Seeing through the challenges and finding the nuggets of gold can be hard at this time of year but help is always at hand if you need it.
Well what a strange old year this has been for everybody – unless you have been snoozing under a rock during 2020 you will know that the coronavirus – Covid-19 pandemic has well and truly changed the world – as we know it - forever. However, the world still turns, and Christmas still comes around. For many people it is a time of fun and frivolity and an opportunity to let their hair down - but for others – particularly those with health issues, it can bring further anxiety and feelings of isolation. Christmas may well pan out a little differently this year due to the pandemic but undoubtedly there will still be similar challenges for those who are artificially fed and those who care for them.
We all know that familiar feeling at Christmas when the shops are full of decorations and the radio plays endless Christmas tunes on repeat whilst the television is awash with ridiculous amounts of over-indulgent food and drink adverts… it can be really frustrating, particularly if your oral food intake is limited or nil. And, let’s be honest, the pandemic has meant that some of the shops have got their Christmas decorations up even earlier this year!
The truth is that although many people do genuinely love Christmas, (which is a good thing for them) there are also many who don’t. There are many reasons why people may find Christmas hard to deal with. Alongside long-term health issues and chronic illness people may be dealing with loss and grief, money worries, relationship issues, mental health challenges or looking after someone who is seriously ill and feeling they have no one to share their feelings - to name but a few. And so, for some the Christmas season can undoubtedly reinforce feelings of isolation and frustration.
One thing to focus on, if you feel this way, is to remember that this season always
passes and if you are struggling physically or mentally during it there is always someone to support you. Even if you don’t have a close family member or friend who can lend an ear there are organisations that can offer guidance and support – please keep at the forefront of your mind that you are not alone in your feelings.
If you are fortunate enough to have close family members and/or good friends who can support you either physically or mentally or both at particularly challenging times. do turn to them as your first port of call; chat to them about how the Christmas season makes you feel. You may find that others have a unique perspective, which might help you.
However, PINNT recognises that there are many people who don’t have a significant other or friend to turn to and that is why PINNT wants to emphasise that no one in the UK needs to feel completely alone or at their wit’s end at this time of year. At the bottom of this short feature we have listed organisations that you can turn to if you feel isolated and/or you aren’t coping. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or send a text if you need to. There is never shame in this – we are all human and every single one of us requires support at different times. It is also worth bearing in mind that not everyone on this planet is celebrating the Christmas season; you are not the only one who isn’t ‘feeling it’ – even though it may feel like that at times.
Useful resources during the Festive Season and beyond…
Mindfulness apps, to help you relax and restore a sense of peace and tranquillity:
Headspace - www.headspace.com
Calm - www.calm.com
App for dealing with chronic pain
Curable - www.curablehealth.com
- The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, www.thehappinesstrap.com
- Living with the Enemy, Ray Owen, published by Taylor & Francis
- The Reality Slap, finding peace and fulfilment when life hurts by Russ Harris
- The Grief Recovery Handbook, by John W James & Russell Friedman
- Digging Deep by Rose Offner and Sheri Brisson, a journal for young people facing health challenges
- Last Christmas curated by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise, available from Waterstones. (The book is a collection of anecdotes of Christmases past ranging from tales from actors and comedians to those most marginalised in society such as refugees and homeless people. It focuses on the truth about the Christmas experience both good and bad. All profits from the book go to the charity Crisis (www.crisis.org.uk), which supports the homeless and to The Refugee Council (www.refugeecouncil.org.uk).
Most of these books can be ordered online or bought in major bookshops. Prices vary according to where you purchase so it is worth searching online, prior to purchase, if possible or asking someone to look for you. Some of these books may also be available in audio versions, if preferred.
For people registered blind or partially sighted, RNIB offer a library of books in braille. Visit www.rniblibrary.com
A couple of anecdotes from PINNT members regarding their thoughts on the festive period. Both offer suggestions whilst acknowledging the challenges of life with artificial nutrition. All points of view are valid and can offer insight into different feelings and coping strategies.
I love the food preparation and feeding my family
I love feeding my family, not only at Christmas but whenever the opportunity arises. While I miss food, it doesn’t prevent me from being part of family celebrations that involve food. The food is a celebration for them, it’s about being together and not only nourishing their bodies but their minds through quality family time. I love to hear the chatter and banter between everyone, so what if we’re peeling carrots or potatoes at the same time, I focus on the people not the food. I would give anything to be able to eat, it isn’t going to happen, so I’ve learnt to deal with it.”
I enjoy a nibble and giving
I’m on my own and usually try to avoid the festive season. Being a member of a couple of clubs I have a wide circle of friends but on the big day I’m usually at home enjoying the repeats on TV. Not being able to eat much, the odd taste of a nibble is my limit, I’ve often thought about those who are deprived of food, those who just don’t have any – last year I made a donation to pay for Christmas dinner for four homeless people through a trusted scheme. The pleasure of knowing four people had a warm meal gave me great pleasure. Pity the repeats on the TV were are predictable as ever!
Useful organisations and contacts
Below is a list of organisations with contact details, which may be of help in times of need. Each organisation offers unique forms of support all year round but may be particularly useful during December and early New Year. (Please be aware that this list is not exhaustive and there are many charities and organisations which may be able to offer advice and help more specific to you and your situation. Search online using key words. Note also that these details are for UK residents and you will need to search online for support outside of the UK, if applicable.)
Please be aware that not all helplines are 24-hours and, with the exception of emergency helplines, some do incur a charge for calls – please ask if unsure.
For urgent but non-emergency mental health issues
ask for your local crisis team
by contacting the NHS 111
service at any time of day and ask for their details. Crisis teams are available to offer support in times of a mental health crisis. This number works in England, Wales (most areas but where not available you can call 0845 46 47) and Scotland but is called different things in each area.
Charity providing support if you've been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm)
07537 416 905
For people battling eating disorders
Beat Adult Helpline: 0808 801 0677
Email, adults: firstname.lastname@example.org
Beat Youthline: 0808 801 0711
British Red Cross
Borrow a wheelchair / disability aid line (please note there are hire charges
Book online: https://www.redcross.org.uk/get-help/borrow-a-wheelchair/wheelchair-selection
0300 456 1914 (If you have questions associated with your booking or to find availability.)
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
0800 58 58 58 (365 days a year, 5pm to midnight) www.thecalmzone.net
Practical support and advice for anyone caring for someone who is seriously ill, disabled or elderly.
Telephone: 0808 808 7777
from Monday to Friday, 9am – 6pm
For any issues at all for under 16s,
free confidential and 24 hours.
Phone: 0800 1111
Cruse Bereavement Care
For those suffering with loss and grief.
0808 808 1677 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm – excluding bank holidays. Extended opening hours until 8pm, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Weekends 10am – 2pm)
Mental Health Foundation
A charity working to address and understand the source of mental health problems
. Click on the links below for a range of publications, podcasts, videos, and ways to access help if you urgently need it.
Charity working with people with a learning disability
, their families and carers.
0808 808 1111 (Monday to Friday)
Email, youths: email@example.com
charity information line.
0300 123 3393 Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm (closed 25th and 26th Dec and 1st Jan and all Bank Holidays).
For individuals suffering from any form of anxiety disorder.
No panic also offers support to carers
of those with anxiety disorders.
Phone: Youth helpline
0330 6061174 (Young people ages 13 – 20 years)
3pm – 6pm Monday to Friday and 6pm to 8pm Thursday and Saturday.
society for young people under 35 years of age
0800 068 4141 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 10pm. Weekends and Bank Holidays, 2pm to 10pm)
Helpline for women and children dealing with domestic violence
0808 2000 247 (24-hour helpline)
Practical advice and support for those suffering mental illness.
0300 5000 927 9.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday.
Or send a message online via the Re-Think website: www.rethink.org/aboutus/what-we-do/advice-and-information-service/contact-our-advice-information-service/
When feeling desperate with feelings of isolation and/or disconnection.
116 123 - UK and ROI 24hrs a day, 365 days a year
Welsh language line
7pm to 11pm 7 days a week
Welsh language phone