As someone who has struggled with the holidays for decades, my goal has long been to do something to help those less fortunate than me at this time of year. My reason was purely selfish. By helping them, I’d also help myself. Who doesn’t feel good after doing a good deed?
I aspired to volunteer at a homeless shelter to prepare or serve a Christmas dinner. Sadly, each year one of my many symptoms — usually pain, fatigue, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — has prevented me from doing so, and this year was no exception. Without this option, I chose to participate in the Angel Tree Project at my spiritual center. There, a tree was on display and each ornament contained the first name and age of a child whose family is served by the local hospice center. It included their three-item wishlist. My heart went out to these kids, so I carefully scanned each ornament to find a list that fit my meager budget. It involved a little shopping (which I did online on Black Friday) and a little wrapping (which I did one night when I couldn’t sleep). It wasn’t a lot, but it was truly a labor of love, knowing those gifts may be the only bright spot in that child’s life this season.
I wished to do more, but again, health and budget concerns intervened. A nasty head cold this year added to my usual fibromyalgia symptoms.
Later, I read in the local paper about a group of parents at a nearby grade school. There are several homeless children among the student population, so the school parents decided to set up a private donation center for them. It would serve both the students’ needs and those of their family members. The community was asked to donate gently used clothing for both the parents and the children.
Finally, I saw my opportunity. You see, my IBS symptoms have improved during the past couple of years. I’ve been less nauseous, I’ve eaten more, and I’ve gained back most of the frightening amount of weight that I lost when those symptoms had been at their worst. As a result, many of the clothes in my closet were way too small for me. I finally discovered the perfect holiday project!
Cleaning out closets is a dreaded and often postponed job for me. Not only is it more physical effort than I can comfortably do, but there are always so many decisions. What if I lose weight again in the future? What if I’m ever able to dance again? What if bell bottoms come back in style? Not this time. At the first sign of indecision, I opted for donation. I actually felt guilty for storing so many things I knew I’d never wear again while others were truly in need. I did a little bit each day (or at least on good days), stopping when fatigue or pain set in, taking satisfaction as my car trunk filled with plastic bags. I continued on until my closets were perfectly organized and contained only what was needed and wearable.
I haven’t decided if I feel more accomplished for creating uncluttered closets for the first time in decades or for actually doing what I’d set out to do this Christmas. I helped someone less fortunate than me. You can do it, too. Don’t let fibromyalgia stop you from taking part in the giving season. Be on the lookout for opportunities to help someone in need. It may not be a cure for your illness, but it should help you to feel better.
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.