How to Survive the Holidays with Chronic Illness

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by Jessica Massengale |

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The holidays are the most joyful time of the year for many. Surrounded by loved ones, it’s a time for making new memories, eating delicious food, and focusing on all the happy feelings stored within. There’s a cheerful buzz in the air from November to January that warms the heart. For those with a chronic illness, it can be harder to feel that buzz.

There are different factors that can contribute to a feeling of missing out or of sadness if one’s disease has left them disabled. But there are ways to channel your inner-holiday kid again, it just takes a little mental rewiring.

Here are a few tips to help make the holidays more manageable.

Ask to prepare separate food options

Dealing with a chronic illness can have serious repercussions on the digestive tract. It can be from side effects of medications or damage from the illness itself. So, adhering to a specific diet is imperative.

Every holiday I ask for separate gluten-free side dishes or desserts so that I can indulge with everyone else. This way I don’t have to worry about eating foods that disagree with me. If I stay quiet and just eat things that will make me not feel well, I’ll regret it later as I lie in bed in agony with heartburn and indigestion. Also, overeating on the holidays is a thing of the past; the remorse felt later is just not worth it.

Include yourself in holiday cheer

Blogger and chronic illness advocate Chanel White spreads cheer with her feeding tube. (Courtesy of Chanel White)

There’s a chance you may wake up on Christmas morning feeling like crap, or you could show up to Thanksgiving dinner with no appetite. It’s the nature of constantly living with your body fighting your health. It’s an unfortunate thing to have to go through, but you are ALIVE.

Whip up a healthy juice or smoothie and join everyone at the dinner table. If you’re on oxygen or a feeding tube, decorate the machine with lights and garland to spread some holiday vibes. I no longer can open Christmas gifts because my hands are severely damaged from scleroderma. So, my little cousin opens them for me, and it brings me joy because she’s ecstatic to open double presents.

Let go of guilt

I am unable to currently work because of scleroderma. This used to make me feel guilty that I couldn’t buy all of my family members nice presents. But I’ve accepted it and found ways to work around it. Sometimes I make little thoughtful gifts or cards, and they appreciate the effort put forth.

Holidays are about love and togetherness, not a show-and-tell contest of who gets the best presents. I also felt sad that I couldn’t help prepare foods for the family dinners. But the healthy people surrounding me have no problems doing it, so that guilt is out the window. We are not who we once were, and that’s OK.

The end of the year is filled with joyous emotions and love, and it’d be a shame to be unable to tap into that due to mental burdens. Find ways to work around any holiday obstacles, so you can enjoy the holidays to the best of your capacity. These moments in life are what we cherish closest to our hearts, and the memories of love are everlasting.


Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.


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