I wanted to do a short blog series entitled “DISEASE AND_____” to talk about different life topics and how disease can affect them. In the upcoming blogs, I will talk about topics like Disease and Love, and Disease and Work. In each blog, I’ll talk some general stuff and also talk on a personal level of how disease affects my life in that particular category. Because I have both type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, you will likely hear a little mention of both.
With Easter coming up this Sunday, I thought I’d begin the series with Disease and Easter. The holidays can be a great time of togetherness and cheer. You may thoroughly enjoy the holidays. But for some, they can be a time of stress, especially for those with disease, and especially if those diseases involve food, like diabetes or celiac disease. It may highlight that others can eat how/what they want without consequences or preparation and you can’t. It may cause anxiety, guilt or even resentment. I think it’s also worth mentioning that not everyone has a strong support system and the holidays may be a source of sadness and loneliness.
It can sometimes be difficult to be at your holiday dinner if you are too focused on your disease. You may think that everyone else there can just enjoy the festivities without the responsibility that is on your shoulders. Or if you are like me, you may insert the “where’s my blood sugar at?” question after every non-diabetes related thought. Like “Wow, look at this beautiful spread of food (where’s my blood sugar at?) What’s the score on the baseball game? (where’s my blood sugar at?) I’m going to the bathroom (where’s my blood sugar at?) I may also look at every beautiful dish of food and wonder if there’s a way to make a gluten-free version of it at home.
Diabetes is a 24/7 disease. It doesn’t take holidays off. It’s open 365 days a year. The same holds true for celiac disease. Celiac disease makes you be on your toes at all times when it comes to food. While diabetes may have dietary suggestions, celiac disease has dietary requirements. So both diseases can be equally stressful at a food-centered holiday. And with all of our holidays being so food-centered, it takes extra work on our part to count every nibble while not letting Big D or celiac steal the show.
Having two medical diets to follow almost makes the holidays easier for me, in one sense. Since I bring my own plate of food to gatherings (to ensure a safe, gluten free meal), I know ahead of time how much/what I’m going to eat and it takes away some of the guesswork around carb counting. In another sense, it can be difficult in that I sometimes feel ‘different’ when I am eating different food than everyone else, and can’t comment on the green bean casserole because I can’t eat it (fried onions on top = gluten) or other foods that everyone is raving about. It can also be a source of unwanted attention. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind people asking me about my illnesses, but when it’s around the holiday dinner table, it puts attention on me that I don’t want. Other people get asked about their jobs, their kids, their hobbies. I get asked about my diseases. I’d rather talk about how I joined a running club or gas prices. Maybe even talk about what’s going down on a reality tv show. The point being that especially at holidays, when everyone gets together in one spot, I sometimes feel the need to prove to everyone that I am healthy. Yes, it is possible to have a disease and still be healthy!
So here’s how I get through the holidays. This is my holiday survival guide.
1. Just act normal. And healthy. YOU have to believe that you are both normal and healthy if you want others to think that of you. Answer questions that people have, and if you don’t feel like talking about your disease then move on to another topic of your liking.
2. Focus on the people, the friendships and the reason for the holiday. Focus on the positive aspects and try to relax. If you feel the conversation is becoming too you-focused, subtly change the topic by asking someone else about something of interest.
3. In the worst-case scenario if you are feeling down, maybe because you are alone or maybe because the holidays are just plain stressful for you for whatever reason, remember this: it’s just one day. Just get through the day, and then it will be over with. Focus on its shortness and temporariness. Tell yourself that no matter how you feel, you can get through it.
I hope that no matter what your situation is, you have a wonderful and fun Easter.