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Pacing yourself at Christmas time
Continuing our discussions around isolation in the lead-up to Christmas, Heather talks to us today about the impact of 'pacing' and activity management, and how this can affect her mental health.
You can feel it in the air. It's the darker mornings, the bitter chill of the weather, and the twinkling lights illuminating high-street windows: Christmas is nearly here.
Christmas is a traditionally busy time: there's parties to attend, friends and family to visit, feasts to plough through and shopping for our loved ones. Most people take these festivities in their stride, without having to give the non-stop socialising and partying a second thought. But for those with disabilities, Christmas can be a particularly difficult – or perhaps even isolating – part of the year.
As someone with cerebral palsy – amongst other conditions – I find this time of year quite overwhelming. Many of us in the disabled community will tell you that 'pacing' is a big part of our lives, and during this busy period, pacing can be so difficult to maintain. Pacing means individuals have to plan their time, and prioritise certain activities over others. So, as you can imagine, Christmas makes pacing almost impossible.
Growing up, I became very aware that I had to approach the socialising and festivities from an entirely different perspective. It wasn't possible to go out most nights, do the Christmas shopping, go to work and do all the other things most young people usually do. And, when I attempted to do everything my friends were doing, my body would pay for it. A big part of my conditions means I am hugely fatigued most of the time, and with fluctuating chronic pain levels, this fatigue only gets worse. Partaking in the 'usual' amount of socialising expected of the season can really take its toll, and the only way to minimise the pain and discomfort is to only do what you feel is possible.
Unfortunately, saying 'no' can often be the most difficult thing to do.
It's hard knowing that whilst you're tucked up in bed, nursing a painful, uncooperative body, that all of your friends are out partying and having a great time. As I've grown older, I am slightly less upset by this - as social events become less about the partying and more about having a good-old catch up - but sometimes, having to say 'no' even to these events is really very disheartening. It's hard knowing that – through no fault of your own – it's simply too hard to make it to the plethora of social events that make up the majority of the season.
This isolation is felt by many disabled people over the holidays, and, as many of us will tell you, this can be so detrimental to our mental health. This Christmas, perhaps take the time to consider hosting events that are accessible, and that can – and should – be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of disability. If you know your friend has a disability and that they're likely to say 'no' to an event, still invite them: they might say no, but they will know that you have thought of them. Better still, you have given them the choice to decide what is - or isn't - good for their bodies and mental health.
Christmas is meant to be a season of joy, shared with those who matter the most. No one deserves to feel left out, or isolated. And as disabled people across the world prepare for this hectic, overwhelming time, we would appreciate nothing more than to feel included and supported.
You can feel it in the air. It's the darker mornings, the bitter chill of the weather, and the twinkling lights illuminating high-street windows: Christmas is nearly here...
Can you relate to Heather’s story? Share your thoughts in the comments below!