When you think of Christmas, are you filled with a sense of joy and excitement or overwhelm and dread? Chances are you experience a little bit of both. The holidays tend to be stressful for everyone, but they can be particularly challenging for those of us who are dealing with a chronic illness like ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome), where energy is a precious commodity and fatigue is commonplace.
Christmas with a Chronic Illness
Lene Andersen has come to our rescue in her 2016 book, Chronic Christmas: Surviving the Holidays with a Chronic Illness. She describes her book as “an Advent calendar full of self-care tips to help people with chronic illness savor the holiday season as never before.” In the midst of a myriad of ME/CFS symptoms, does this sound too good to be true?
Maybe it doesn’t have to be. Not only does Chronic Christmas provide those of us who are living with ME/CFS and other chronic illnesses with wise and useful tips on how we can survive and even enjoy the holidays, it also offers truly helpful suggestions for family and friends who have a loved one with a chronic illness.
In the tradition of Advent calendars, the book contains an entry for every day leading up to Christmas. Each chapter begins with a section for the person with a chronic illness and suggests something you can do to help yourself enjoy the holidays more. This is followed by a brief section that addresses loved ones and shares an idea for how they can help make the holidays a little easier for you. As an added bonus, you’ll find a few surprises sprinkled throughout the book! In keeping with the goal of making the holidays easier, each day’s entry can be read in just a few minutes.
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Now that I’ve told you a little bit about the book itself, I want to introduce you to its author. I first met Lene (pronounced LEE-nah) more than a decade ago when we both wrote for HealthCentral. Currently, she serves on HealthCentral’s Health Advocates Advisory Board and also writes her own blog, The Seated View. I quickly fell in love with Lene’s writing. She has an engaging, conversational style that makes you feel like you’re chatting with a good friend — a friend who not only understands what you’re going through but also happens to have a delightful sense of humor.
Lene does indeed understand what it’s like to live with a chronic illness. She has had rheumatoid arthritis since she was four years old and has used a power wheelchair since her teens. If that weren’t enough, a few years ago she was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Despite her physical challenges, Lene’s positive, joyful spirit is infectious and shines through her writing.
When you’re in the midst of fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, or ME/CFS treatments, it can sometimes to hard to focus on non-treatment-related ways to care for yourself. But treat yourself to an early Christmas present that can help make your holidays more fun and less stressful, or give it as a gift to someone you care about who has a chronic illness. The holidays can still be a fun time for you regardless of where you’re at in your healing journey.
This article was first published on ProHealth.com on November 23, 2016 and was updated on December 3, 2019.
Karen Lee Richards is ProHealth’s Editor-in-Chief. A fibromyalgia patient herself, she co-founded the nonprofit organization now known as the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) and served as its vice-president for eight years. She was also the executive editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE, the very first full-color, glossy magazine devoted to FM and other invisible illnesses. After leaving the NFA, Karen served as the Guide to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the New York Times website About.com, and then for eight years as the Chronic Pain Health Guide for The HealthCentral Network.