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We Want to Have Fun Just Like You, But Here’s What it Takes

A Day in the Life: Why Social Functions Are So Exhausting For Us

So your friend with a chronic illness has rejected your party invitation…again. Or they’ve included a list of T&Cs just in case they have to bail last minute. What’s up with that? Do they hate you or something? I booked a champagne brunch the other day for the boy’s birthday and thought, why not use it as a real life example to provide insight? Shall we go through the experience together?

Physical and Mental Preparation

I got lucky with this booking. It was only on one specific date, the prices were reasonable, and it had magnificent views on the 43rd floor! I was anticipating his happiness, which fueled my excitement. I checked the date again – perfect. It wasn’t around the ‘bad weeks’ of my period, where extra inflammation occurs.

I started to keep a close watch on my INR using my blood test machine, and adjusted my diet to maintain an optimal range. If I was going to consume alcohol, I had to make sure that my blood wasn’t too thin, and this does not change overnight. Sometimes I need to avoid leafy greens for awhile to normalise it (you heard me right). I made sure that I had enough exercise, especially the day before the brunch itself. That always seems to help take some stress off my body from alcohol consumption. I braced myself for one to two weeks of downtime and possible pain, as alcohol and inflammation go hand in hand.

The Big Day

And so the big day arrived. I pricked my finger and checked my INR again – all good. Of course if my blood had been too thin, I would have stayed clear of the alcohol. My boyfriend did not force me to drink; it was my decision to celebrate with him. I took a sip of champagne to judge its effects. It was delicious, but I started to feel dizzy and ill after only half a glass. So I slid it across the table to the birthday boy, and switched to red wine.

I wondered where the inflammation would strike first; it is always a lucky draw. You have heard the word ‘inflammation’ mentioned a few times by now. What does it mean in this instance? They usually appear as angry red swells that can clump up on any body part. I’ve had big lumps on my forehead before (who knew there were so many blood vessels between that flat patch of skin and skull?!). It struck like clockwork after two hours. The swollen wrist I had from the day before was now a bloated, unbendable chunk of meat. The muscles in my upper arms started to throb with aches, and I had mild vertigo.

A sudden wave of nausea struck me when we stood up to leave. Descending 43 floors wasn’t much fun. Thank goodness there was no one else with us, as I looked unglamorous squatting in my dress. I had forewarned my boyfriend that we might have to hop into a cab straight home after, and this was exactly what happened.

I passed out in bed the moment we got home, and this was just from 2.5 glasses of wine! I was experiencing nausea and swelling without any of the happy effects. That was a bit upsetting, especially after all my careful planning. If I am going to feel sick, at least let me have a bit of fun! 😉

Post Event

I had ran through the possible scenarios in my head, but wasn’t prepared for the internal inflammation that occured this time. It did cause me to panic a little, as my stomach felt bloated and swollen for days. I worried about internal bleeding, so I kept watch on all my vital signs and daily activities. I am not being paranoid, a chronic illness person doesn’t need much to sustain injury.

I spent the following day in bed unwell, and utilised whatever energy I had to make a simple stew for dinner. It soothed the stomach to my relief, as that was a sign that there were no blockages from gut swelling. I recovered after a few slow days, which was a pleasant surprise. I had been prepared for up to two weeks of discomfort.

What is the Point?

You might have been muttering expletives while reading this piece. Or you might be judging me now for my incredible stupidity. Why would I even do that, especially when I knew the possible consequences?! Well, I do it for the exact reasons anyone else does – to have a good time! And I do enjoy getting involved in the ‘normal world’ once in a while. It is pretty hit or miss with me when it comes to alcohol, so I save these wildcards for special occasions with my favourite people. On the good days, I actually have a lot of fun, although the downtime is the same. You can imagine the level of exhaustion a ‘relaxing’ Friday night out might bring. The pain and fatigue might even last throughout the whole of the next work week.

Would I do it again? Of course! It’s fun and I get to bond with my friends in a different way. It just requires a lot of planning, and willingness to take some damage (not recommended during bouts of bad flares!). I have also decided long ago that keeping myself in a bubble isn’t exactly being alive either.

Am I advocating for you to go wild and party hard? Of course not. All I wanted to do was use a single experience, to illustrate the amount of effort it can take for us to socialise. ‘Casual’ barbeques have costed me just as much energy. What I am saying is – have some fun if you can, your way!

    For More Insight:

  1. The Dilemmas Faced by the Chronically Ill (article on KevinMD):
  2. Beyond Hangovers: Effects on the Body (article on National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism):
  3. Frequently Asked Questions on Lupus (article on Cincinnati Children’s Lupus Centre):
  4. Inflammation: Causes, Symptoms & Anti-Inflammatory Diet (article on Live Science):
  5. The Dilemma of Wanting to Have Fun but Knowing Your Body Will Pay for It (article on The Mighty):
  6. 4 Tips on Surviving Chronic Illness in Your 20s (

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Carrie Kellenberger
January 11, 2021 14:03

Sometimes we take the risks knowing what will happen because we want to feel normal for a bit. I don’t drink much and can’t drink wine at all, yet on Christmas, I decided to do a brunch, had white wine, and didn’t even recognize myself. What a mess afterwards! But I had fun and for once in 2020, I felt normal. This Saturday I’m having a small afternoon get-together with some friends for my birthday. I am going heavy on the cake and will likely stick to a glass or two of beer because it doesn’t seem to hit me as hard. But the upper arm pain and swollen stomach and everything else you’ve mentioned here – it never fails! So frustrating! (But I’m still planning on enjoying that time!)

February 26, 2017 02:53

For me, sugar seems to be the enemy, it makes me fatigued and my joints hurt more.
I wish I had more energy. I do reiki and that’s a big help. Sheryl, you sound like you’ve had a rough road.
Have you asked your angels for help??? Clean diet is a big deal. Good luck to you,

Sheryl Chan
February 26, 2017 09:27
Reply to  Ann

Hi Ann,

Yes I believe sugar does play a big role, but I do have a sweet tooth 😡 I am glad reiki works for you. Thank you for taking the time to read and comments! 🙂

October 18, 2016 03:52

You have a different set of health conditions than I do, and therefore very different symptoms, but I still recognize myself in this. I have to spend days–sometimes weeks–gearing my body up for a special event, and sometimes I run into huge problems no matter how well I’ve planned and prepared. But yes, absolutely, it’s worth it to get out of the house, see some friends, have whatever fun my body will allow. Even when I’m laid up for days afterward, it’s worth it.

Sheryl Chan
October 18, 2016 10:13
Reply to  Amy

Dear Amy,

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment 🙂 And I’m glad you understood the message I was trying to get across with this article, as there has been some backlash on other channels that focussed on the alcohol aspect of it. But just this week I went to visit a friend and her kids, and am now paying for it just the same 😉

I hope you get more good days than bad for the rest of the year. And wishing you lots of inspiration for your photography and writing. Keep it up! 🙂