It looks like I survived the holidays again. I wonder if I will ever reach a place where this fact is not a complete surprise to me. I have been surviving the holiday season for over four decades, but, in the moment, each holiday season seems like the one that will finally break me.
From the outside, this holiday season had much less drama and should not have rocked me in the way that it did. If you consider that I had to see my mother/abuser combined with a cancer scare during the holidays in 2009 and dealt with my mother-in-law’s sudden passing during the holidays in 2008, the holidays for 2010 had a lot less going on. No big drama happened in 2010. Nevertheless, I was still completely triggered and wigged out, so much so that parts of the holidays are a blur because I was so dissociated. I was either drinking wine or popping Xanax for a good portion of the holidays. I went through half a bottle of wine myself on Christmas Day and awoke with a bad cold on the 26th. I suspect that the dehydration of drinking so much wine didn’t help with trying to fight off a cold.
I spent most of the holidays either on the verge of a panic attack, feeling suicidally depressed, or sick. From the outside, there was no external cause for any of this. From the inside, the holidays were simply unbearable.
One big problem was really seeing the dysfunction on both sides of my family. My sister’s family (her and her children) are dysfunctional in one way, and my husband’s family (him, his father, and his brother) are dysfunctional in a completely different way. Each one’s version of dysfunction is glaringly obvious to the other, which magnified both sets of dysfunction to the point that it was nearly unbearable. I love all of them, but the dysfunction (especially when in contact with each other) was enough to make me want to claw my way out of my own skin.
Then there is my son, who is growing up seeing all of this dysfunction. I try to provide him with the healthiest environment that I can, keeping in mind that I can only provide as “sane” of an environment for him as I can manage for myself. I felt so badly about “checking out” on him through dissociation, but I simply was not strong enough. He says he had a great holiday other than Christmas Day (long story – part of why I went through half a bottle of wine myself), but I worry about how much of this dysfunction will be passed along to him. (I have money to pay for his therapy in adulthood!)
I wish I could figure out a way to make the holidays more bearable for next year. I hate feeling like I am crawling into a foxhole every December when the holidays roll around. I get so incredibly triggered, and I have yet to find a formula that works to make it bearable. I just keep reminding myself that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, and I try to believe that I won’t always feel this out of control and miserable. There has to be a better way, but I have yet to figure out how to get there.
Photo credit: Faith Allen