We made it. Christmas is over. I feel overwhelmingly exhausted and sad but grateful to be on the other side of it. Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year. The music and lights trigger such intense memories for me, sometimes so vivid I cry. My family made Christmas a season filled with meals and outings, days downtown Chicago shopping and looking at the lights, going to performances of The Nutcracker and Scrooge, a constant stream of homemade chocolate chip cookies and Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby drifting from the radio.
My family seems to have lost that magic over the years and Christmas has become tragically bittersweet. I refuse to give up and do everything in my power to recreate the same magic for my own children. But between the emotional toll and physical exhaustion, it takes everything out of me. I habitually take the day after Christmas off of work. My coworkers always believe this is pure self-indulgence but if they knew the truth they would probably rather work than go through what I do.
As you know, I am a dog groomer. This is probably the worst possible career for someone with fibromyalgia. The physical toll is brutal. Most groomers have multiple physical disorders after 5-7 years of grooming. Add to it the intense Christmas rush of clients demanding their dog is coiffed for the holiday and my body is completely wrecked. But I suck it up and do it. And after work, I shop, I cook, I bake, I decorate, I shop more, I visit family, and at the end of the night, I sit down with my Christmas music, classics that stir up a storm of emotion and tears that I both adore and loathe.
I reflect on my magical childhood memories and mourn the days long gone, aching for a family that once was. This can be just as grueling for someone with fibromyalgia as the physical rigor. Much of fibromyalgia stems from emotional trauma and stress. The brain sees these as actual physical pain and fires away, sending the body into a full-blown flare of symptoms. Essentially, your brain thinks that a difficult memory is a punch to the gut and responds accordingly.
So, for me, the holiday season is physically debilitating on both fronts. I know a lot of people might give in and lock themselves in bed for the month of December. But I can’t. I refuse to let this disease take my season from me and my children. I fight like hell and grin and bear the pain, the emotional shit storm, and do it all with a smile on my face. I fake it til I make it, surrounding myself with holiday cheer until I’m there.
And it is worth it. I recline onto my heading pad in my cushy section of my big old couch and gaze around my house at the sparkling tree, the pine scented candles, Christmas cards everywhere and Michael Buble singing to me and I smile. I smile inside and out, filled up with pure joy, and for a moment or two I forget the physically debilitating, emotionally draining weeks I have put myself through. The squeals of joy from my kids as we watch the first snow fall, spending hours in the kitchen whipping up little red and green delights, agonizing over which cordless drill will be good enough for my husband. These are the things that make the pain worth it.
I’m sad it’s over. I always get depressed post-Christmas as we stare at the face of bleak January and February so I just extend my Christmas a little longer. I’ll drag my feet mid-January and start taking down Christmas with a lump in my throat. My body will start recovering (if you can call it that) and my emotions will get packed up with the ornaments and Nutcrackers until next year.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa! Happy New Year to you all. I hope you fibro mamas out there made it through and give yourselves time to rest and recover because you did it! You made it through another holiday season and one day your children will be sitting on their own couch gazing at the tree thinking with gratitude about the Christmases their mother gave them through the pain, tears and exhaustion.