The Lunar New Year ‘Effect’ on Chronically Ill Patients Like Me

Lunar New Year in Taiwan 2021

The Lunar New Year ‘Effect’ on Chronically Ill Patients Like Me

Happy Year of the Ox! If you’re celebrating Lunar New Year, perhaps you’re like me and you look forward to this holiday simply because it means rest.

This year I’m experiencing mixed feelings. We love the build-up to the holiday as Taiwan swings into LNY party mode. Like everyone else, we purchase lucky red clothing and red and gold ornaments. We haven’t bought any spring couplets, but my refrigerator is brimming with giant Korean pears, passionfruit, dragonfruit, fresh vegetables, and more.

Now that we are getting a bit older, we both look forward to the whole island shutting down, especially after the madness of Christmas holidays, New Year’s Eve, and my birthday. I can finally take my foot off the pedal a bit with Reach To Teach Taiwan for a day or two. We both look forward to complete rest and not having to see or speak to anyone.

Today is Lunar New Year’s Day. Happy Year of the Ox!

Having lived in Asia since 2003, we’ve celebrated in China, Taiwan, Korea, Philippines, Borneo Malaysia, and more. I’ve included links at the bottom of this post if you want to see how we have celebrated this holiday in years past.

In the past five years, I’ve been too sick to do anything for Lunar New Year, but I’ve written about it many times from abroad and from home. Thus, I felt a simple update for LNY this year was appropriate. Many thanks to A Chronic Voice for providing writing prompts for February. They meshed perfectly with what I want to say today. Sheryl’s prompts always give me an opportunity to write about things I wouldn’t normally put in a blog post.

While I’m seated here in my lucky red satin pajamas with my lucky orchid and Brom Brom the red bromeliad along with some fresh flowers to make arrangements, I know that I am safe. Yesterday I had a fantastic afternoon listening to music and playing with flowers.

Today, I’m sad. Moodiness is part and parcel of being chronically ill.

The deep sadness I feel is definitely holiday-induced. Add chronic illness, a holiday , a pandemic, and two years of not seeing my family together and it hits hard.

Last night I watched our skyline burst with fireworks at midnight as people joyously celebrated everywhere. As this was happening, the reality of not being able to go home and being cut off from my family for the first time in 17 years has sunk in.

We usually use this time of year to look at flights to go back to North America each summer. The chances of that happening are looking slimmer by the day as COVID19 rages on in the US and Canada.

DEFINING

The Year of the Ox is supposed to be a year of endurance. Didn’t 2020 test us enough? Geez!

2021 is supposed to be the year that makes our dreams concrete. Unless the pandemic ends soon, my dreams won’t be fulfilled this year. But I can always look at next year and try to tick off boxes to get home as quickly as possible.

The bright side is that I will have more time to define and hone my advocacy work.

Keep an eye out for more video content and more collaborations with some of the amazing WGO Health advocates I’ve been working with over the past six months. We’ve got some great content coming up for 2021 awareness months, especially for fibromyalgia, mental health, Ankylosing Spondylitis aka axial spondyloarthritis, IBS/IBD, MECFS, migraine awareness, primary insomnia, and more.

I’m focusing on topics that affect me personally in order to provide patients with patient support and up-to-date information in English in Taiwan.

ALLOCATING

Right now I’m allocating my time to rest since February is always a hard month for me.

I don’t know about you, but most chronically ill patients I meet have increased disease activity during several months throughout the year. I’ve cancelled the few things that I committed to in February and plan on spending the rest of my time in bed so I can get back to prepping in March.

August and November are also hard months for me. I try my best to allocate the time that I have to plan ahead so I don’t fall short on awareness campaigns and initiatives.

UNITING

Our team at WEGO Health united on several projects at the beginning of the year. Currently, I have plans set up with other advocates for fibromyalgia awareness, World AS Day, and MECFS day, which are campaigns that I participate in every year.

From a personal point of view, I’m counting down the days until it’s safe for me to fly so I can be united with my family. I’ve never been away from them for so long. Two years is way too long.

SAVING

Since we weren’t able to travel in 2020, I haven’t had to worry about saving money for trips across the world. I had a good chunk of change in savings for the Tokyo Olympics last summer. I put that money down on medications instead. This has taken the stress off of making monthly payments of $1,000 for my injections.

And since my business is related to travel somewhat, I’ve been forced to take on a lot of extra freelance projects. I’m saving that money and will invest it in March.

EDUCATING

Reach To Teach is an education consulting business and I’ve managed to keep our Taiwan program going. 2020 was hard. At first we weren’t sure if we had a business. Then I had to hustle to get teaching positions filled when Taiwan’s borders opened up for people to enter on special visas. I changed my recruiting strategy completely to ensure that teachers coming to Taiwan are educated on what they can and can’t do in Taiwan.

Having moved abroad to China during the SARS pandemic in 2003, I’m a unique situation to assist teachers who want to make this move. (Back then we didn’t have social media, so I had no idea what I was flying into.)

Ensuring that our teachers feel supported and that they’re being educated properly on Asian culture, lifestyles, and expectations has taken a lot of time, but I’ve found myself enjoying the role of being a teacher again.

I’m also working hard on educating others and raising awareness for my health issues while assisting others, especially patients here in Taiwan.

Finally, here are some posts from past Lunar New Year celebrations:

And that brings me back to my first point with this article. Perhaps that’s why I’m moody? It must be the Lunar New Year effect.

It’s time to look ahead and focus on the possibilities that 2021 presents to me. This time next year, I’ll be celebrating 2022 and the Year of the Tiger. That’s my year. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you, whatever it is!


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Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. I'm an experienced businesswoman and have worked in many leadership positions in Asia. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. I started writing about my health journey in 2009 after being diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. In 2014, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, which came with other massive health issues. These diagnoses were the start of my journey as a health advocate and patient leader. Since then, My Several Worlds has been recognized worldwide as a top site for AS, fibromyalgia, and chronic illness by WEGO Health and Healthline.

13 thoughts on “The Lunar New Year ‘Effect’ on Chronically Ill Patients Like Me

    Pain Reaction

    (February 13, 2021 - 6:42 pm)

    It’s great that you have such a specific experience with moving abroad during SARS. You would never really think that something like that could be so useful and helpful to others. I look forward to what you have in the works with WEGO Health and I hope you can see your family soon! We’re a few provinces away from family, haven’t seen my side in almost 5 years now and I’ve got an almost 8 month old that they’re missing out on.

      Carrie Kellenberger

      (February 18, 2021 - 3:53 pm)

      Yes, I never thought I’d see another pandemic like SARS in my lifetime. It was very eerie to be living in China and have the cities empty out. We were really locked down, but it turns out I was pretty safe there. Asia is much better prepared for pandemics than Western countries, and that’s because we paid such a high toll during SARS. Taiwan was hit really hard so our President put Taiwan’s pandemic playbook into action immediately. She locked down flights in January 2020 and closed our borders soon after that.

      It’s so hard being away, isn’t it? Five years – I will need to tell my mom that because she thinks she’s the only one! 🙂 The WEGO community is already hard at work with some good things starting this week. Stay tuned.

    Katie Clark

    (February 13, 2021 - 8:18 pm)

    I sure hope your lucky PJs and kitthelp you to rejuvenate and get to see your family again. I can’t imagine how difficult that must be. From a mom’s point of view, I would miss you terribly. Have your parents been able to get the vaccination? Thank you for your diligence and commitment to bringing awareness and help to those living with chronic illness .💜

      Carrie Kellenberger

      (February 18, 2021 - 3:55 pm)

      I know my mom does. I’m sure she knows how much I miss them too. They’re in Ontario and they’re still waiting. There have been some hiccups with vaccine roll-outs in Canada. Once they are vaccinated, it should be easier, but I’m genuinely wondering how I’m going to get home. Taiwan is in rush with vaccinations since we don’t have community spread. It makes me wonder how the Canadian government will view someone like me – a citizen of Canada – coming home from a country that didn’t experience community spread. Lots to think about for sure.

    Katie Clark

    (February 14, 2021 - 6:11 am)

    I can’t imagine how difficult it is not seeing your family. (I am glad, though, that your relatively safe from the virus in Taiwan ). From the perspective of a mom, I would miss you so much. My husband (retired FDA) just told me that Canada is having a difficult time getting access to the vaccine and that they only have one place that is manufacturing one and it won’t be ready until 11 or 12/2021!

      Carrie Kellenberger

      (February 18, 2021 - 3:56 pm)

      Yes! That’s what I heard too. Which really nixes the small plans I still had in mind for going home this summer. That takes me to summer 2022 and that is way way way too long. 🙁

    Alison Hayes

    (February 15, 2021 - 10:16 pm)

    Carrie,
    I totally feel you on holiday melancholy. I deal with that to varying degrees for most of December every year(Thanksgiving through Christmas is hard).
    I think it’s great that you have been able to educate so many people about both your conditions and Asian culture!
    Sending solidarity across the waves!

      Carrie Kellenberger

      (February 18, 2021 - 3:56 pm)

      Thank you so much, Alison! I don’t miss Western holidays so much anymore because I’ve been here for close to 20 years. Strange because I’m not Asian, but it’s the Asian holidays that I feel most connected to and that make me hurt more than the others.

    Kathy

    (February 18, 2021 - 6:17 am)

    I enjoyed learning more about the Year of the Ox.

    Sheryl Chan

    (February 18, 2021 - 1:08 pm)

    Thanks for joining us again Carrie! I love that there’s another spoonie online who’s in Asia, too. There’s some kind of special connection I feel as there are so few in the blog space and it’s so interesting to see how some Asian holidays affect others, too!

      Carrie Kellenberger

      (February 18, 2021 - 3:50 pm)

      I was thinking of you when I wrote this and wondering how you handle Lunar New Year festivities. Since this is the holiday we celebrate the most here, it’s the one I connect with the most. I love that you’re here and we’re working on things together in our own special ways! Happy Year of the Ox, Sheryl!

    Anne

    (February 19, 2021 - 8:03 pm)

    We had some lockdown restrictions lifted for Christmas and we paid for it heavily. Our Prime Minister has only just closed the borders, some 10 months to late. We do have a high rate of immunisations though, so I’m hoping that will see us through. I’m sorry you have had to miss out on your celebrations and travel plans. I am in awe of all the work you do for awareness though, well done!

      Carrie Kellenberger

      (February 22, 2021 - 3:35 pm)

      Hi Anne,

      Thank you so much for your comment and for the really nice compliment. That made me smile today! Three years away from home is too long and that is what it’s looking like now. I hope I can get home this fall. If not, I’m looking at summer 2022. I never thought I’d see another pandemic like SARS in my lifetime and now I have. It’s amazing the world wasn’t better prepared.

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