From InterAction 75, Christmas 2017
If you are facing Christmas alone, you’re not alone, says Rose.
As the countdown begins, the prospect of another long Christmas alone is uninvited. I love Christmas, I love all the decorations and the joy of giving; it’s a time I want to rejoice with others. So when no one else is around to express love and care, it is exceptionally upsetting. More so since this year will be my twelfth consecutive Christmas alone (since I separated from my partner).
Family and friends dispersed during my 19-year journey of severe M.E., which has meant many a Christmas has been spent in unbearable, painful heartache. It is not only the elderly that are isolated; those with chronic illness are too.
Of course, living with severe M.E. means I am isolated most of the time. Weekends can be so very difficult, and I welcome my paid help when they arrive. Paid help is a double-edged sword: you are grateful to them, but sad that you need them and have no one else. Also, there’s the panic when they want time off over Christmas, and you’re facing the stark reality that you’ll have no support.
Many with M.E. will find Christmas a challenge – coping with the preparation, the visitors, the noise, and finding the expenditure of energy overwhelming. I am sure many would rather be alone to hide under their duvet until it is all over. For me, the isolation is more deafening. Waking up to an empty place, knowing many others are with their loved ones, is more disabling to me than the M.E. No one to share the festivities with. No phone call from anyone. Even the strongest of characters would find the loneliness of Christmas challenging.
This year, I aim for it to be a little brighter for myself, and for others who are facing Christmas alone.
A different focus
I find that taking the emphasis off myself, and helping others in need,is a positive way to compress my own pain of being alone. I decorate some Christmas crafts to raise money for charities. I donate to the less fortunate, such as the homeless or others in need. And I take part inAction for M.E.’s Christmas Angels project; sending someone else with M.E. a Christmas card is a way of reaching out, and the joy of receiving them in return is a blessing.
Another way to shift the focus at Christmas is to buy yourself some lovely inexpensive treats – you can wrap them up, and open something every day from Christmas Eve up until New Year’s Day. You can also let neighbours know you are alone – if they are caring people and available, perhaps they will offer to make you a dinner and keep you company.
Buy some lovely food and treat yourself to a very special present.Plan to watch some funny things on TV and listen to some uplifting music. Buy a journal and record all that you are thankful for and all that you have achieved this year. Praise yourself that you are doing great,and that you are an M.E. warrior.
Connecting with others
If you are one of the many people with chronic illnesses facing Christmas alone, please know that you are not alone. If you are online, you can join me, Rose (‘Fairycats’) and all the lovely people on the M.E. Friends Online forum for companionship and support. I am planning to set up some fun festive threads on the forum to encourage solidarity. Even if you are not alone, please feel welcome to join in.
If you are not able to get online, you can find support at the end of the phone (see below) and know that I will be thinking of you on Christmas Day, and sending you all my love and strength. I will also dedicate a special hug to you on the ‘Forum Hug’ thread.
The MIND website offers information on how to cope with loneliness
FREEPHONE 116 123
Tel: 01708 765200
The Silver Line Helpline (for older people)
FREEPHONE 0800 4 70 80 90