How To Survive The Holidays When You Have MS

Step 1: Abandon all hope that your Christmas will look like this

Growing up, Christmas in my family was a BFD. It still is. Like an insanely, big deal. My mom gets up at 5, anxious to tear into presents and eat pie. My dad only encourages her by throwing open the sash (pre-dawn, natch), to bellow “Merry Christmas”, causing all the dogs within a 1/2 mile radius to lose their shit. Compared to these two, Clark Griswold was a hack. I can hardly be blamed for the sugarplums that dance in my head. It’s in my DNA. 

Unfortunately Multiple Sclerosis is also in my DNA, so being able to fully participate in all the holidays have to offer is easier said than done.

Santa’s Secret? It’s mostly Irish cream.
Of course, what happens in December starts in November. And everything seems possible in November. I eagerly say yes to it all, seeing no problem in filling my calendar with concerts, parties, dinners and overall excess. But naive November, with its fall leaves and sense of can-do, is over. It’s mid-December now, which means colds, calories, and credit card debt. The half-decorated tree sits unwatered next to a mound of unwrapped gifts and a sink full of dishes, and somehow I thought I could go to not one, but two parties tonight. And, oh yeah, I promised to bring homemade cookies. 
Who do I even think I am?
Rather than dropping my phone in the toilet and hiding under the covers for the next ten days (OMG there are still TEN DAYS of this madness), I’ve decided to come up with a plan. Turns out, my main concerns during the holidays are really my main concerns IRL, but in December they’re jacked up on cheap champagne. 

Among them:
  • I won’t have enough energy to entertain or shop for gifts.
  • Changes in diet will eff up my delicate system. 
  • I’ll catch a cold and send my MS spiralling out of control. 
  • I won’t have the strength to do all the fun things. FOMO. 
  • People who haven’t seen me for awhile will be startled by my progression.
  • I’ll look drunk without the benefit of actually being drunk.
Thankfully, all of this shit can be managed. Herewith:

How to survive the holidays with MS


Did you know you can get a turkey on the internet now? Yup. A turkey. I’d like to be the kind of girl who can pull off a turkey dinner. And I am. Sort of. Secret sharing time: after deciding it would be super fun to host said supper, when the time finally came, I didn’t know how I was going to will my body into cooperation. Instead of bailing, I unapologetically ordered a pre-cooked turkey. And why would I apologize? I’ve cooked 4 turkeys in my entire life and Pusateri’s has cooked at least 7 thousand. They definitely know better than me. The goal wasn’t to prove I’m an awesome cook (I’m not). The goal was to eat a skin bowl with some of my besties and play fairy godmother to my godchildren. Fait accompli.

Drink through it

I know what you’re thinking. Here she goes telling us how alcohol is the solution. And you would be right. But downing 2:1 water for every cocktail is a life hack. You’re welcome. Because changes in my diet will affect how I’m feeling, I really do try to stick to my exercise and sleep routine. And to avoid the side-eyes of those who will blame my loopy gate on liquors, I like to do most of my drinking sitting down. 

Stay away from the mistletoe

If you ask me, there’s simply too much touching at Christmas. At a time when passing the peace can feel more like passing the plague, a good quality hand sanitizer is my best accessory. And all the extra scrubbing means I also need a great lotion. I love my l’Occitane.

Get online

Duh, I know. This one is so obvious, I don’t need to plug its benefits, but it’s the reason why anyone who gets a gift from me, ever gets a gift from me. Santa is a MacBook for whom I don’t ever have to put on a bra.

Cut corners

People are coming over. I’ve known for weeks, and yet here we are shoving shit in a closet. Everything in its place. Sometimes that place is a sky-high fire hazard behind your bed.



Like pre-drinking, but cheaper. Even if I don’t actually fall asleep, it’s important for me to be totally off my feet for an hour before going out or having anyone over in the evening which is typically a challenging time of day for me.

Know when to say Fuck it

There’s good, and there’s good enough (this blog post). I accept that I can’t be awesome all the time and maybe not everyone I’ve ever met is going to get a Christmas card from me this year (Spoiler: Nobody is). And, if I finish wrapping a gift only to realize I miscalculated how much paper I’d need, leaving a small exposed square, so be it. I already ruined the job anyway when I ran out of Scotch tape and decided to use painter’s tape.



It’s important to make time for loved ones and Netflix is no exception. Because Netflix gets you like your family never will. I like to put downtime in the calendar. It helps me recognize it as a priority. 

Just say No

Sometimes I cancel plans. I don’t like to and I feel guilty, or I don’t. Because I know my presence isn’t going to make or break a great shindig. Plus, secret surprise – everybody wants to bail on stuff this time of year. Let yourself off the hook and then don’t be a dick the next time someone flakes on you. (Unless it’s my birthday. Seriously, I will cut you.)

Just say Yes

Because often the best nights are the ones where we rally. To get myself out the door when it feels impossible, I always plan a GTFO strategy. I tell myself I’m going for 15 minutes. Most of the time, the energy somehow shows up once I get to the actual event. Just show up.

You made it

I have a lot to look forward to as we wrap up this year, and when I look at my calendar and think about all the friends and family I’m going to eat, drink and be merry with, I’m reminded that it doesn’t matter if my base boards are gross (they are). I’m taking my niece to see her first Nutcracker. 
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Trippers. May you drink too much champagne and kiss someone lovely at midnight on NYE.

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27 thoughts on “How To Survive The Holidays When You Have MS

  1. Great hacks; here's mine: slice, plate, and cover your baked goods the day before your party. (this takes longer than you think) Save the crumbly bits for a trifle or parfait. You are bound to have left over wine from the party and whip cream from the Christmas Day pumpkin pie.

  2. This was another great script – and so uplifting! It's one of the reasons your posts are so helpful – we aren't alone in navigating this journey of Multiple Sclerosis.
    Me too – I take a bit of a nap for 30 minutes or so before an event, even if it's only on my yoga mat on the floor with legs up the wall. It's a well-deserved and needed reset.
    Recently I've decided to up the amount of Vitamin C I've been taking… maybe this will help me
    with any 'plague' problem?? No clue, but I've convinced myself. And try to stay on track with
    all my supplements and herbal tea intake… I'm crazy sensitive in the digestive area and this
    Happy Holidays to you Ardra! ~~~Barbara. NY

  3. I think this blog was better than 'good enough'! Thanks so much for adding your inimitable voice to the warm and witty chatter in my Christmas this year. Wishing you the very best in health, happiness and Netflix in 2017.

  4. PS – My Christmas life hacks:
    1. Read a few pages of one of Oscar Wilde's plays each day, when your schedule calls for lots of socializing. This lets you absorb by osmosis some extra playful and elegant conversational wit and repartée.
    2. Have some seriously good seasonal vinyl music and films on hand for the downtime: ones that provide a lazy way not just of escaping and resting, but of actually getting in the proper mood of the season. This year I discovered my new favourite Christmas film (though it also works as an Easter film): 'Whistle Down the Wind'. We watched it Christmas Eve and it was like a blessing on on our whole Christmas Eve and Day.

  5. Emily, this comment was mysteriously lost until today but I love your traditions and "Whistle Down The Wind" turns out to be a timely recommendation with Easter around the corner.

  6. Exceptional as always. Sipping my morning tea contemplating whether I should/could bail on a party tomorrow night, and another party sun. The last party was on Wed. 100 ppl & 5 sick, that I know of. (Thanx for sharing). On top of it all my shop is open everyday until Christmas day. I also need to pace myself. It’s so difficult, I get every thing you say, I appreciate your tips & wit. I’m saving this so when or if I “hit the wall” I can re-read & put my shit aka priorities back on track. Have a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year Tripper. I’m thankful for you. Sincerely Doni, Doni’s Occasion Station ????

  7. Philippa Brysiuk

    I love this and so spot on! I also love to host family for THE meal since I am (gasp) the matriarch. So I say I am on turkey, stuffing, trifle (a family tradition that I have been told the absence of equates to no family) and gravy. Stuffing after all these years is easy and I make my poor husband do the majority of the turkey part. Then I say to the kids “figure out between yourselves what you are bringing”. If all we have is turkey and potatoes no-one dares complain. If friends come over I will say from my easy chair “go make yourself a drink -Oh and bring me one too!” I only attend or help out where I want. Not accessible – no problem perfect excuse to stay home. Thanks for the perfect words (although it’s one more thing you had to do). Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

  8. I believe in the Carol Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas….Christmas is what I need it to be…nothing more nothing less…dont impose your stress and expectation on me thanks

  9. OMG I think we are twins. Just kidding, bc I get way too down to come up with the hilarious, yet truthful stuff that you do. Merry Christmas & thank you for this.

  10. I’ve given up, since losing the use of legs and balance, my roll in the kitchen is to direct my partner. Making a croquembouche and burning fingers dipping them into caramel are long over, heck I don’t even make creme patisserie anymore. I hope to instruct my partner to make two half sheet pans of brownies, one with chocolate, cocoa powder and roasted walnuts and the other with caramel and a hint of cayane pepper.

  11. This is so true for me. Signed up to 3 holiday get together spread over two Fridays. Completely outdid myself (working Mom with MS) and now I’ve decided I need to go to bed early every night between now and Christmas to not be completely fatigued mess during the holidays.

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