It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
Last updated: December 2021
As the days get shorter, darker and much colder, my body can tell that it's winter. The cold aches my body and intensifies my pain and oh how it makes my spasms angry!
Christmas is my favorite time of year! Even if my body has decided the opposite. It always has been my favorite time of year, ever since I was a child. I’d like to thank my mam for that. Even as a child, it wasn’t about the presents. It’s about the Christmas atmosphere and the effort my mam put into making Christmas so special for us!
Last year was my first Christmas with AS
Here in Ireland, we were in lockdown due to Covid. So, I couldn’t do the normal Christmassy things that I would have done.
I love doing Christmassy things. I love going up to the city to shop for presents, walk around and see the Christmas lights, go out for dinner, etc. That didn’t happen last year. I shopped for all of my presents online. It was quite handy but wow I ended up spending a lot more money than I had planned. Because I didn’t physically have the gifts, I would forget what I bought my family and ended up buying them extra gifts. So, this year I made a list and I am sticking to that list!
I’m glad that I didn’t have to try and attempt to do the normal Christmassy things that I love because my body would simply not have been able to. Especially last year when I was feeling a lot worse than I was now. Back then I didn’t know how to listen to my body. I would have definitely ended up pushing myself into a huge flare.
There were a few things last year that I found difficult. Normally, I wrap all my presents together on Christmas Eve. Ouch did that hurt my back! I kept having to take breaks to stretch and lie down. In the end, I had to ask my brother to help me wrap the rest.
Christmas morning in my house is a special morning. We all wake up at the crack of dawn to check if Santa has come. You are going to think that I am crazy because I am the youngest in my family, but we have never dropped the Santa tradition. I have three brothers, one who is the same age as me, one who is 30 and the eldest is 33. But like I said above, it’s not about the presents, it’s about the magical atmosphere.
So, crazy or not, this is our tradition
We all wake up early, wake my parents up and all go down to the living room together. Even though I’m pretty sure my mam is always the first up as the turkey is always in the oven by the time we go downstairs. I am a vegetarian and normally the smell of meat cooking turns my stomach, but there is something about the smell of a cooking turkey on Christmas morning.
After waking up bright and early, we all make ourselves a cup of tea, light the fire and take a seat on the floor by the tree. We turn on some Christmas music and we take turns giving out our presents one by one. This is a very slow process. As a child, I had to be very patient to wait to open one gift, watch each of my family member open theirs and wait my turn again. But I am glad that we’ve always done this. It’s lovely to watch and see one’s reaction to their gift. Now, my favorite part of the presents is giving rather than receiving. This usually goes on for about 2 hours between all the laughing and chatting.
I had to ask for a break in between the present giving
I had to ask my brother to do my hot water bottles. My body wasn’t used to this. I woke up and straight away got up. I did not stretch or apply heat to my body. That’s a lesson learned, I will be stretching as soon as I wake up next year and getting some heat into my body before we give presents. After my hot water bottles were made we went back to the exchanging of gifts.
Next, we all have breakfast together (again, thanks for all the cooking mam) in the living room checking out the gifts we have received and chatting. Then we all sit down to watch a Christmas movie while my mam is in and out of the kitchen cooking.
We all spend the day together, laughing and making fantastic memories
We eat a delicious meal and spend the evening relaxing, munching on food, and having a few Christmas drinks! We will always watch Christmas specials and movies. I knew that my body needed to rest in my bed, but I didn’t want to isolate myself on Christmas day. So, I powered through the day without any proper lie down. I did rest on the couch, I couldn’t have gotten through the day without that.
Being honest, last Christmas morning, even with how joyful Christmas is I felt sad. I felt sad that I woke up stiff and here I was sitting on the floor with an aching back. It was silly for me to think this, but all year I would tell myself; I will be better for Christmas. But I woke up on Christmas morning in pain, and I told myself that’s ok! And it was, I got on with my day and we had the most amazing Christmas.
What I’ve learned from my first Christmas with AS
I need to be organized, I need to plan and I need to rest!
This year I started my Christmas shopping in November, mostly online. On days where I have energy, I have popped into a few shops to buy presents and get in the Christmas mood! Instead of leaving the wrapping of my presents to the traditional Christmas Eve, now I wrap them as I go.
This year, instead of walking around to look at the Christmas lights, my boyfriend drove me up and we took a drive around to look at the beautiful lights. It was lovely to sit in the car with my hot water bottle and still be able to get into the Christmas spirit!
I think it's important that this year I do not push myself. I will rest and take time outs when needed, and I will not feel guilty about it! And you should do the same!
How do you plan around the holidays?
Do you have any Christmas traditions?
Has changing your diet helped manage your pain and flares?