As I mentioned in my first post in this series, one of the things that most people love about this time of the year is spending time with friends and families. But that’s not always easy to do when you have a chronic illness like ME. Two years ago I decided to spend Christmas day alone, and that was the first time ever I had been alone at Christmas. I really wanted to do it as I just didn’t think I could physically handle Christmas that year. I’m glad I made that decision, but even then, I felt lonely on the day because I felt like I should be with my loved ones. Last year I was with my parents for Christmas and honestly, it was so difficult.
For many people going home for the holidays is something they really look forward to, but when you’re ill it can be so trying. I’ll use last my Christmas trip home as an example. I may live in central London, but my building and my street are very quiet and I spend a lot of time alone. I don’t watch television, so it’s not a constant noise in the background and I don’t spend much of my time talking or listening to others talking. For the first few days I was at my parents’ house, I was just overwhelmed with the noise. My dad has the television on from morning until night, and then everyone is talking to me and I could feel myself phasing out and just not tracking what was being said because it was too much. Also they live in a very busy area, so I could hear the neighbours and their kids. I remember after a couple of days I was just collapsed on the sofa.
Then there are the family dynamics that can be trying. I honestly want to spend as much time with each family member as I can while I am there and they all want to do the same with me. But when some family members are not talking to others or don’t want to be around other people, it really puts me in a difficult position. Eating Christmas dinner separately in two different rooms just makes me feel so horrible and anxious and defeats the whole purpose of spending Christmas with the family. I think this year I may make it a condition that unless everyone can be civil to each other, I’m not going to bother going, but that’s if I decide to go.
On a less personal note, if you happen to be working, there can be the temptation to join in with office drinks and Christmas parties. I was working in 2010 and I did go to the Christmas party, but I left long before everyone else did. Even though I was relatively well at that time, I was very aware of the fact that I’d have to pay for my exertions. The same goes for drinking alcohol; alcohol can have such a horrible effect on ME sufferers, that most of us abstain, but it can be easy to indulge at this time of the year.
What are the problems you have experienced socialising at Christmas?