Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Grief & Getting Through The Holidays

The holidays aren't a happy time for everyone. If you have Addison's Disease, you already know this. Stress in the form of places to be and gifts to get and family members arguing and meals to be made can all add up to a major need for additional medication. Pre-diagnosis, I would usually end up sick after a big holiday. Now I know why: my body literally could not handle the stress.

With the proper medications, I can handle the holidays so much better than in the past.

But what if there wasn't a pill that could help?

For too many families, there is nothing this side of heaven that will make them "feel better". I can't help but think of them this time of year.

A childhood friend of mine has had, what I consider, the year from hell. It started off wonderfully, with the birth of her first child in January, a beautiful boy named Gavin.

He unexpectedly died of a stroke at just 3 days old.

Several months later, she became pregnant again. She was scared, as anyone would be, so was enormously relieved to hear that baby's heartbeat.

She miscarried just a short while later.

As if that wasn't enough, cells left over from her miscarriage somehow turned into cancerous tumors and she is now undergoing chemotherapy and all its terrible side effects.

At this time last year, she was celebrating and happily anticipating the birth of her first child.

Now, she is mourning the loss of her babies, of her health, of the memories they should be making celebrating Gavin's first Christmas. Instead of stressing over what gifts to give, she is worrying about what type of chemo gives her the best chance at being able to get pregnant again someday.

I don't write this so you can feel sorry for her. The last thing she wants is pity.

I write this to put our health troubles in perspective. It's easy to get caught up in just how "unlucky" we are. I mean, we have a rare disease that takes years to diagnose (during which time you are told repeatedly that you are insane), little is known about, and many medical professionals don't know how to handle.

But there is medicine that allows us to live. With proper treatment, Addison's Disease is not progressive nor terminal.

Do you know how happy my friend would be to have her baby, regardless if he had a major medical concern like Addison's Disease? Do you know how happy she would be to have Addison's Disease, if it meant she could have her son back? I bet she would not complain once about having to take medications every day or side effects or weight gain or anything.

I fail every single day at carrying this perspective with me. I wish I had her view on life and her understanding of true priorities.

Instead, I catch myself crying because I had to go to three different pharmacies to fill my prescription. 

I think we are lucky when we can learn from others and from her I learn so much. She has told me that she doesn't want to be that family that people hear about and think "Thank God we're not them". I understand where she is coming from, it goes back to not needing anyone's pity. I can't help but feel sorry that so many horrible things have happened to her. But mostly, I admire her.

I honestly marvel at the fact that she manages to get out of bed every day. In similar circumstances, I don't think I could. So yes, when I am feeling like crap, sometimes I do think to myself - Hey, if Heather can get out of bed, you can too.

Not because I pity her, but because she inspires me to not be such a wimp. She reminds me of what is really important in life, of how truly blessed I am, and why I should value every moment.

We were texting earlier today and I said how much the scarcity of a certain something pissed me off. She said it made her more grateful and appreciate of the ones there were. Yeah, that's her response while in the midst of the year from hell. She's incredible and doesn't even know it.

That's the thing about grief. It's a very lonely place. And it can feel even lonelier this time of year. One in four women experience either the death of an infant or a miscarriage...and I'm going to go ahead and guess you know more than four women.

If not, you should probably get off the internet now. 

If you are grieving this holiday season (it doesn't have to be a person, you may be newly diagnosed and grieving the life you thought you would lead), I hope you will reach out for help wherever you can find it. Do what you need to do to get through the holidays and don't let anyone judge you. Join celebrations when you can but know you are the only one who can decide how much you can take.

If this is a joyful season in your life, I hope you'll remember those struggling and consider doing something kind for someone in need. Please remember those missing loved ones and show them kindness if you can.

I also hope you will smile wider and laugh louder, knowing your happiness, as all joy, should be celebrated.

Because you never know what the next holiday will bring.

You can read more about Heather, Gavin, and the rest of her family on her blog or on Baby Gavin's Random Act of Kindness Facebook page.


an Addison alien

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