Thanksgiving Tips.

There are many, many posts out there about how to have the best Thanksgiving ever. There are guides on what wines to serve with your turkey. There are guides on how to perfectly roast your turkey. There are guides about which Thanksgiving guide to follow. 

If you’re chronically ill, it’s hard to find a guide that fits your life. How can you best prepare a gluten free, dairy free meal…without passing out when you stand up? How can you politely duck out of activities once you’ve reached your limit? 

Over the years, I’ve come up with my own “Thanksgiving Tips.” Here are my best holiday coping skills:

  • Wear comfy clothes. It may be tempting to overdress and impress your relatives, but spending the day in those killer heels may be, well, killer. Wearing leggings may be an option, as they don’t compress your stomach if you try a bite of something you didn’t know you were intolerant to, and you start to bloat. Loose-fitting shirts or flowy dresses also work well to hide bloating, and are more comfortable than something constricting.
  • Bring food you can eat, or eat ahead of time! Too many holidays, I’ve been stuck at a well-meaning relative’s house with nothing I  can eat. Over the years, I’ve learned to eat ahead of time, and bring a small snack to eat while I’m at the holiday event.
  • Schedule rest. If you wait until you’re about to fall over to rest, you’re probably going to ruin your holiday. Make time to rest during the busy holiday schedule.
  • Have conversation topics ready. If you get asked prying questions about your health that you’re not comfortable answering, feel free to switch to a safer topic like politics. It helps me if I come up with safe topics ahead of time, so I’m prepared if a conversation I don’t want to be part of pops up. This is a good tip even if you don’t have chronic illnesses- nothing ruins a holiday like a huge family argument.
  • BE PREPARED. Every year, before Christmas and Thanksgiving, I stock up on anti-nausea medications, first aid kits, Sprite, ginger ale, and anything else I think I might need. It’s truly better to be safe than sorry, and fighting Black Friday crowds for a two-liter of Sprite and a bottle of pediasure is something you won’t do more than once.
  • Enjoy yourself! It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of the holidays, and push yourself into a flare. The holidays are all about spending time with the people who mean the most to you, and you should have fun! 

Do you have any tips for dealing with the holidays while chronically ill? 

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Managing Traditions.

As long as I can remember, we’ve had a live Christmas tree. It was part of the hustle and bustle of the holidays. On Thanksgiving, after our meal, the entire family would load up in the truck and ride thirty or forty minutes to our favorite Christmas tree farm. After several arguments about the type of tree we should buy, the size of the tree we should buy, and finally which tree we should pick out, it was up to my little brother to chop the tree down. My dad would drag the tree back to the truck, we’d pay, and drive it all the way back home. Several torturous hours later, our house was filled with the scent of fir and the glitter of Christmas decorations.

This year, my mom managed to get an artificial tree for free. It was a pop up tree, and took five minutes to assemble. She was happy- there were no arguments, no sweeping up needles from the floor, and there was no need for daily watering. On the other hand, I cried hysterically for thirty minutes. My family, panicked, assured me that we would go out and buy a real tree as soon as the Christmas tree farm opened. They didn’t know that a simple family tradition meant so much to me.

It wasn’t just the Christmas tree. No one can justify crying for thirty minutes because they didn’t get a decoration they wanted. 

See, I’ve been sick my whole life. Weird symptoms, strange test results, long nights in the ER, the works. Since I grew up this way, I never thought about it. I knew I was limited, and I couldn’t do some activities the rest of my peers could. I just never imagined it would get worse.

Get worse it did, starting in high school. A dysautonomia diagnosis explains six years of passing out, but part of my treatment involves only eating small meals. A celiac diagnosis last year caught me just in time for the holidays; no more stuffing would grace my Thanksgiving plate. This year, I was caught with an emergency thyroidectomy. In August, I was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. My health took a nosedive.

Combine all that, and the holidays were looking pretty dismal. The thought of ditching another tradition (along with all the rolls, casseroles, and pies I could no longer enjoy) was, frankly, depressing. That’s when, with the help of my family and friends, I got a taste of true holiday spirit. My family and friends came together to help me figure out some new plans and traditions for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

An adapted menu is easy. Crustless pumpkin pie, because no one likes the crust anyway. Roasted vegetables as a side, and green beans with almonds instead of green bean casserole. If you think of your favorite holiday foods, it’s generally easy to figure out how to adapt them to you or your family’s dietary needs. 

Decorations are harder. If you can’t manage a live Christmas tree, there’s no shame in an artificial tree with pre-strung lights. Hanging lights outside is hard, but a few flameless candelabras in the windows add a hint of cheer with minimal effort or injury. Put some ornaments in a pretty bowl with a sprig or two of greenery and a candle and you’ve got a centerpiece!

It’s easy to get burnt out on social activity when you’re chronically ill. You barely have the energy to attend one family function, much less three family functions and a friend’s party. It’s alright to take time to yourself during this busy season. Not only will it make you feel better, but it will improve your relationships with your family and friends if you’re not constantly snapping at them or falling asleep at the dinner table- trust me, I learned this the hard way.

What are your best holiday tips and traditions?

 

Roasted Carrots and Onions

Today was a rainy, cold day in my area. If any of you have a chronic illness, then you know what that means- flare day! I got out of bed this morning and promptly managed to sublux an elbow lifting a powerade bottle. Thanks to a series of unfortunate events, I’m really relying on comfort foods this month to keep my stress and pain levels manageable. So, for dinner tonight, I convinced the fiance that we should make roasted carrots and onions. It’s quick, easy, and we had all the ingredients in the fridge! What could go wrong? The oven, that’s what.

Has anyone ever watched Sabrina the Teenage Witch? In some episodes, the joke is that the Spellman oven can’t get up to the specified temperature for certain potions, like 5000 degrees. I don’t think we would have a problem with these recipes at our house. We know that our oven is slightly off, so we have to adjust our recipes accordingly. The recipe told us to cook the carrots for 30 minutes, and we set a timer for fifteen. When we pulled them out of the oven, smoke was billowing from them. They were completely black. If your oven has heating problems, like ours does, you might want to check your carrots more often than the recipe suggests.
carrots large
Once we finally got the time and temperature settings right, the carrots were a hit! We’ve made two batches tonight and we’re planning to make more tomorrow. Here is the recipe:

  • One pound carrots
  • 1 onion
  • Olive oil to coat
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash and peel carrots and onion. Slice into desired thickness and length. To save time, you can use pre-washed baby carrots for this recipe. Toss in olive oil with salt and pepper. Spread in single even layer on cookie sheet. Roast for ten to fifteen minutes. Flip, then roast ten to fifteen more minutes. Enjoy!

Introduction.

Hi! I’m Brittany, a twenty-something living in the south-east United States. I’m a doting cat mom, fashion fiend, and avid foodie. I’m engaged to a wonderful guy, and I spend my free time adventuring with my best friend. I’m also invisibly ill. I’ve been diagnosed with Celiac, Dysautonomia, and a rare genetic disorder, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Thanks to my illnesses, I spend a lot of time trying to advocate and raise awareness for other people with invisible illnesses! 

I’m clearly not a doctor, and cannot treat, diagnose, or cure any of your medical problems. This blog is to discuss my medical journey, my lovely pets, and hopefully to raise awareness. Join me, and follow me on twitter @asouthernceliac !