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I'm Dreaming of a Healthy Christmas...

Just like the ones I used to know.

Holidays are a mixed bag, aren't they? On one hand, they offer a break from routine workday (or sick-day) stress. On the other, they can cause even more stress. First, there's the family get-togethers, which wouldn't be so bad except it means putting up with Uncle Fred or cousin Irma, who want to engage you in an intense conversation about your Lyme disease symptoms (which you're trying unsuccessfully to put out of your mind for one evening), or they are insisting that you immediately make an appointment to see this really amazing doctor they found because (although they have done no research themselves) they don't believe your doctor is treating you correctly.

Or, and this is the more likely scenario, your friends and family are thrilled to see you looking pretty good, walking upright, tracking conversation with ease, so they totally ignore the fact that you are indeed sick. They proceed to put the whole year (or three, or five, etc.) out of their minds completely. Like a bad marriage, your illness gets pushed into the past so everybody in the room can feel more comfortable. Your mother or your dearest friend then proceeds to pour you a glass of wine, pass the See's chocolate, and swoon over little Chloe's sugar cookies which are decorated with more candy than you've seen all year.

You may be able to politely resist the alcohol and pass on the cookie tray, but with a sigh you glance over the traditional holiday foods piled high on the plate your dear ones have placed in front of you. And it smells so good. If you've been making a sincere effort to heal, you have been good for months. No sugar, no wine, no Girl Scout cookies for goodness sake. Why not indulge a little, you tell yourself. However, as anybody with Lyme can tell you, one night of sweet indulgence on sugar or alcohol can zap your strength for many days, bring on a dismal case of brain fog and trigger chronic symptoms such as skin rashes, headaches, and more.

As strict as I am with myself, even I find it difficult to resist holiday temptations. A colleague wanted to meet downtown at a local brewery the other day. I had my last beer on Halloween and it brought about a skin rash on my fingers and hands, my weakest spot and most pernicious symptom. I am not drinking beer anymore. And wine, which is said to be good for you, is still alcohol, it's still sugar, and although it's a lovely thing to share a toast with your dear ones over the holidays it can be done with mineral water. Discipline? Yes, you need it in spades. Determination too. But tell me, what more motivating factor do you need than your own recent experience with Lyme symptoms?

My life is no less joyful or rich because I am not sipping wine, ordering a slice of heavenly Tiramisu, or dipping into the candy bowl after dinner. In fact it's just the opposite. The quality and beauty of my life intensifies the more I tend to my health. This Christmas I'll lift my glass and toast to my loved ones' health. Perhaps it's a cliche that if you have your health you have everything, but it's true.

Happy holidays, everybody. May you have fulfilling work, understanding relatives, true friends, and a clear mind and healthy heart so you may enjoy them all. "Wisdom is to the soul what health is to the body."
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