What is your favorite part about Halloween? Is it the candy? Or the costumes? What about the pumpkin carving? What the case, this is a holiday with something for everyone really! I always manage to have fun no matter what our plans are. But I have a chronic illness. Yes, it sucks, so I wanted to share some on how to have fun on Halloween when you’re chronically ill.
Personally, I love it so much more after having kids. Sure, it was fun during our kid free years to go to Halloween parties and not have to worry about child care. But watching them choose costumes and get excited is so much better!
This year we went with a hodge podge of costumes. My oldest is dressing up as Skye from Paw Patrol. Our youngest is going to be a unicorn princess. (Thanks, Target, for that one!) I’m going as a Hufflepuff student. ‘Puff pride!
How to have fun on Halloween when you’re chronically ill
I’ve had some type of chronic illness since I was 9. That’s when I started exhibiting signs of depression. So, I have a LOT of experience with surviving the holidays when you’re unwell.
Sometimes I have a bad stomach ache. Sometimes my back is bothering me. Or I am too tired. Or too depressed. Maybe cranky AF. It really depends on the day.
So far, the plans this year are for me to go trick or treating with the kids, and my husband will stay behind and hand out candy. I’m hoping this works out. The kids and I going to drive to each grandma’s house (Since they both live nearby) and then go up and down our street. We’ll probably also go to my husband’s grandpa’s, and aunt’s, house, since they also live close to us.
There are lots of issues about Halloween that plague people living with chronic illness. Here are the big ones.
Issue 1: Parties
For some, the social aspect of any holiday can be a challenge. I have anxiety and struggle a lot with all the gatherings. Being around people and having to carry on conversations is very draining for me.
My best advice there? Come up with a predetermined length of time you plan to stay. Don’t make it open-ended. That will save you a lot of stress.
Other people have a hard time with all the social (or binge) drinking. Maybe you’re a recovering alcoholic/addict. Maybe alcohol does not co-exist peacefully with your mood issues or medication.
My advice? Bring a fun mocktail to share and make sure you have at least one friend there that you can rely on to hold you accountable.
Another issue that I feel is pretty prevalent with those suffering from chronic illness: FOMO (fear of missing out). Many people are too unwell to attend the fun parties they get invited to. Not gonna lie: it’s a huge bummer when you have to miss out.
My best advice? This one is tricky. You can always invite over a friend that has no plans, and watch Halloween movies together. Bonus points if they also have chronic illness and you can commiserate.
Issue 2: Food
I know a lot of Spoonies can relate to this. (Not familiar with the term “Spoonies”? Check out this great explanation of the Spoon theory.) There are just some foods that do terrible things to people with pre-existing health issues.
Sugar, caffeine, dairy, gluten… these are all staples of any Halloween gathering. Taffy apples, pumpkin bread, sweet drinks… all of these things can lead to a very unhappy tum tum.
My advice? There are a couple of things you can do here. Unfortunately, they’re both a bit awkward. You can just eat before the party and bring a water bottle. Or, you can send the host a private message asking if it is okay if you bring some “Spoonie friendly” treats.
Issue 3: Activity
There is a lot going on this time of year. (See again: the aformentioned article about the Spoon theory.) Parties, trick or treating, all the planning, all the shopping. It can quickly add up to major fatigue issues.
My advice? Plan, plan, plan. If you have kids, plan for help with them if you think you will be experiencing fatigue. “Ask for help” is one of the best pieces of advice I can offer. There is nothing to be ashamed of.
Issue 4: Crafts & Baking
These days there is a lot of pressure to be the perfect parent. That’s especially true around the holidays. Our newsfeed is filled with moms who have all their shit together and make it look easy.
My winning advice? Listen. Are you listening? Okay here goes: You are perfectly capable of having an enjoyable holiday experience. Yep. I said it. Enough with the bullshit. You. Can. Enjoy. The. Holidays. That being said, with our chronic illness comes certain extenuating circumstances. And that is okay! Just adjust accordingly, and do what you can with what you have.
Issue 5: Scary Movies
This is such a fun part about Halloween! I love being kept on the edge of my seat by a dark thriller. The more psychologically intense the better.
However, I’m an empath. That means I tend to absorb a lot of the emotions of the characters in films and shows I watch, and I am very affected by their environment and circumstances.
My advice? If this sounds like you, unfortunately, you might need to dial it back on the scary screen time. If you have a movie marathon planned, take frequent breaks, and have a friend on speed dial in case you need to unload.
Like I said, you absolutely can enjoy Halloween when you are chronically ill. Just be open to being flexible, adjust your expectations, and be kind to yourself. After all, you didn’t choose the Spoon life. The Spoon life chose you.