Don't do four Thanksgivings in one day (and other tips for those who have IBD and/or divorced parents)
Photo courtesy flickr/cobalt123
My parents are divorced and live in two different states, and my husband grew up with the same situation. Since we’ve been together, each winter I feel tugged in four directions for both holidays. And to add to the stress, Thanksgiving also happens to be centered around food, particularly decadent food that I can’t always eat -- which then is often followed by people questioning why I’m not eating what they brought. Clearly, I don’t have this all figured out. But I have found a few things that help make Thanksgiving easier to stomach.
Take Wednesday through Friday off if you can. Or longer, if you have the time. I’ve taken the risk before of working on days adjacent to holidays, expecting there to be a quiet office and no urgent work. But if this backfires, you end up being the only person there to handle a crisis -- and stress is a big IBD trigger for me and many others -- with little solace besides leftover stuffing.
Get refills on medications. You don’t want to have to be searching online on Wednesday night for the closest 24/7 pharmacy to your in-laws’ house. Or worse, have to skip doses and have worse symptoms during your pseudo-vacation time.
Make sure the menu works for you, and be prepared for questions. Volunteer to make your favorite dishes, so that you’re sure they’re IBD-friendly. And be honest (with others and yourself) about what you can’t eat if they check with you ahead of time -- people usually don’t ask in advance if they’re not willing to accommodate. And be prepared with quick responses for when family members make sometimes concerned, sometimes just intrusive comments and questions during the meal.
“How’s your Crohn’s doing lately? I heard you had a colonoscopy recently?”
“You’re not even gonna try eating that?”
“And who exactly has told you that you shouldn’t eat that?”
I have heard all of these. Mostly from one person. A brief, matter-of-fact answer and redirect of the conversation is usually sufficient: “I’m feeling great right now, thanks for asking. But so I heard that your dog is expecting puppies!” (Or any other topic that is more appropriate for the setting than the one they chose; if they insist, I think it’s fine to say, “you know, I’ve thought about it so much, I’d love to just not have to think about it for today if that’s OK.”
Think hard before hosting. Would having dinner (and potentially having overnight guests) at your home and sleeping in your own bed actually make things easier on you, or would it be nice to travel and not be responsible for hosting and cleaning up? The answer depends on a lot of different factors for each person. But if you don’t host, then …
Don’t do four Thanksgivings in one day. It’s not easy, and it took a lot of trial and error for me (and I still don’t have it all figured out), but make the decision that feels best to you and makes you the happiest.
Do Black Friday online, or skip it. Anyone with a chronic illness doesn’t need to be waking up and standing in the cold at 3 am for three hours for anything less than an emergency.
Author Katie McLendon is a CCFA support group facilitator in Atlanta who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2005. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist with a Master of Public Health degree from Emory University, and works as an editor for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Follow Katie on Twitter: @katiefmclendon