When you have fibromyalgia (FMS) or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), cooking a simple meal can lead to panic attacks. Socializing for a couple of hours can wipe you out. And cleaning? It doesn't do good things for us, either.
A holiday like Thanksgiving, that requires a ton of shopping, chopping, cooking, baking, serving, talking, and cleaning can practically send us into a flare just thinking about it.
I'm lucky - we live near my husband's somewhat large extended family, and his grandmother always hosts Thanksgiving. His mom and aunts do the bulk of the cooking and cleaning. Our generation is left with just bringing a salad or side dish or dessert. That means I don't have to do much shopping, get my house perfect, bake and prep for days, then clean up after a house full of people. That makes things a whole lot easier.
Even so, I do have to do some work above and beyond the norm. And I do have to be social with 20-30 people - in a cramped, noisy house that always way too hot - for 12 hours or so.
Just that "little bit" can take a toll on me. I don't expect to be terribly functional for a couple of days afterward.
To minimize the impact, I try to do a few things:
- Take dishes that are simple for me to prepare
- Spread out my food cooking and preparation over a few days
- Dress for a warm environment
- Avoid hot beverages
- Go to an unoccupied area of the house periodically to relax
- Take extra meds and supplements with me in case I need them
One nice thing is that at least I don't have to cook the next day!
Thanksgiving is a lot harder for those who host dinner or have to travel.
When You're the Host
If the big dinner is at your house, don't be afraid to ask for help, and don't hesitate to cut a few corners. If your loved ones aren't willing to help you clean your house, they can live with a little dust. (I know, it's hard for me to accept this too, but we need to!) Dole out food assignments for all but a few basics that you know you can handle. Then, assign clean-up duties so you're not left with a disaster in the kitchen.
My family is really big on everything being homemade and it's always been a point of pride with me, as well. Over the past several years, though, I've learned that I have to compromise here and there. The fact that I've bought a few pie crusts horrifies me to no end, but yes, I do it when I need to. If there's someone in your life who insists that a particular thing be a particular way, make that person - not you - responsible for it.
It may not be the most popular choice, but think about whether you really need to eat off of grandma's (hand-wash-only) china or whether everyday dishes or even paper plates will do.
If hosting Thanksgiving is too much for you, it might be time for you to pass along those duties to someone else. Perhaps it could be at a different house each year. You shouldn't be the only one who works hard to give your family a wonderful day.
When You're Traveling
I hope that traveling to Thanksgiving means you can escape the bulk of the work, because traveling is hard enough! Make sure your host knows that you'll need some time to recover from the journey and can't jump right in to helping.
If possible, go early enough that you have at least one day to rest before the holiday.
To contribute without working yourself too hard, consider offering to supply a centerpiece or pitching in financially in lieu of physical efforts.