Updated: Nov 20
Christmas and New Year's Eve are always such a big celebration for the whole world. Before I sustained my brain injury, I loved it, but now it makes me feel more stressed so I am celebrating it in a very different way than I was used to.
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How I celebrated Christmas and New Year before my brain injury
Before my accident, I LOVED all holidays. In the Netherlands, we celebrate Christmas Eve as the first Christmas day, and Chrismas day as the second Christmas day. Mostly, I celebrated the first Christmas day with my family, the second one with my boyfriend's family, and even a third Christmas day with my friends. I was traveling from place to place, enjoyed the food and the drinks, and never even had one thought that it was too much to handle.
New Year’s Eve
Right after Christmas, New Year’s Eve was around the corner and I was even more excited about that. Mostly we went to a party and spent the whole night dancing and having drinks. Most of the time I came home early in the morning when the sun was already up. Again I never ever thought about missing some sleep and that it could be too much for me, I just did it without even thinking.
The Holidays during the first year after my brain injury
Right now I feel more stressed when the holidays are coming closer and I don’t party or drink at all, maybe just a little sip of champagne, but that’s it. I remember my first Christmas and New Year after I sustained my concussion. I celebrated Christmas with just my parents at home, no more family, just the three of us. I couldn’t enjoy it and had to leave the table before we could end dinner.
I felt so sad that I could not even celebrate Christmas with just my parents over a simple dinner; it was frustrating. I wanted to do so many things but I could do so little. I was already “sick” for 7 months and was wondering if I could ever celebrate Christmas like I normally did. Just not knowing if this was ever going to be possible was really hard.
I spent the rest of Christmas in front of the fireplace wondering if this would be my life forever. Would I have to deal with Post-Concussion Syndrome for the rest of my life? Sad, right?
New Year’s Eve
Most of my friends went to a party or had drinks at home. I thought I should maybe join the “drinks at home party” just to not be alone at home. But not even surviving a Christmas dinner with my parents made me decide to stay at home. All I needed was sleep and a safe quiet place; I couldn’t handle more people. I felt sad, I had the feeling I missed so many great things, that I was losing my friends for not joining anything anymore. It felt horrible.
I tried to stay positive, which was really hard during that time but it made me more motivated than ever to focus even more on my health in the upcoming year of 2018. The last year (2017, since my accident in May) was hard as I waited to get better, just waiting to let my brain injury disappear miraculously. I took much rest as my doctor told me to do, but it didn’t work; I didn’t feel any better, but even worse.
I didn’t want to “wait” anymore. I needed to take action in order to get better, which is what I felt after spending the holidays like this. I decided to look for some new options in January instead of only taking some rest. Maybe I needed these feelings to motivate me to move forward.
Christmas & New Year’s Eve right now - Post Concussion Syndrome
Now 4-5 years have passed and I have learned so many more things when I compare my first Christmas and New Year’s Eve with how I celebrate it now. I have recovered more but still, I am not fully healed from post-concussion syndrome and I am not able to celebrate the holidays like I used to. It took a long time to be okay with it and I think grief and acceptance is a time-consuming process. Patience is everything and In the end, I am happy with how my holidays are right now.
I am able to have a nice dinner with my family and not have to leave the table before the dinner is over. But of course, I have to make more adjustments if you compare it to others.
These things are helping me to enjoy and survive the holidays:
That Christmas dinner is the only thing I plan for during that day.
I don’t make any meals myself anymore. My family gets that and if someone is not okay with it I can always order food. No more stress about planning/cooking.
I don’t drink alcohol anymore. Maybe in that moment you feel okay, but afterwards, or the next day, I really feel hungover even with just one glass.
I take more breaks. During the courses, I leave the table and take at least 5 minutes for myself at a quiet place. I meditate or just close my eyes.
I take some Ibuprofen which really helps me with the sensory overload.
I make sure there is no (loud) music.
I don’t use any screens during Christmas, this is helping me a lot to save my energy.
I make sure to eat healthily, it’s helping me to feel better and more energized.
I go for a walk outside every day just by myself.
I don’t plan a third Christmas day with friends anymore, we plan it on another day in December now.
I only make plans for dinner in small groups, no big groups anymore.
No more parties or big family gatherings for me anymore. People around me know this and respect it. The people who didn’t respect it are not part of my life anymore. At that moment I was really sad about it but now after all, I am so happy this happened. The people who are in my life right now totally respect me. Maybe I have fewer friends now but at least they are my real friends and that’s what matters.
I really hope you can enjoy the holidays even with your brain injury / post-concussion syndrome. If you need more tips or just want to share your worries about how to survive it I am always open for a chat.
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