The After Holiday Crash


My daughter Christine has Lupus and she thinks she is invincible. She tries to overcompensate for the times she feels like hell, by being Superwoman, Supermom and Martha Stewart, all rolled into one.
In the weeks preceeding Christmas her home looked like a Winter Wonderland, tastefully decorated with snowmen and snowflakes. She had her precious daughter Olivia’s picture taken with Santa and her photo cards were out on time- way before mine. Chris even managed to buy and wrap over 40 gifts and bake about 10 dozen batches of cookies. She definitely had the Spirit of Christmas and her energy level seemed nothing short of a Christmas miracle.

Fast forward two days after Christmas; the presents were all unwrapped, the cookies were now crumbs, the parties and family get togethers were all over and my daughter’s house looked like Babies R Us had relocated to her living room. Unfortunately, Christine had hit the wall. Lying among the torn wrapping paper and pile of toy doubles that needed to be returned, I found my daughter crashed on the couch. She was totally depleted- she had spent all her “spoons” on the holiday and now she was left with none. Chris was upset that she was again sick- that Lupus had flared its ugly head once more.
But I am sure Chris is far from alone. Since Christmas, so many of my friends, the healthy ones, have all been bitten by a strange “bug.” They think it’s a virus, but I think it’s “Holidaydepletion.” Everyone, especially women, wear themselves out during the month of December in hopes of creating the perfect holiday of their dreams. And on top of that, I find that many people with a chronic illness turn down one of two paths. They either become depressed and give up, saying that the holidays are overwhelming or they do what my daughter does and over-achieves, trying to make everything perfect, even though her body is not. I once told Chris she had an over-achiever’s mind in an under-achiever’s body.
So back to the proverbial Wall that so many hit after the holiday. Be kind to yourself- allow yourself the luxury of sleep, without guilt or fretting. Do all the things your mother used to remind you to do- drink lots of water, eat healthy food, take your vitamins, soak in a warm bath, put your feet up and most of all rest. For those with an illness, don’t always think your cold or run down condition is from your illness, the healthy among you are dragging themselves around too.
Article written by Janet Miserandino,
If you liked this article, you may also like the following articles written by the same author:
10 Lessons My Daughter Has Taught Me
Lupus Sucks!

  • Furry Godmother

    Wonderfully sensitive view point, Janet. Thanks for sharing.

  • I am learning not to over-do it on the holidays. My husband got all the gifts, baked cookies, cleaned up. I decorated the tree in a hour. BUT we traveled to see family. I thought I was doing ok, until the day after Christmas I woke up with a fever. Yay. At least for Christmas I got a trip to the spa.

  • Marilyn Wissel

    And on top of that, I find that many people with a chronic illness turn down one of two paths. They either become depressed and give up, saying that the holidays are overwhelming or they do what my daughter does and over-achieves, trying to make everything perfect, even though her body is not. This year I gave up! It was the ONLY thing I could do. My body is unable to do what it could. I pray that the future will be better. Thanks for the article.

  • Melody Ream

    I’m right there with the other spoonies. I crashed around 2pm on Christmas day. I doubt I’ll ever learn to listen to body and learn from my mistakes. I care, but the little kids don’t realize how much energy you put into decorating the house, sending the cards on time and making sure everything is perfect. Then with no spoons left you must put it all away again. I’d resolve to not run out of spoons next Christmas, but we all know that resolution would be broken.
    Happy New Year to all!!

  • linda

    I pulled back all the stops I could, most of the cooling was pre-prepped by Boston Market, I put a few personal favorite recipes and set it all up buffet style. Did most of my shopping online, rested when I need to, got my tree decorated. Thought I’d be OK… wrong!
    I still am totally drained more rest and doing nothing till all is better and a few spoons are back in reserve.
    Happy New Year!

  • I have scaled back as much as I can scale back, but the post-holiday flare arrives with a vengeance anyway. Even last year, when I was snowed in by a blizzard and didn’t do anything at all for three days, the flare came. About the best I can hope for is to minimize the strength and duration of the flare. Sigh.

  • Anney

    Thank you so much for writing this. Your daughter and I have a lot in common. I loved how you put it: “an over-achiever’s mind with an under-achiever’s body.” That is me. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that you just can’t do most of the things that you could before. That you have to make sure that you are always keeping track of your spoons. My husband tends to be the voice of reason. As he watches the energy and strength depleting from my body, he makes me stop. Of course, being stubborn, I complete the task at hand and than concede. You see, to me, a lot of the time the mental rewards outweigh the horrible physical repercussions by far. It sounds like you understand your daughter and her disease well. Again, thank you for sharing.

  • MiniMorg

    Very true. I was a fool and left all my xmas wrapping until last minute (although my mum helped). I went nuts socialising, and generally breaking my limits over Christmas Eve, Xmas Day, and boxing day. Especially because I was at my partners house and their posh aunt came to stay. Its now hit me in a several day fibro flare up . Lucky I have such a caring fiance and a whole heap of yummy chocolate. And I got a bubbling bath spa for a present. Can’t wait to try it out. ;-D

  • Since all of my children are scattered in different states I didnt do Christmas at all. I always felt Christmas were for the grandchildren now. Having this RA cant really travel much. Got it in my feet real bad. In need of a hip replacement. So @ times I am out of wrack anyway. But I do still feel like I am Blessed! Things could be way way worse. This year has really been rough, since that RA travelled itself into my feet. Hope that all will have a HAPPY NEW YEARS & GOD BLESS. God is GOOD….isnt that right!!

  • Steph

    Thank you Janet! You say what we all experience from a loved one’s point of view so eloquently.

    Sooo, ummmmm, whatcha tryin’ to say there Angie? 😉

  • Angie_stl

    This is a wonderful article! There are so many of us that do this kind of thing even though we know we are going to pay in the end. You are a great mother for even just recognizing the problem and trying to help. I love the “overachiever’s mind in an underchiever’s body” idea. It’s perfect for so many spoonies that I know cough*Steph*cough.

  • I am learning not to over-do it on the holidays. My husband got all the gifts, baked cookies, cleaned up. I decorated the tree in a hour. BUT we traveled to see family. I thought I was doing ok, until the day after Christmas I woke up with a fever. Yay. At least for Christmas I got a trip to the spa.

  • Sally

    None of us are Superwoman/Superman – we all need help. Delegate or do it together; my husband and son put up the tree and decorated it (OK so I have to put up with their choice!), they delivered the cards/took them to the Post Office. We all did a bit of cooking and we’ve got into the habit of having the different courses as different meals so we don’t overeat and it doesn’t take so much effort in one go. Yes, I still overdid it but no-one minds if I go to bed for a few hours during the day and then sleep for 12 hours at night, we all quite enjoy the quiet restful days after Christmas. My best present was a page of IOUs from my 12 year old son – each one for a household chore that I can ask him to do when I need extra help.
    Enjoy your holidays and relax.

  • isabelle janicaud

    i did it too…still wiped.

  • Nancy

    I am completely out of spoons and did nothing.

    My family is not close and my daughter has moved in with my sister and her family. My daughter has issues with my being sick the entire time she was growing up.

    I used up my spoons dealing with being alone for the holidays.

    Believe me, it’s just as exhausting…

  • Natasha

    I did exactly the same thing as I do every year. I have Fibromyalgia. I wound up spending 3 nights in a row before Christmas staying up way too late wrapping presents…and that doesnt include all the holiday get togethers and shopping. there were 3 dinners to go to, one day after the other. Christmas Eve I was almost passing out from exhaustion as I played Santa for my 3 kids by myself, being a single Mom. Christmas morning my children were begging me to get out of bed at 11 am. Thankfully they are understanding but they were tired of their stockings by then. Now, it has all caught up to me and my body really feels it. I don’t learn, I WANT my body to co-operate and so I think it should just because there are things to do, and force it to even if it makes me sick. Eventually though, it gives up on you until you give it the rest it desperately needs. I want more spoons so badly. 🙁

  • Julie Van Norman

    Thank you for this article. It really helped to know that I am not alone here with my mind still thinking it can do what my body is not able to. This was my first time in seven years of having CRPS that I was able to sew and make gifts! Not because the illness is better but because I have learned to work with the illness instead of it working me. Naps and rest breaks are essentials because most of us pain sufferers have difficulty sleeping at night. I have learned to stop apologizing to others about what I can’t do and allow myself the courage to say; ” I can’t do that right now, but I will try when I can”. There is so much right about taking care of you. I believe for us this is not a luxury but a necessity! So here’s to celebrating a New Year with love, encouragement and less pain to all. Blessings, Julie

  • Janet

    Yup, you’d think a person who has gone through this before would realize that they cannot do it all anymore. I didn’t do any baking. Felt bad but oh well, my fibro body comes first finally. Still, I am exhausted as if I’d done it all.

  • June

    So true…..I have run of out of spoons….so glad the holidays are over.

  • Great article, Janet. Thank you for sharing. Mom’s are a great thing to have around. Reading your article made me realize again how much I miss mine. Thanks for being such a great Mom to Christine.

  • Charlayne Elizabeth Denney

    I decided just before Thanksgiving that this year I was going to hold on tight to my spoons. I’ve been the mom/grandma who has done the huge family dinner, put up the huge tree, shopped for a gazillion presents, wrapped them all, made paper snowflakes and wreaths and all the other things that have been such a big part of our family celebration.

    This year I have had more problems with the fibromyalgia and the back problem. Moving around doing things has been hard and I just do not have the energy to do it. So, I told my kids that I was letting them do it. My two middle kids aren’t speaking this year (stupid arguments, as usual) so they won’t be in the same room. So my son told me he would cook Thanksgiving and his sister did hers at home. Then for Christmas, we went to the daughter’s house and just went to the son’s house to do presents with the two grandkids. The oldest son was with his girlfriend and the youngest daughter lives 800 miles away so we phoned in. I only had to make deviled eggs and fruit salad for the Christmas dinner and we had a nice, leisurely visit (and none of the dishes).

    I’m relaxing and I am not sweating things this year. And my husband is off this week and we’re getting time to just be with each other.

    I think that, even if the kids work it out, I’m going to let them become the center of attention and we’ll just come and visit with them.

  • Linda

    So true and I too am feeling the effects of the holidays but I have learned to pace myself. Even so, I still feel the effects. This year on top of everything else, I broke my foot so it is really hard to get around.

    I love this part of your article…an over-achiever’s mind in an under-achiever’s body.

    I understand that feeling. Thank you for sharing.

  • Carolynn

    I feel for her… I did much the same this year, and am struggling today in much the same way. I felt a lot of guilt this year- we lost our home, in part because I couldn’t work though we needed the extra income, I wasn’t as much an active participant and volunteer at school, etc, etc, etc. I think trying to make the Holiday perfect was me over compensating.

    But really, they have another week of break, and what good am I to them NOW??

  • Lori

    I am SO exhausted today, I can hardly see straight. Of course, I overdid the week of Christmas. The Wednesday before, I was SO tired after walking around K-Mart and wanted to go home. My DH decided we needed to go to Walmart yet, even though I told him I wasn’t in th mood to walk around another store and didn’t have enough energy. (I have Fibromyalgia and osteo-arthritis in both knees, plus a bunch of other health issues). By the time we got home, I was SO exhausted and hurting all over, that I didn’t even want to get out of the car and then I still had to put away the groceries! Lately, I’ve had ALOT of problems sleeping (I see 2am-4am alot), because I have to get myself completely exhausted or the pain wakes me up. By Friday, I was in so much pain that I was in the fetal position in tears. Since it was Christmas Eve day, my doctor’s office was closed. Luckily, the on-call doctor was willing to prescribe a few pain pills to get me through Christmas. Christmas Eve was spent at my in-laws even though we live in the same city…so I slept on a couch and got about 2 1/2 hrs sleep before driving another 2 hrs to celebrate Christmas with relatives. I am way beyond exhausted (if you can’t tell by the amount of times I’ve used that word! lol.) Tried to go to bed early last night…my daughter woke me up twice, someone texted me 3 times and then my DH gave me the guilt trip that my 5 yr old daughter was crying because I wasn’t awake to tuck her in. So, I got about an hour of sleep before I was back out of bed to take care of her and, or couse, then I couldn’t sleep. I love my daughter dearly and would do anything for her, but this was the first time in a long time that I was putting myself first. Was heading back to bed about 3am and she had woken up scared, so I spent the next few hours sleeping on her bedroom floor. Talk about beyond being sore and exhausted!!! And I am completely out of pain medication.

  • Kelly

    What a beautifully written article and a great reminder for us spoonies! It really touched home with me. Christine is lucky to have such a great Mom. 🙂
    Happy Holidays to everyone. I hope Christine feels better soon – without rushing it – and I hope we all take the time to get the rest we need.

  • Kathy Auen

    Loved your article. Unfortunately I broke my foot on 12/9 so I wasn’t able to do much. Somehow, though, the holidays tool their toll on me and today I woke up rather swollen~RA strikes! I’m going to try to take your advice. Thanks!!

  • Lara

    feel better fast Christine!!!

    my dh was off this past week, and without his help i couldn’t have made it through all the shopping, cooking, for our family get together on christmas eve….

    there are a lot of things i wanted to accomplish, and more that i wanted to cook, and buy as gifts, but i have to balance what i can do realistically, with what i wish i can do.

    and, i have to be grateful that everything came together, even if it wasn’t the way i would have done it.

    my usual flare (central demyelinating disease) is much less than it was a year ago this time. and i am most grateful for that as well.

    take care,

  • Beth

    I know I over-did it this Christmas. Big family party on Christmas Eve. Ice skating Christmas Day with my nephew. (Don’t ask me what I was thinking on that one!) And cleaning the whole house the day after. Here I am at work on Monday – with just enough energy to drink my coffee and type this comment. Good thing all my bosses are on vacation today. Since my body and my brain are running on empty. (Can you have half a spoon?) I’m so grateful for this website. I don’t participate often – but it does help to see that other people feel like I do and understand what having a chronic although invisible illness is like. God Bless and have a Happy and HEALTHY New Year!
    Beth Lynch

  • Melissa

    I am a single mommy that has SLE/RA and Seizure Disorder; I know all too well about the after holiday burnout. This year I did it with a fractured hip and pnuemonia. We all over do it, use spoons we don’t have and make Christmas for our family and make it successful. I am now on the sofa very ill and wishing I would have handled myself better; then I think back to the day of my two little girls and all the smiles I recieved and the big hug and kiss for all that “Santa” has done for them. The very moments we never know if we will have next year or be well enough to bake, produce Christmas Programs for our churches, go to parties and watch the next year roll in with thousands of other people in the square of your town. Save spoons and be well and always feel blessed to have your time. Happy 2008!!!!

  • I’m moving very slowly today after we had a New Year’s feast for 25. After all these years of illness (30), I’ve learned I have to pace myself- cooking tires me more than anything else that I do so I take 3 days to do what others do in 1 day. But I do it and love it. So what’s new? Everyone gets tired – but with chronic illness, it’s just more so and we have to learn how to take care of ourselves that much more so. But taking care of ourselves includes doing what brings us pleasure, too. Rosalind Joffe

  • Mary Lou Loyanich

    I think I’m older than Janet and I still haven’t learned to pace myself during December, even though our eldest daughter has taken over almost everything … she decorates our house (with our traditional dozen trees), buys gifts for us to give even each other, and food for the grand Christmas Eve open house … oh, by the way, she has Crohn’s, asthma, and several other invisible diseases.

  • Carol

    Thanks for letting me know that I am not the only one who overdid.
    Hugs to Christine.

  • Nancy Fortner

    As I started reading this article I already knew what the ending would be. That sounded like me before I realized that I not only had to be careful not to use up all my daily spoons, but also to keep some in reserve that my body could use for healing. This Christmas I kept present-buying within limits (mostly for the grandchildren, since money is tight), and I started selecting them in the fall so I was ready a couple of weeks before Christmas. Wherever possible I used gift bags to save wrapping chores. I baked one batch of cookies and then participated in a cookie exchange so I had a variety. (I don’t eat them, myself for health reasons.) My husband and I had a quiet Christmas Eve at home by the fire with a short tour of the neighborhood lights, Christmas dinner at a daughter’s house,(with me just bringing a healthy relish plate and some of the exchanged cookies). For decorations we had a wreath on the door and a poinsettia on the doostep, a small table-top artificial tree, a child-friendly Nativity scene, a Christmas card display, and a Christmas tablecloth. It took me less than an hour to take down and store all these decorations a few days after Christmas. During the holidays I was careful to stick to my housekeeping routines, so I didn’t create any “backlog” of things to do. I kept to my health care routines, taking my medicines, eating a helathy diet, getting regular gentle exercise, scheduling rest periods during the day, and scheduling enough time in bed for adequate sleep. So Christmas is past, and I feel fine! Furthermore, I congratulate myself for managing it well while putting a priority on taking care of myself.

  • In years past I have been just like your daughter, but this year an intense fibro flare kept me from doing as much, but I still pushed to my limit and still crashed. 20+ years of this and you would think I should know better!