Give Yourself Grace During the Holidays
Last updated: November 2022
The smell of turkey in the oven, the flickering of candlelight, the sound of family members catching up. It is that time of year again — the holiday season has fallen upon us.
For some, this is a happy time of year filled with joy and memories. For others, this time of year is filled with stressful and tiring days.
How my family celebrates the holidays
My family has always done the holidays in the biggest way possible. Usually, for Thanksgiving, we travel to Missouri to visit my dad's side of the family. An 8-hour drive (one way, I might add) is not one that I look forward to. However, I am grateful for my family understanding my inability to drive long distances because of my narcolepsy.
Christmas is a big event for my family. The house is decorated with 12 tubs full of trees, lights, ornaments, Santas, snowmen, and more. We have 7 Christmas trees. Yes, 7. Christmas Day is a day of church, food, conversation, and gifts. This is just Christmas with my immediate family; my partner has 2 big families, which means Christmas is usually 2 separate events. Needless to say, the Christmas season can be exhausting.
Brain fog makes simple conversations more difficult
Visiting extended family means lots of conversations: "How have you been? Tell me about your new job! How is your boyfriend?" On a good day, I can answer these questions without much issue. Unfortunately, when my brain fog is often hovering over me, it makes these simple conversations more difficult.
I have learned the signs my body gives me when it is time for a break. Conversations are difficult to continue, my limbs feel like heavy noodles, my eyes lose focus. When this starts to happen, I politely see myself out and find the nearest place to curl up.
Educating family members on narcolepsy
Some families are not as understanding when it comes to disabilities. I am thankful that my family has always been supportive of me and my narcolepsy diagnosis, but I know this is not the case for most people. If you have some family members who don’t understand your diagnosis, use this as an opportunity to educate them.
Sometimes family members benefit from reading stories from a different perspective. Websites like Know Narcolepsy, Project Sleep, Wake Up Narcolepsy, and of course, Narcolepsy.Sleep-Disorders.net are filled with articles, infographics, and stories. These are valuable resources that are easy to share with others.
Listen to your body
This time of year, more so than most, it is important to advocate for yourself. Do you need a nap? Take it. Do you need to separate yourself from the chaos of family reunions? Step out and take some deep breaths. There is no shame in giving your body what it needs.
This is a special time of year. Whether you’re a single mom, a student, a night-shift worker, or a person with narcolepsy, don’t push yourself too hard during the holidays. If that extra side dish doesn’t get made, that is okay. If the presents end up going into gift bags instead of wrapping paper, that is okay. If you need to say "no" to that long drive, that is okay. It is important to listen to your body.
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