Damien and woman stand by Christmas tree

On the first day of Christmas my MS gave to me - a relapse

It’s Christmas Eve 2018, and I’m not sure what to do about tomorrow.

My family will totally understand if I don’t come or at least delay coming until just before dinner, right?

If I do wait until tomorrow though an Uber will be twice the price. Or worse, my brother will drive over to collect me and I’ll feel so guilty for dragging him away from the family.

To Christmas or not to Christmas?

I adore Christmas. It’s genuinely my favourite time of year. But for the second time in a row MS had reared its ugly head and made me slightly dread it.

As a theatre producer, I’d put in some insane hours in the run up to the Christmas opening of a production of Peter Pan. I knew I’d be exhausted come December 24 but the numbness was an unwelcome early Christmas present. My anxiety was also through the roof. So was the general depression I personally get with an MS relapse.

At 3pm on Christmas Eve I still hadn’t managed to pull myself out of bed or buy a single present. Could I really not do Christmas?

I imagined the worried look on my parents face when I sent the message that I wouldn’t be coming over until Christmas Day instead of Christmas Eve, as I usually did. Or worse – I might not be coming at all.

Of course this made me feel even more down then I already felt. So it was time to bite the bullet, get out of bed and hope I found much needed Christmas joy among the last minute shoppers.

I managed to get all my shopping done in two hours, and although it did make me feel a bit happier, I went straight back to bed.


The not so jolly Irish elf.

Around 9pm I knocked on their door, laden down with presents, and put on my happiest face but it didn’t work.

Very quickly my Mum and my sister in law asked if I was OK. Surprisingly for me I didn’t style it out and actually said I might be mid relapse.

They were great, and told me if I needed to disappear upstairs and rest at any point it wouldn’t be a problem.

I joined in as much as I could but scarpered up to bed at every available moment. I couldn’t rest particularly well as I just felt so guilty: I was this dead weight bringing everyone else’s Christmas down. I know this wasn’t the case but we are all aware of the lies we can tell ourselves when depression takes hold.

My top tips to manage a relapse at Christmas

  • Be honest, don’t try and hide you’re ill. People will understand.
  • Make Amazon your friend and don’t leave it all until the last minute like I did last year.
  • Speak to your MS team and don’t wait. I held off calling until the numbness started to spread - next time I would call sooner
  • Be kind to yourself mentally. MS is not a Christmas present any of us asked for, so if it does come out to play around the holidays don’t beat yourself up. Put that energy into enjoying the moments you are able to.
Read our information on managing relapses

Will you join Team Stop MS?

We’re the closest we’ve ever been to treatments for everyone. We can see a future where no-one needs to worry about their MS getting worse. To get us there we’ve launched our biggest fundraising appeal yet and we need your help.

Join Team Stop MS and help spread the word