Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

I know I have a good 350 days or so to prepare, but I really want to know what I can do differently to make Christmas bearable when it rolls around again. Now that the holidays are over, I am starting to feel more like myself and much less “crazy.” However, the holidays were a different story.

My offline friends assure me that I did much better this past Christmas than I did the year before. One pointed out that I was triggered from October 1 through the New Year in 2009, which is true. However, I felt every minute of the two weeks of triggering in 2010, and I really have no desire to relive that experience for Christmas 2011. So, my question is what proactive steps can I take to make Christmas more bearable this year?

I cannot even tell you with certainty what triggers me about Christmas, which might be part of the problem. I can tell you that I have very few memories of Christmas throughout my childhood (through age 23!!). I have always remembered having Christmas dinner at my grandparents’ house, but they did not move to our city until I was nine or ten. Those memories are only with my sister, cousins, and grandparents – I have none of my parents, even though I know they were there. After my father died, my mother had a rift with my grandparents (his parents), and we stopped going to their house for Christmas. All of those Christmases are blank. I remember things **around** Christmas, such as my sister and me going to see Godfather III when it premiered on Christmas Day, but I have no memories at all of being with my mother.

Through flashbacks, I have recovered a terrible memory of abuse by S & L (my most sadistic abusers) abusing me in front of their Christmas tree. However, I wonder if there is more that I have yet to remember because it doesn’t seem like that one incident of abuse would account for 23 years of “lost” Christmas memories as well as my intense triggering that continues even after so many years of therapy and healing.

I was really freaked out when I recognized that I had “lost” my memories of Christmas when I was 23 years old. I had just gotten engaged and was sad that my fiancé and I were going to spend Christmas apart. I remember getting angry with my sister for leaving me alone with my mother on Christmas Day, and I cried and felt really hollow and sad. I have memories around that time, such as going to try on wedding gowns and visiting a gym to work out, but I have no memories at all of Christmas. I have consistent memories of Christmas beginning the next year, when I was married and spent each Christmas at my in-laws’ house.

Clearly I have more work to do on this, but I don’t even know where to start. I guess I will remember when I am ready. I am sure it will be a doozy.

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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On my blog entry entitled Is Anyone Else Struggling with This Time of Year?, which I wrote on October 8, 2009, a reader recently posted the following comment:

I wanted to respond to this post because this is a huge issue for me. I have been thinking about it a bit now because the holidays are coming up. I think I understand why they bother me so much and maybe it might be a bit of the same for you.

A few years ago I stopped going home for the holidays for obvious reasons. At first it was a huge relief to not have to go to my parents and pretend we are the perfect family. But very quickly the depression and sadness came back. And now the holidays are a HUGE trigger (starting now but getting worse around Halloween). It is because the not being with my family makes me think about all of the reasons I am not home with my family. Consciously or sub-consciously I am reminded of all of the reasons that I do not have the same family holiday as many people I know. Even if I have a boyfriend or friends to share these times with, there are still the constant questions from people about whether or not I am going home for the holidays, ect. My escape from my family is no escape when there are constant perfect family references everywhere. I think for 3 months before Christmas I am a freaking mess.

The freedom of not being with my family is an instant trigger of all of the memories of the things that are the very reason I am not with my family during the holidays- talk about a double edged sword!

I think we are all a bit screwed- putting ourselves around the people who hurt us is obviously hurtful. But choosing to not be around them means we also can’t escape and pretend that all of the reasons we can’t be around them don’t exist since and the holidays are pretty much a 24hr reminder of this.

Do you relate to this at all? ~ Tracy099

My response is yes – I do relate to this. I shared yesterday about getting triggered at the Halloween store over the weekend, and I am still not over it. All last week, life seemed easy and carefree. This long holiday weekend has been a real struggle. I am looking forward to having time alone in my house today (when hub goes back to work and child goes back to school) so I can focus on grounding myself.

I think Tracy makes a very astute observation. We protect ourselves by distancing ourselves from our abusive family, but the very act of distancing ourselves when society does nothing to talk about coming together throughout the holiday season is a constant reminder of the reasons why we are different.

I have done all that I can to ease this for myself. My sister and her children are the only family members that I stay in regular contact with, and they come to my house for the holidays. One the one hand, it is great because my son adores his cousins and I love seeing my sister. However, I am reminded of the family dysfunction whenever I see her (as I am sure is true for her as well), which makes it hard.

The holidays are definitely my Achilles heel, and it ticks me off because I have been doing so well lately. I don’t want to surrender three months of my life every year to holiday triggers (not including the Mother’s Day triggers at a different time of year). I want to reclaim this time and make it about something other than my history. I am not quite sure how to do that yet other than by upping my Xanax dosage.

Photo credit: Rosanne Mooney

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It feels like forever since I wrote on my blog. I started a new job a few weeks ago. I knew that starting the new job, combined with the Christmas season, would take most of my focus, so I wrote ahead on my blogs, both here and on my professional adoption blog. I am glad I did because it has been a wild ride.

I was hit with some tragic news a few weeks ago that sent me reeling. Someone that I cared about passed away, and I did not take the news well. As philosophic as I can be about reincarnation when applied to my own life, it was not much comfort when I first got the news. I am doing much better now as I have had time to process and digest the news. Loss is hard, no matter where it comes from. There are no shortcuts through grief.

Getting this news was like a punch in the gut. I tried to rely on my three-step guide, but it was only so helpful at first. It was like the bad news sucked the wind out of me, and I simply could not breathe. I also was not convinced that I would get over this in 36 hours, so that was of no comfort to me. I had to hope that trying to feed my good wolf would be enough to get me through this cycle of triggering.

As it turned out, it took me about three days to pull out of the nosedive. While I was in that bad place again, there is nothing that would have convinced me that I would be okay again. I cried off and on for three days – hard, wracking sobs. It never once occurred to me to go back and read what I had just recently written about how to handle being triggered.

I even called my therapist and scheduled an appointment. I ended therapy a couple of years ago. I think I need a little “tune up.” The holiday season is always hard for me, but it makes me feel like I am bi-polar to be okay … and then fighting suicidal urges … and then okay again. Yes, I know that I am being triggered and that I am pulling myself back out (and that many of you would do anything to have the ability to pull out of a trigger in three days), but it makes me feel “crazy.” I need to hear a professional reassure me again that what I am experiencing is normal for a child abuse survivor.

If anyone else is feeling this way during the holiday season, you are not alone. Even after all of my years and hard work of healing, I still struggle with this, too.

Related Topic:

PTSD and Cycles of Emotions

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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