not all these things were pain-free for me. But I managed them fine. I still enjoyed myself. Price and consequence are easier when there is time for recovery. I enjoyed seeing my spouse enjoy himself. I rarely leave the house, so it is likely a good thing all things considered to see people and talk to people… in real life once in a while. That has made this Christmas different than many years. Many, many years. I hope this is a habit. I get that the daily migraines limit my capacity for doing much and what I do. But a few hours of select socializing once in a while I think is beneficial mentally. Being a recluse I think might not be. I think of it like laughter, good for the spirit. And I can laugh while I am in pain too.
I also went to Christmas at my mom’s this year as usual. However, my brother and stepbrother both did not come this year for different reasons. Which was sort of sad in a way. You expect people to have the same sense of family gather on Christmas that you do and went they don’t you get this sense of… disappointment in them. Because they should understand that it means something. But you realize that Christmas is just a day to some people and it means something more to you than it does to them. My brother did send my spouse and I, and my mother as well, a text inviting us to his girlfriends for dinner… that day. Maybe had he said those were his plans a few days ago we might have rearranged things.
But my brain is not spontaneous. And it doesn’t do two visits in one day. Apparently, it cannot handle that. It has not been able to for years. It is One thing a day. And that one thing always triggers a migraine and always brings on pain. Just the light I expect. I cannot control light exposure. And migraines are daily, they will come, the problem is once they do and you are in bright light conditions it means it will be acute. Point is, there was no way I was going to make it to that even though it would have been nice to see my brother. I have not seen him in a while as he has not been doing the family thing for a bit. But when my migraine did kick it, it kicked in with digestive symptoms first. So that wasn’t fun. After that, I took a nap thinking that would help. Didn’t. I worked up a real acute migraine. Which I still have. But because I took a triptan last night, I had not woken up with one… that at least worked out quite well for me really. So I have a few good hours of no migraine at all at moms.
We snacked on some food. Opened our presents. I chatted with my Grandma and aunt on the phone. Chatted with my mom. I got my mom these wee speakers for the laptop or computer that have water spouts in them that light up with colour… you plug them in and they spout up rhythmically to sound. We tested them out and I think they are the damned coolest little things ever.
Then we came home and after my nap, since I was full-on migraine we watched a movie a friend lent us (his choice there… horrible country movie blah) and then watched another from our Direct TV I wanted to watch. Nice and relaxing in our PJs.