How I Plan to Have a Cracking Christmas With MS

Navigating the holidays with a chronic illness is tough but doable

Beth Ullah avatar

by Beth Ullah |

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As an adult, it hasn’t been easy for me to get into the Christmas spirit. Planning festivities and buying gifts don’t come naturally to me.

Perhaps it’s because adult life never ends, whereas as a student, I had holiday breaks that signified the beginning of the season, allowing me to simply switch off my mind. My school even held a beautiful, ethereal carol service at the largest church in the county on the last day of the semester.

Particularly since my relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 2016, I’ve felt a distinct lack of excitement in the lead-up to the holidays.

It feels like a lifetime since I was thrown into MS headfirst. Within two years of my diagnosis, I was paralyzed from the waist down and underwent the aggressive treatment Lemtrada (alemtuzumab). But it’s only been four Christmases, which isn’t a lot of time to perfect navigating the holidays with MS and severe fatigue.

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Honing my holiday strategy

Every Christmas, I take a different approach to try to find the best way to accommodate my new reality.

My husband and I really wanted to host a family Christmas, especially after we bought our first house. However, the thought of making our home visitor-friendly, preparing a delicious Christmas lunch, and organizing other meals was overwhelming. So, last Christmas, we compromised by having my husband’s parents stay at our house and then going to a nearby restaurant for our Christmas Day meal.

I’ve had many a Christmas meal out, and have found that the quality tends to be at either end of the spectrum. In this case, the meal was unfortunately disappointing, especially because I had to leave shortly after the main course was served. The hustle and bustle of the season left me more fatigued than usual, and I was overwhelmed by the noise of the surrounding guests and the stark contrast of going from the bitter December frost into the restaurant’s heat. It all left me teetering on the edge of a sensory overload attack.

Luckily, I had my mobility scooter, and since the restaurant was within walking distance of our house, I was able to escape without ruining anyone else’s meal. As I unlocked my front door and entered my quiet, empty house, MS isolation prevailed once again. While quiet was exactly what I needed, it certainly wasn’t what I wanted.

This year, I’ve pledged that things will be different. While I employed all of my fatigue management tactics leading up to Christmas last year, I’m adding one more this season: not worrying or stressing about things I can’t control. Will it snow, affecting my mobility outdoors? Who knows. Will I burn the food because I’m overheating and forget about the time? Well, that’s why my husband’s cooking!

It may only be Dec. 7, but it’s officially the holiday season in our house. The tree goes up as I indulge in my advent calendar chocolates and binge-watch cheesy Netflix Christmas movies.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Penny-Marie Wright avatar

Penny-Marie Wright

I had a co-worker who hated crowds so she would go to a hotel restaurant for Christmas dinner. Before I went off on sick leave she had finally gotten to the point that she could get together with family for it. I don't remember how she got to that point but I felt good that she was able to do it. As much as I'm not a holiday person I didn't like to see anyone alone on them.


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