‘Twas the night before Christmas and despite the sleeping spouse, there was still one stirring in the Chiarian’s house. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care as she hoped despite the pain, she’d be able to be there. The family was nestled all snug in their beds, while fear of disappointment danced through her head.

While everyone’s talking about holiday cheer and how there’s laughter in the air, for the chronic pain patient it’s not that easy to get into the holiday spirit. We remember the happier holidays of the past and all that people want to see in us, but there are so many thoughts acting as obstacles in our path.

Will I have the spoons (energy) that I need to make it through the day?
We speak of energy in terms of spoons (The Spoon Theory, by Christine Miserandino). We know what it was like to have normal levels of energy to accomplish tasks and how much more energy every task requires now that our bodies went crazy. You don’t appreciate the energy it takes to get ready for something until you need a nap after every shower you take.

What will I do if I experience a pain flare and how will everyone else respond to me if I do?
Almost worse than the pain itself is living in fear of the pain, especially when we know how it seems to ruin everything for everyone, not just us. For the patient and their family, they know far too well how pain can ruin even the most important of occasions. And for the patient, we know the look on the faces of those we love when we have to cancel or depart early. It’s one thing to see those faces a time or two in a lifetime, but it’s a lot harder when it happens time and time again, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Will I be able to engage?
People rarely realize how much time we really spend alone (or at least alone in our thoughts). We think about so many things. Should I tell them about what I’m facing? Should I answer how I’m really feeling, or just say, “I’m fine”? Am I talking too much about my conditions? Is it just me and my brain, or is it them? Are my feelings about this even rational? Am I losing my mind? Most of these thoughts are actually healthy thoughts, but when we second guess engaging with the world and live in constant fear of offending, it becomes detrimental to the way we see our value on this earth.

How many days of pain will I experience after the holiday is over?
We’ve learned from those times that we’ve tried to “push through the pain,” that this will be a factor nearly 100% of the time. While the healthier us could push through the pain, that often backfires when it comes to chronic pain. After a few hours of festivities (no matter how light the festivities seem to be), our nervous systems usually respond to the stress with inflammation and pain (which can last several days or even weeks).

Will I live up to what’s expected of me or am I going to let down everyone I love, yet again?
Even when nobody around us expects much from us, there’s always a part of us that still longs to be like our former selves – to have the strength and energy that we once had. The truth is, despite everything we’ve been through, we want to be more for those that we love. Our lives were forever altered and reconciling that with a lifetime of dreams isn’t easy. We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves, we’re mourning and trying to adapt to the reality of all that we face. It hasn’t been easy on our families either, they’re in mourning too. Chiari/comorbids have stolen hopes and dreams from all of us, but we don’t have to let it dominate us. We can figure it all out together and be a stronger family for it!