It’s the holiday season and everywhere we look we see pictures of smiling faces. As the Christmas carol goes, “It’s the hap-happiest season of all.” Yet, I know this isn’t true for everyone; in fact, it can be an extremely difficult time of the year for many. For those who have lost loved ones, those suffering through divorce, or a myriad of other challenges, this time of the year can bring great sadness and despair.
Having been diagnosed with lupus over three decades ago, I have known this sadness. For patients, coming to terms with the loss of our pre-illness life can leave one feeling sad, depressed and hopeless. This is particularly true at the holidays when expectations can run high. Illness can impact our finances, relationships, careers, energy levels, weight and more. Over the past few weeks, I’ve read numerous online posts from people who have been affected in these ways by illness. As patients, how can we emotionally cope with what sometimes seem to be insurmountable challenges? Reaching out for support from friends, family, or an organized support group is always a good idea. Yet taking just a single action, no matter how small, can alleviate some of our feelings of powerlessness, loneliness and despair.
This past year has been a rough one for me health-wise. Beginning with a trip to the emergency room and hospital stay last year on Christmas day, I have since dealt with a host of sometimes overwhelming health challenges that are still hanging around a full year later. I’ve had some days that have been tough to get through, yet I refused to quit. In the many years I’ve lived with lupus, I’ve learned from experience (unfortunately) and other patients that a single action on my part can shift my feelings and perspective.
Around the holidays each year, I commit to posting “Today’s Smile” on Facebook (for the whole story click here). This involves finding one thing, no matter how insignificant it may seem, that brings a smile to my face each day and then sharing it with others. This simple action keeps me moving in a positive direction and, hopefully, encourages others. This exercise did not begin because I was sick or feeling blue, it began because I refused to get caught up in the craziness of the holiday season and be angry at the person who cut me off in a parking lot. Yet, this year while suffering through numerous health challenges, it has served me well. Even on the days when I might not feel like smiling, I’m forced to look for something so that I can post it. I cannot tell you how much finding one small thing to smile about can shift my mood.
For those of you going through challenging times this holiday season, my heart goes out to you. I offer the following as a gift and one small step out of your darkness. Think of one single positive action can you take today. Perhaps you might write to a friend, call a family member, or make a list of the things that you are grateful for in spite of having a chronic illness. Or perhaps you’ll join me and write down your own smile or share it with me on Facebook! This small act can be a stepping stone out of the darkness and into the light.
For today, I’m sending you a great big virtual hug and hope it brings a smile to your face.