Yet another fabulous new blog I just found today on coping with the holidays.. especially for those of us who feel more isolated and alone in our pain. The author ,Toni Bernhard, J.D., has written several books on managing chronic illness. A former attorney, she’s insightful, compassionate and VERY ENCOURAGING! Check it out!
When Poor Health and the Holidays Collide
Four ways to ease the pain of limited participation in holiday activities.
Published on November 18, 2012 by Toni Bernhard, J.D. in Turning Straw Into Gold
As people around the world celebrate the holidays, it’s a “happy/sad” time of year for many of us (to use an expression coined by Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield). I want so badly to spend time with my loved ones, but I also know that I won’t be able to participate fully in the festivities and that even my limited participation will result in “pay back” later on.
To make matters more difficult, I find it hard to muster the discipline to limit that participation, even when my body is sending me strong signals that it’s time to stop. Traditionally at our house, our son and his family and a couple of close friends come for a Thanksgiving dinner that my husband cooks. When everyone arrives, invariably, I start out with a burst of energetic socializing—a reaction to the fact that I spend so much time alone. I might be able to last longer if I paced myself, but I’m rarely successful at it: I’m just too excited to see everyone.
As I say in my book, How to Be Sick, one of the bitterest pills for me to swallow when I became chronically ill was that suddenly the very activities that brought me the greatest joy were also the activities that exacerbated my symptoms. Prolonged socializing is one of those activities.
The most difficult challenge for me has been learning to cope with the isolation I feel when I have to leave a gathering and retire to the bedroom. It’s particularly difficult because it always seems to coincide with the time when socializing has become easygoing and mellow. It’s not unusual for conversation to be polite and stilted when people first gather. But after a while, everyone relaxes. By the time I’ve mustered the self-discipline to excuse myself, I retire to the sounds of warm conversation, spiced with peals of laughter. It’s the very time I want to be with everyone.
When I get to the bedroom, I always think, “If only the party had started right at this moment, I could there for the best part!” At first, it’s very painful to hear the sounds of socializing coming from the front of the house. But over the years, I’ve developed some practices to help alleviate the sadness of being isolated from others. Here are four of them.
I used to compound the emotional pain of having to leave a gathering by blaming myself for not being able to stay. It’s not uncommon for those of us who suffer from chronic pain and illness to think that it’s our fault for some reason. People write to me all the time, convinced that some kind of moral failing on their part brought about their health problems. Let me set the record straight right here: it’s not our fault that we are sick or in pain. We’re in bodies, and bodies get sick and injured. It could happen to anyone.
It took me many years to stop blaming myself for being sick. But when I did, the feeling of relief was tremendous. It was like laying down a heavy burden. And the reward was that it enabled me to begin to treat myself with compassion. Self-blame and self-compassion are incompatible. I hope you’ll work on replacing the former with the latter.
Read the rest of the article here!