What is the holiday season like for someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Different. Really different. Everyone could stand to reduce the stress this time of year, but for the chronically ill, it's essential.
Do you suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Or do you know someone who is ill? Then lend an ear to some suggestions not on the standard wish list.
1) Gifts from a distance
Travel is out for CFS shut-ins at the holidays. Many are not up to people visiting. Some can't handle phone calls.
This can be an intensely lonely time for the chronically ill. Send them cards, send emails, send them gifts. Write about special memories shared during happier, healthier days. Compile a photo album of time spent together.
Make sure to consider any chemical sensitivities when choosing gifts.
2) Be a Personal Shopper
Many with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome find shopping a huge obstacle. Some are housebound. Some can no longer drive. Some are able to go out but facing holiday crowds may do them in.
You can offer to do some of their shopping, or drive them to the stores. Help them really experience the joy of the season. And they will feel loved in the process.
3) Lower the financial bar
Many who are chronically ill have unhealthy budgets. Unable to work, or shouldering high medical expenses, they often live on a slim little shoestring.
Draw names for gift exchanges rather than buying for everyone in the family. Emphasize smaller, more personal gifts. Better yet, emphasize the importance of being together, so that gifts are incidental.
4) Gifts that keep on giving
If someone you love is chronically ill, consider giving a gift of things like monthly help around the house, or weekly visits with them.
An afghan for the lady who is bed-ridden and chills easily, snow-shovelling for the winter for the man with muscle pain or vertigo. Perhaps a present of a much-needed supplement, or chemical-free organic soap, or an offer of rides to the doctor would be most valuable.
5) Cultivate hobbies
Does your chronically ill friend have a hobby that helps while away the hours, or allows them to be productive or creative? Consider yarn or needles for the knitter, books by a favorite author, music to soothe and uplift.
6) Provide a haven
Does one of your guests suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Prepare a quiet room they can go to for a short (or long) rest or nap, a place they can retire to if festivities wear them out.
And if you tell them ahead of time that you've planned for this, they'll feel more confident about pacing themselves through the visit. They will be touched by your thoughtfulness of their vulnerability.
7) Tone down the audio/visual
If you can avoid flashing lights as decorations your chronic friends will thank you for it. Keep in mind that loud music and rowdy kids can cause sensory, neurological overload that may have repercussions for a surprisingly long time.
8) Think small and intimate
People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome often are drained by large get-togethers. A small gathering for a short period of time works best. Your loved one will be able to enjoy more holiday cheer later, rather than being flattened by one big celebration.
9) Scrutinize the menu
Consider any special diets of those who sit down to your table. Gluten sensitivity? Have something available that contains no flour. Cut down on the sugar in the desserts.
Go ahead and lay out your traditional meal, but provide extra dishes more friendly to those who can't handle certain foods.
When in doubt, ask. BEFORE the menu is finalized.
10) Ease the load
If you've always fed the family but now suffer from CFS, let others share this blessed burden. Your sister can bake (or buy) the pies, your brother can bring rolls.
Your aunt would love to make her special holiday recipe. Don't be shy about asking the younger ones to clean up.
The priority after all, is spending quality time with people you love.
I spent 15 years losing the battle against CFS — two years ago I found treatment that worked for me, and now I am making a comeback.