Jingle Bell or Holiday Hell? Part 1: Inquiring Minds

In the spirit of the holiday season the next few posts will be a series encompassing some of the many scenarios and experiences that accompany the holidays. This series will begin with an account of what family holiday reunions with extended and at times immediate family can be like. Eggnog, Christmas trees, mistletoe, hot cocoa, and many inquiring minds.

It can be overwhelming enough having to explain to "new" people on a daily basis what your illness is, how it affects your health and daily functioning, and what treatments you are currently receiving, but imagine flocks of relatives who have not seen you in a while. Sure most of them genuinely care and are curious to know how you are really doing. On the other hand, there might also be a couple of nosy relatives or family friends who you are pretty sure thrive on knowing the most information that they can possibly gather. As such, holiday parties although joyous can become a bit exhausting. Imagine hearing, "Oh my you look really good," as if implying "given your condition I expected to see a waif with dark under eye circles and bags." Another scenario is interacting with the "google doctors" who decide it is their mission to give you advice about your condition. Such as, "I know your doctor says that your treatment is the best option, and despite multiple additional opinions that you've received, I read on the internet that the best course of treatment for your condition is ..." Or "Are you sure that's your diagnosis? It says on the internet that these symptoms are indicative of ..."

So how does one stay sane within these scenarios? It is easy to forget that most of these inquiring minds simply care and are trying to be helpful. It might be necessary to be assertive and let these inquiring minds know that their input is thoughtful but that you have it covered and that you feel confident in your doctor's actions...unless you don't, then you might want to hear some input. Do not feel trapped! Just because someone may raise the topic of your health does not mean you need to continue the conversation. You can tactfully change the subject, excuse yourself to get a drink or to go to the bathroom, or have a prearrangement with a close friend/relative, whose job it is to steer conversations away from talking about your health. All this assumes you want to avoid such discussion. If you do not mind talking about how your health has been, then this might be a dream situation for you and there is no right or wrong way to feel in this scenario.

Although the discussion of this topic was presented in a light and festive manner, it is in no way meant to belittle what an overwhelming experience this can be for some people who live with chronic physical illness. For others, issues such as managing time during the holidays, not overly exerting oneself physically, or experiencing feelings that may come up when one may not be able to partake in certain holiday activities because of illness, may be more pertinent. As such, the holiday series will continue with discussions of these additional topics. However, comments and ideas about what situations may be difficult for those living with chronic physical illness are most welcome! Happy Holidays!