The lead up to Thanksgiving was particularly stressful this year. Not only did my husband’s self-absorbed grandmother try to hi-jack the kids for a week at the last minute—which would leave us alone on Thanksgiving—we didn’t even know if my husband was going to be able to get the day off.
Thinking my husband might have to work was especially tough as Thanksgiving has always been a special holiday around our house. My husband and I both love to cook and spend time with the kids, and Thanksgiving was the one holiday that was just us, without criticism from family over the cleanliness of our home, how late we were because I had a flare, how long we stayed, or whether we brought food we didn’t know we were supposed to bring.
Thankfully, we found out Sunday night that my husband would have the day off—but we hadn’t even bought our turkey. So, after a long workday on Monday, we dragged our sore, tired, and achy bodies—my husband also lives with rheumatoid arthritis—to the grocery store along with our kids to get what we needed.
We did all right, putting a menu together, and in less than 24 hours, buying the food for a simple, delicious and totally gluten free meal (I’m gluten intolerant). The kids chimed in and got what they wanted – cantaloupe, watermelon, my daughter her strawberry cupcakes, and my son some sort of chocolate pie or cake.
My husband and I were a real tag team in the grocery store; When I was over stimulated by all the noise and all the people swarming around and missed a few things on the list because I couldn’t think straight, my husband—who usually gets anxiety in crowded, public places—was calm, clear-headed, and focused. He held onto my arm and helped get us to the finish line.
I was exhausted but had high hopes for the holiday, but then it started raining the day before Thanksgiving.
On Thanksgiving morning it was still raining and my husband, in pain from the weather, managed to get up at 8am to put the turkey in the oven, a turkey he had marinated all night in his homemade marinade. He then crawled back into bed while the kids watched cartoons.
We both got up about 10am sore from the weather—but I also had the beginning of a killer migraine. I also have fibromyalgia and the pressure points in my neck and my lower back were going nuts. My neck was swelling right at the base of my skull, and my lower back was so tender that it was hard to stretch in any one direction very far. Because of the migraine, which was only aggravated by the swelling and pain in my neck, I couldn’t lift my head straight up or I would throw up. I also couldn’t tolerate light or much sound. My seven-year-old son, who was diagnosed with migraines several years ago, had a migraine at the same time.
So….this is what my house looked like on Thanksgiving.
I laid on my couch, going in and out of sleep with my seven-year-old who was also suffering from a mind-splitting migraine, with no way to help it or stop it. Around 3pm, my husband made mashed potatoes and was waiting on me to make the rest. I was unable to function or do anything until 5pm. My husband would come and sit with me, rub my back, or hold me as needed.
When I was able to get up I opened the front door and the back door to let the cool air come in. I then sat at the coffee table with the lights on for the first time that day to cut the cantaloupe and watermelon because standing was not an option yet. I then went into the kitchen to make the stuffing but when I toasted the gluten free bread in the oven, the heat sent me into another flare where my head was spinning and I couldn’t concentrate.
I love my husband and he is a quiet person but not with me. He will talk my ear off, which I usually love unless I don’t feel well. This was one of those moments when I wanted to hit him over the head with a frying pan just to make him be quiet because it took everything I had just to cook. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t hold a conversation.
Our diseases manifest differently and he doesn’t always understand how mine plays out. This was one of those moments. I even managed to gather up enough strength to tell him I was struggling only to have him say, “You can at least listen, can’t you?”
The gods helped me in that moment that I did not kill him. He is usually very compassionate, but missed the mark in that moment. Noise was overstimulating me in combination with the heat, the pain and ache in my body, the kids making noises and watching TV in the next room, and even the sound of the rain pouring down. It was all too much.
I staggered over to the couch and put my head between my knees so as to not throw up. I walked past the front door and saw that he had shut it, then realizing why I was feeling so bad – it was getting hot in there again and sending me into another fibro flare. After I calmed my stomach, I opened the door and stood in front of it a moment. Once I felt better I was able to finish cooking and even enjoy some time in the kitchen with my daughter while we made a special cucumber tomato salad.
We had plans to make cupcakes and chocolate cake but they never materialized. I learned a long time ago that I could only do so much.
We all sat down and ate dinner together, my flare gone along with most of my headache, and really enjoyed our dinner. It was late in the evening but it was ours, and we did it on our own time.