It's the 18th of December and the Christmas countdown is officially on. Last week, I came across a new trend unravelling on my Instagram -- #ShareATreeForSevereME. The idea is to post a picture of your own Christmas tree or any that you come across and to use the above hashtag and the aim is to raise awareness over the holiday season for ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Depending on the severity, some people with this condition may find themselves unable to walk or they might find that their daily physical activity may be limited to brushing their teeth.
The importance of this hashtag is huge. While we are all getting ourselves into the Christmas spirit, let us think about those with chronic illnesses who will struggle over the holiday season. Let's think about the people who suffer from ME/CFS, for whom decorating their Christmas tree may be a huge challenge. Let's think about the parents who may have to miss their children in their Christmas play, because a health condition has rendered them bedbound.
While it appears to be a myth that suicide rates are higher over the holiday period, let us think about those who suffer from depression; those who may be fighting this illness with all their strength. At a time when so much emphasis is placed on joy, happiness and togetherness, I intend to keep in mind those who may be feeling more alone than ever.
Where I come from, a large part of the festive period involves copious amounts of eating and drinking. This will be my second Christmas as someone with gastroenterological problems and last year the thought of a huge Christmas dinner was nothing short of overwhelming. It's important to remember that everybody faces their own difficulties, and I ask you to spare a thought for those with eating disorders this holiday season. Those with a difficult relationship with food may find this period terrifying, as so much revolves around food and drink at Christmas time.
Think of the chronically ill people who may be gearing up for a family reunion this Christmas period; and then think of those who may be too sick to have visitors or travel this Christmas. Think of those who may be in too much pain to hug their loved ones, or for those who might not have the energy to play with young family members.
Chronic illnesses are unpredictable and never play by the rules -- I know this from first-hand experience. This Christmas, if you find yourself with a spare minute, please think about those who may be finding this festive period that little bit harder. If you know someone who is struggling and you have some spare time, why not offer them a hand? Sometimes a simple act of kindness can have a long lasting effect!
Wishing you all happy holidays and a peaceful new year.