Okay, so I was overly ambitious last week and claimed I would blog every day up until Christmas. I had the ideas all lined up in my head: holiday recipes, shopping suggestions, and so on. But then the days flew by, and I found myself busier and more tired than expected. Come Christmas Eve, I was wrapping gifts, making jam (which I had planned on bloggig about), and cleaning house. Then Christmas Day, I woke up early to start cooking, followed by four hours of my side of the family, followed by cleaning up, followed by three hours with the in-laws. By 11:00 PM on Christmas, I was ready to crash.
At 5:20 AM, I woke up with pain in my back. It wasn’t the usual neuropathic pain and banding feeling I often get in the middle of my back. Instead, it stemmed from my lower back and felt like my spine was crunching down upon each other. Then the pain radiated upward and to the right into my shoulder blade. I took a Vicodin anyway and went back to sleep. All of Sunday, I napped here and there and felt nauseous. Maybe it was the Vicodin. Maybe it was something else. I couldn’t stomach anything except for a Muscle Punch from Smoothie King for dinner, and I still threw that up a few hours later.
On Monday I felt better; I was hungry in the morning and was able to keep down the small meal I reheated in the microwave. Was it a stomach virus? A 24-hour bug? Exhaustion? Over the past ten years or so that I’ve had to deal with NMO and its various symptoms and conditions, I’ve noticed that my percentage of flare-ups increase during the holiday season. Why is that?
After I was first diagnosed,I read any literature I could find on autoimmune diseases. I discovered that autoimmune diseases, as with many diseases that inflict Americans, are linked to stress. While poorer countries fight famine and other basic illnesses, developed nations like America deal with stress and the whole spectrum of diseases that come alongside it. Even for the average healthy person, holidays can be a time of high stress. But for those of us with NMO who try to strive for independence and do all the “normal” things “normal” people do (e.g. cook lavish dinners, host lavish parties), stress takes on a whole new level and meaning. And for people like me who have a mild case of OCD, the stress level rises even more–everything has to be just like so.
Ever since the NMO Patient Day, I’ve been in regular contact with E and J; we bonded quickly because of our shared lifestyle (somehwat newly married) and disease (NMO). It was interesting to realize that despite our daily battles with NMO, all three of us hosted holiday gatherings in our homes. Perhaps playing hostess is something we’ve always loved to do even before we were diagnosed. Perhaps hosting the holidays helps us feel “normal.” Perhaps it’s a way to prove to others and ourselves that we can be “normal.” But is it worth the aftermath, the exhaustion, the vomiting?
Last week, the thought of falling behind on my blog kept nagging at me in the back of my head. If I take something on or give my word to something, I always make sure I follow through. So knowing that on Monday, I had said I was going to write a post every day, but by Thursday when I realized it wasn’t going to happen, I was mentally beating myself up inside. But then I told myself that the few regular readers I have out there will forgive me, especially if they knew I was trying to take care of my health, and I felt better. Then I knew I had to forgive myself, and I would feel much better. We are always hardest on ourselves, aren’t we? I need to break this senseless cycle of stress because it’s not doing anyone any good. So here’s to not keeping my word, here’s to not caring so much, not stressing out, not taking myself so seriously. Here’s to better health.