Wednesday, October 21, 2015

PREPARING FOR THE HOLIDAYS WITH CHRONIC PAIN - PART 5






 PREPARING FOR THE HOLIDAYS WITH CHRONIC PAIN - PART 5

For all of you that have been following my series on Preparing for the Holidays with Chronic Pain, we are now on the final article with Part 5.  My intentions of doing this in one post ended up being a series of posts! Christmas always seems to bring more activity than we plan. Now I know writing about it does as well! In the initial article,  PREPARING FOR THE HOLIDAYS WITH CHRONIC PAIN - PART 1  it was discussed about how life in pain affects our holidays, the stress of all the activity, the importance of taking care of ourselves and the importance of getting organized with our Christmas responsibilities, allowing us to have the best chance to not cause a huge pain flare from too much activity all at once.


In PREPARING FOR THE HOLIDAYS WITH CHRONIC PAIN - PART 2  I reintroduced the organizational tools and discussed strategic planning of our responsibilities, choices we can make to decrease stress and pain flares, as well as making modifications as we are able with gifting and shopping.


Then in PREPARING FOR THE HOLIDAYS WITH CHRONIC PAIN - PART 3 I covered suggestions for decorating, easy meals and simple entertaining ideas.

In PREPARING FOR THE HOLIDAYS WITH CHRONIC PAIN - PART 4  the series with tips for baking and making Christmas goodies and initiated ideas on socializing, of which I will continue with in this article, as well as some "cheat cleaning" ideas!


Again, as I mention in each article, if you haven’t had an opportunity to get yourself organized, as discussed in PREPARING FOR THE HOLIDAYS WITH CHRONIC PAIN - PART 1, you might want to seriously consider reading that part and get to making those lists! Putting a plan into place on how to achieve what you need to do, what you can complete ahead of time, ask others to help with, or even eliminate all together, is imperative to decrease the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season. Just a thought!


SOCIALIZING
For a good number of us living in chronic pain, the thought of going out to events, as well as visiting others, or even just having someone come and visit us, can launch us into panic mode. Many concerns cross our minds! We are concerned if we will be able to get out of bed that day and enjoy the time with our loved ones! We might be unsure if we will even be able to get dressed and ready. We question if we will be capable of sitting, standing, walking or are able to endure the activity the social event will entail. We wonder if it will be a horrific pain day. We question if we will be able to concentrate on the conversations through the gripping, horrible pain and respond appropriately to what is said.

Image result for elegant christmas party invite imagesIt is incredibly difficult to fake feeling well when you are feeling extremely horrible! There are innumerable aspects to look at! This all causes us to regularly decline an invitation and not bother with the heaviness of worrying about not being able to show up, let alone be as delightful of a guest as our hearts strive to be!  Sadly, for many of us living in chronic pain, those are issues we deal with and they are a part of our new “normal!”


Here are a few suggestions to take into consideration when contemplating participating in an event you would cherish:


Decide ahead of time which ones you will commit to. Pick and choose!  You know what your body can tolerate! You don’t have to attend every event.

Accept the invitation! But, be very open and straightforward about your physical issues. Tell them you would love to come! You are looking forward to it! However, explain that if you are having a bad pain day and cannot make it you would like them to know ahead of time you are extremely sorry if that were to happen! You will do all you possibly can to be able to come!

If you are able to attend, you can opt to go for a little while and then leave. Even though getting ready is tough to go through living with the horrid pain, it is worth getting out for even just a little while! Treat yourself!


Put into place all you possibly can to make it happen! HOWEVER, that does not mean worrying about it from the time you accept the invitation, until the time of the event. I know that is hard to do! I can say it to you, but it doesn’t mean I can just put that worry aside so easily myself! None of us want to offend our loved ones! We just need to try not to perseverate on the fact that, for some of us, the majority of the time, we do have to cancel! We do want to go and do fun things with our loved ones! It hurts deeply not to be able to do these things. It hurts us and our loved ones! But, in reality, this is our new “normal” and some do not get it. 

If we have to cancel, we need to help others understand as best we can why this is happening. It can make us feel vulnerable, and at times our cancelling at the last minute may not be tolerated well, but all we can do is be honest and open about what we are dealing with. It is their decision to accept our apology and explanation for our cancellation or not. 

We can't control others lack of empathy. We can however protect ourselves and know we did the best we can to make it work. And we need to try and forgive anyone that is not able to be empathetic to our chronic pain. Some just cannot understand what they cannot feel. We need to grieve that, process it and work on forgiving. It won't help us to carry that pain with our other pain. It's just too heavy on our heart and soul! Do yourself a favor and work on that! It's very difficult to let go, but necessary!


You know all you can do is your best to make it happen! Lay low with activities that aggravate your pain the week prior to the event for the most optimal chance at having a “tolerable” pain day. If folding laundry gets your nerves in your neck and arms screaming and burning, and if you don’t have someone that can do it for you, just try hanging up only what needs hanging and leave the rest in the laundry basket!


If cleaning your house leaves you in pain and in bed for days, don’t do it! If you don’t have someone to help, make a choice: have a clean home or try and feel “good enough” to be able to go to the event. Only you know what you need to avoid doing for the best chance to be able to go. Living with chronic pain, we know that we can do everything possible to make sure we don’t increase our pain and yet, when the day arrives, we still may not be able to attend! Yes, this hurts deeply…we grieve these losses…it is hard! But, don’t demean and degrade yourself! Sad to say, it is a part of our new “normal.”


GETTING READY FOR AN EVENT – A PERSONAL STORY 
Note: I was going to delete this personal story! It leaves me feeling exposed and vulnerable. It is not something I share with anyone, except my husband. He only sees it because he lives with me. I hate him seeing it! There’s just no way I can fake it all day long and pretend it isn’t there! This part of my new “normal.” It is just the way life is some days! There is not a thing many of us can do about it!

I had a horrific pain day the day of a friend’s daughter’s wedding.  My plan was to go to the wedding and the reception. I had RSVP’d and I would do anything to go! The prior week before the event I did everything possible not to have a pain flare, and still, I ended up in bed in severe pain the day of the wedding. I made the choice that morning to go to the reception because both were just not doable. Plus, I was hoping I would feel better later in the day! 

I decided I would slowly get ready throughout the day as capable. I showered earlier in the day, put on my under clothes and went back to bed. (Of course, I didn't just lay in bed all day! That's just too painful for many of us)!  I forced myself out of bed an hour and a half before the wedding reception, struggled with fixing my hair as best I could, put on my makeup, and laid down to rest until it was time to go. I got back up, put on my dress, jewelry and shoes and we were off to the reception.

It was extremely difficult putting on a smile, attempting to process the conversation and reply appropriately while gripped by burning; sharp, throbbing, and deep, intense pain and nerve issues.  Neither standing nor sitting appeased the vial demon that takes over, even when you do all you can to rid yourself of it. All the while you smile, put joy in your voice and wonder if others can they see me faking it? I wonder what they see... But we don't want them to see it, because we don't want to draw attention to ourselves. I barely made it through dinner. I stayed longer than I could tolerate. It was so hard to try and say goodbyes while smiling yet more and make an elegant exit without falling on the floor.

My heart longed to stay! Weddings are my favorite! It was hard to leave just when the music and dancing was starting, but I there was no way I could dance. Sitting there was rough enough. We went home and I went right back into bed, shaking and throbbing from the pain! Aargh….that was a really tough day! And yet we hear, “Oh, but you look so good!”  

 But I went. Fortunately we did, for we were seated at the parents table, with the grandparents as well…that would have made me feel awful if we didn’t show up and those seats were left empty!

Although that sounds like a rather extreme story, it is reality for many of us! There is no getting around it! It shows exactly what many of us go through to participate in an event that others take for granted! It just grieves me to even think about what my life use to be and how it is now! Dancing all night until the last song was played was my favorite thing to do on a night out! Coming home, going to bed, and not being able to sleep because my feet would throb and burn from so much dancing, not my favorite thing! But, much preferable to having pain without all the dancing for sure!

Nowadays, I have that burning and throbbing, in addition to nerve pain, just not in my feet, but in my upper and lower body! And I don’t have to dance all night to get it! I don’t have to do anything at all! It is just there! Every. Single. Day. All. Day. Long. You know what I am talking about! But, that deep, burning, throbbing pain is the closest to explaining my pain. Just add a few sharp spikes being pounded in and it’s a good comparison!

Anyways, I decided not to delete that story because it illustrates what many of us endure just to participate in events or to go some place! Plus, if anyone reading this questions whether or not I have any idea of what the heck I am talking about with my so called “suggestions” in this blog, it shows I do KNOW EXACTLY how difficult doing simple things are!


Image result for joy hope love christmasAlthough we exist in chronic pain each and every day, many of us do have the desire to celebrate life's events. Especially Christmas, along with all the activities it consists of. Nevertheless, all the goings-on necessitate planning in advance! We must decide on the most important things we want to achieve and spread these activities into doable tasks, over a longer period of time! In doing all these activities suggested, we have the best possibility of hope that we will be able to at least enjoy the Holidays the best we can. We hope…because we are familiar with the fact that even with the best of intentions, we can’t rely on our bodies doing as we would like. Chronic pain has a life of its own. And nobody is going to tell it when and where it will overtake us!


CLEANING CHEATS
I think the number one thing that gets us into a pain flare is trying to maintain a clean, organized home! We think, “Oh, I’ll just do a little of this.” The next thing we know, we overtaxed ourselves! The Holidays seem to bring a bit of the cleaning bug out of all of us for sure! We feel we need to be prepared for guests -whether they are staying overnight or just dropping in for a short visit! Here are a few things we can do to take some of the last minute pressures off us:


Make preparations way ahead – that way there is no last minute rushing about, tidying, cleaning, decluttering or shopping and cooking that will leave in a pain flare longing for your bed and not wanting anyone around! If this was a scheduled visit, you should have some food prepared previously and frozen just waiting for them! (As discussed in my previous blog post on entertaining, PREPARING FOR THE HOLIDAYS WITH CHRONIC PAIN - PART 3  (Lasagna? Cookies?  Or perhaps, just order a pizza!) The solution is low key and stress free! The house could be cleaned days to a week in advance with help of loved ones! The last minute you would require a few things picked up a bit, and perhaps the bathrooms sanitized and put in order. If you so choose!


ASK FOR HELP - Family members living in your home make excellent cleaners! Perhaps a bit of persuasion may be needed! Maybe everyone could pick a job; you could pop in some fun Christmas music and have a merry time with it! Make sure you don’t take on any work that you know will inflame your pain! If you must, allow them to do it all! (Do I dare suggest if you have any Santa hats laying around that you all could put those on for added fun? LOL!)


HIRE SOMEONE TO HELP – If it is your heart’s desire to have a totally clean home for the Holidays, hire someone! For a more inexpensive choice,  hire one of your kids, (they may need Christmas gift money) or a trustworthy kid from the neighborhood, or a single mom that needs a bit of extra cash, or a friend from church. Having help would save your body from dealing with what you know could put you in a pain flare.


DO A CHORE A DAY-I spread out my chores I am able to do over a series of days to alleviate the chance of pain flares. (I make it sound like I am avoiding pain when I say it like that. I am avoiding making my 24/7, moderate to severe pain become just plain severe! That's me, thankful for the lower end of severe! That's my choices!) 

One day I pick up clutter around the house- have everyone help get their stuff. Another day, dust and polish light switches, glass, appliances and another the bathrooms (tubs, sinks, toilets) another vacuuming and washing floors (hubby has to do; this puts me in bed for three days!) 


SWIFTER DUSTER DASH- this is what I mean when I say, "dust". I go thru and dust around stuff, I don’t bother picking things up, just a quick swipe removes the pesky dust.  Nobody is going to look that close. Besides, it’ll get dustier with all the commotion going on and you can dust “properly” later. Maybe next year! LOL! After the holidays are over!


BATHROOM – there is a saying that if your bathroom is spotless people think the rest of the house is clean. Whenever I know someone is coming to visit, I will "quick" spruce it up! Grab your favorite spray cleaner and a rag and wipe down the mirror, counter and toilet seat. Done!  (Or use a wet wipe sold for quick cleaning bathrooms). Don’t bother with the tub/shower. Who will look in there? If they do, they deserve to see grime? LOL!


VACUUM – have someone else do it, or leave it, if you can stand it. It will need it for sure by the time your guests leave! Does anyone really look that close?


WASH FLOORS – don’t bother- they will just get messy anyways! Have someone do them after the guests leave.

The key is to not lose yourself in overdoing it in the things that others just don't look at  as close as you! Being a Type A person I have let go of a lot! It can be hard, but it is doable. Besides, do you want an overly clean home or feel as best you can to spend time with your loved ones?  Cheat cleaning is really a great way to meet your "inner clean" half way!


HOPE - PART OF OUR NEW "NORMAL"
The reality is our hearts desires to try to provide for our loved ones can sometimes cause us more physical pain! At times it can be intolerable pain! That is our reality! Seriously, we have to think about what we really can do and love to do vs. what we cannot physically do and need to eliminate!  It's all about choices… Yes, this is difficult to admit, but any increase in the pain we are already dealing with can ruin your holidays! I know you know what I'm talking about! Yet, we still have hope that things will go well!
Is it worth it to strive and struggle through the pain to do what your heart so desires? Consider choosing any of the alternative ways discussed in these articles to do what needs to be done! Buy what you can! Hire what you can! Ask someone else to do it!  Or, maybe it might just need to be eliminated altogether? It’s all in making healthy choices for your chronic pain. That is all we can do to make the best of it! We have hope it will work out!


I truly hope you found a few suggestions that will help lighten the load of the Holidays coming up and you can have bearable pain days so you can enjoy magical moments of togetherness with friends and family! All any of us can do is make the best choices and hope for the best! I know for many of us, no matter what we do, our bodies have no respect to what our goals are and are going to continue with the horrific pain! But at least you can say you had a plan, you did all you could! I pray all of you can take what moments of joy, love and hope you can and grip tightly to them and focus on them! Don't let the chronic pain overcome your hearts desires! It's so worth the fight!

Please, let me know how your Christmas season is coming together as you are working on it! I would love to hear your stories!



NOTE:  FOR THOSE NOT ABLE TO ENDURE THE HOLIDAYS
With all that has been suggested here, I cannot disregard the reality that there are numerous people living in severe uncontrolled chronic pain, as well as those that deal with depression where no matter how much anyone suggests and encourages, our hearts and bodies, just can’t endure festivities. I have been there! It took 15 months to get out of the 8-10/10 pain that left me curled up in a ball, shaking and even having a hard time breathing, as well as leading to episodes of vomiting!

We need to be respectful of those (ourselves included), as well as others that are dealing with grieving the losses endured in life from chronic pain. For many of us, the Christmas season can bring out a deep grief that may not have been there previously, or is resurfacing.


Christmas may cause many a relapse into remembering all we have lost due to the chronic pain. And yet for other, if the pain is roaring when we want to participate with events it can truly be a struggle. Please pray for each other!

When we meet someone along the way on our journey that either has not had the time to grieve, or seems stuck in the grieving process too long, we definitely need to gently try to encourage them to seek help. For some don’t know how to get through this and need a helping hand. Please, for them and their families suggest they talk with a pastor, doctor or behavior specialist to give them some skills to make life a brighter place. Encourage them to seek medical help if they have given up with who they have been treated by previously.


Living in chronic pain is a major life altering event! But, know we can only do so much for ourselves, and for others; we all have to make choices to move forward and make the best out of a really bad situation.  Please see this articles about dealing with losses and the stages of grief if you are having a hard time or know of someone that is.  A LOOK AT OUR LOSSES  and  THE STAGES OF GRIEF

Blessings!  







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