Managing Holiday Energy

Let’s face it, as much as the holidays can bring joy and fun, they can often be utterly exhausting! And for those of us living with blood cancer, those worn-out feelings can become amplified.

A holiday diagnosis

For me personally, I was initially diagnosed with leukemia in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, the fatigue I felt while preparing to host my family for Thanksgiving was my first clue that something was going on.

I did my best to participate in the regular family festivities that year. But I must admit that one of the gifts of receiving a blood cancer diagnosis was being excused from any activity that I didn’t feel well enough to join. Playing Pictionary felt more burdensome than fun after just receiving a blood transfusion and carrying the worry of what may lie ahead.

Wanting the old me at the holidays

Over the years as I made it through treatments and worked to achieve a “normal” life, it felt as though the expectations of others had gone back to what they were before diagnosis. Or maybe that was just me wanting to show up in all the ways I used to? Either way, as much as I wanted the old me to show up, she just wasn’t with me anymore. So the question I ask myself now is, can I honor what I feel in the moment and protect my energy when necessary?

I need to protect my energy levels

The hard lesson I am continuing to learn is that since life after blood cancer treatments can be unpredictable, no one in my life can know how I am feeling if I don’t clue them in. So I might have to decline playing games that require mental focus, I may have to ask if I can contribute a simpler dish than I used to bring, and I very likely might need to step away from the group for 5 minutes (or more) of quiet time for myself.

I admittedly still have concerning thoughts that others will either worry about me or pass unfavorable judgments if I choose not to participate. But I know, too, that if I push too much to please everyone else, I usually end up sick. So I at least try to find balance by maybe pushing myself to do one thing I don’t actually feel like doing, but also giving myself the option of backing out if it seems too much.

If they love me, they will understand

I believe that the people who love us and want to spend holiday time with us truly want us to take care of ourselves, and we want the same for them. So this year, I am choosing to realize that the greatest expectations are the ones I put on myself. And this year, I am choosing to take care of myself! Everyone else will understand if I need to sit out on some of the traditional festivities.

And if they don’t, my choice to take care of my own needs won’t actually be a hindrance on their good time, unless that is the story I create in my head. I think with blood cancer or not, learning to honor each others' needs and desires can be the greatest holiday gift ever.

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