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Thanksgiving was Hard

I went into Thanksgiving with low expectations and also feeling a bit relieved to have something to do after the in-laws left. The in-laws always come for exactly 70 minutes and then peel out as quickly as they can. I decided to view Thanksgiving as a large meal rather than a holiday or event. I am glad I did this because I just rolled my eyes when each in-law “forgot” something and left as soon as they arrived, causing us to have to “hold” the meal while they attended to their respective “I forgots.”

A friend invited my son and me over to her house for Thanksgiving after our own, so my son, who is an only child, got to play with other children on Thanksgiving for the first time EVER! He was in heaven, which was a blessing to me as well. I am so grateful he got to have that fun time on the holiday.

Thanksgiving was painful for me, though. The one at my house was nothing but people eating and complimenting the food. There was no emotional intimacy whatsoever – no sharing stories, talking about what we are thankful for, or really anything to distinguish this meal from any other meal other than the elaborate feast.

The Thanksgiving at my friend’s house was wonderful, which just drove home the emptiness of my own. Both sets of in-law were there and (gasp!) stayed long than 70 minutes. They each shared one thing they were thankful for. They shared family stories going back to the great-grandmothers. There was lively conversation and laughter. They didn’t rush through eating so they could peel out and nap – they lingered, which is what I always thought Thanksgiving was supposed to be like.

We ate off the great-grandmother’s dishes. There was a sense of connectivity that I don’t have in my life. My father is dead, and my mother is momster. I only have one living grandparent, and while I know she loves me “in her own way” (which is the only way I was ever loved as a child), there’s no real bond.

My son and I left after three hours, and the Thanksgiving celebration was still going strong. I felt an overwhelming need to cry but didn’t want to do it in front of my kid. When we got home, I thought hub’s feeling would be hurt that we had been gone for four hours (my friend’s house is a 30-minute drive), but he seemed disappointed that we were home so quickly.

I haven’t felt such as strong urge to drink since I stopped drinking in July. I resisted solely because I didn’t want to extend the feelings of sadness. I tried to let myself feel the sadness and then gave myself some relief with Xanax at bedtime.

I had very disturbing dreams. The Thanksgiving friend took me to my house, and every room was covered in animal urine or feces from dogs, a lion, and a third animal I don’t remember. I got more and more upset as I walked room to room and saw the excrement everywhere. Half of my bedroom’s carpet was thoroughly soaked in dog urine. I was so overwhelmed, not knowing where to start, that I just shut down. I laid down and was dissociated in my dream.

My other close friend thought I was having a nightmare and whispered in my ear, “You are not alone, and you are loved.” That was exactly what I needed to hear, and I reacted by releasing the emotions. I was still asleep and starting moaning/wailing (can’t think of the right word – releasing very deep emotions in a guttural way), which made her think she did something wrong, so she left. That upset me even more because I needed to let it out, but I didn’t want to be abandoned in the filth.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Getting through Thanksgiving

PhotobucketHow is everyone doing with the holidays upon us? I am doing surprisingly well, all things considered.

So far, things have been hard, which is usual for me, but I am finding that I am dusting myself off and fighting back much more effectively this year than in prior years. Of course, the big challenge for me is the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I am just grateful that I have gotten this far in one piece.

I am trying to do a better job using my tools to get me through the difficult times. I actually got a massage last week (that is HUGE for me!!), which helped work many of the knots out of my shoulders. Just the sheer act of setting aside time for myself – doing something that was just for me – was HUGE in helping me feel better.

I am gradually moving toward trying to have a more manageable schedule. This has been a year of unbalance for me. I have been working far too hard and reaping too few results (earned a lot less money this year despite putting in more hours). The internal intensity toward work seems to be calming down, thank goodness. I am doing better about taking a full hour lunch break and doing other things just for myself, such as going to see the new Twilight movie last weekend. Doing little kindnesses for myself seems to help with my emotional state.

A friend has invited my son and me to come over to her house for Thanksgiving once we are finished with our own. My family (just five of us – hub, child, and in-laws) will eat at 1:00, and the in-laws will be out the door within 70 minutes. (Yes, I have timed them.) That leaves all afternoon of my son and me feeling bored while hub naps, so the two of us are going to have a second Thanksgiving at a friend’s house.

Beyond that, we don’t really have plans for the weekend, and I am OK with that … which is weird for me. I usually freak out if I don’t have plans, but I am OK. I have some ideas of things my son and I can do together – decorate for Christmas, trim the tree, go to the zoo, etc. We’ll get through it.

I am sticking with my formula of only uplifting or non-melancholy music, no alcohol, working out at the gym, decent amount of sleep, and down time for me. All of this seems to be helping.

One more thing – I will be taking the rest of the week off for Thanksgiving. I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Photo credit: Rosanne Mooney

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Thankful for All of You

In honor of Thanksgiving, I would like to take a break from the intense topics we have been exploring this week and focus on being thankful. I have a friend who writes down what she is thankful for every Thanksgiving, so I thought I would do the same here. Feel free to tell me what you are thankful for in the comments.

Here are some things that I am thankful for this Thanksgiving:

  • My child – I spent many years not knowing if I would ever be a mother.
  • My husband – He is a good provider and loves me, even though the person I am today barely resembles the wounded girl he married two decades ago.
  • My sister – What would I do without my fellow foxhole dweller? I don’t think I would have survived my childhood without her.
  • My friends – I have built my own family of women who are as close to me as sisters. I am so blessed to have a group of women who would do just about anything for me, as I would for them.
  • My job – I am blessed to have a flexible, part-time, from home job that provides me with income to travel and “play” and gives me the opportunity to use my mind. It is also a rewarding job where I feel like I am making a difference in the world.
  • My Internet access – Okay, okay. I admit it – I am a complete computer geek and junkie. The Internet has enriched my life, bringing me into contact with fellow child abuse survivors, fellow adoptive mothers, and other groups of people that I would never have met otherwise. I cannot imagine what my life would be like without the enrichment I experience from knowing all of you!
  • My life – I really have a great life. Those of you who have read my story might marvel at me saying this, but I feel so incredibly blessed to have lived the life that I have. I have overcome numerous obstacles and thrived.
  • My dogs – I adopted a couple of retired racing greyhounds a few years ago, and they are such a great addition to our family. They are very low maintenance. They just want to lie at my feet while I write on my computer, and they love to go for long walks with me in the pretty weather.
  • My relationship with God – I don’t know where I would be without my faith.
  • And last but definitely not least … My relationship with all of you!! – Even though I have never met any of you face-to-face, you know me in ways that many people in my day-to-day life do not, and I have gotten to know many of you well. I am so blessed by your comments, your emails, and your advice. I am blessed that you take time out of your busy day to read my blog. All of you are such a blessing to me, and I am truly thankful that you are a part of my life.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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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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Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

I hope that this holiday finds you well. I know that some of you are spending the day with abusive family members. Please try to keep yourself safe. Others are spending the day alone and feeling very depressed. Please try to remember that you are triggered. Those terrible feelings will not last forever. You will feel much better as Thanksgiving becomes a distant memory.

Some of you, like me, are doing the best you can to make newer and brighter associations with Thanksgiving. I have made a big turkey with homemade stuffing. I am doing my best to make this Thanksgiving a wonderful memory for my son.

Remember to nurture yourself today. I do this by watching my favorite Thanksgiving episodes. Gilmore Girls has a great one where the “girls” have to go to four Thanksgiving dinners. I also like watching a bunch of the Friends Thanksgiving episodes as well. I laugh and find a way to enjoy myself, even as I work through the triggers of Thanksgivings past.

Please take gentle care of yourself. Know that I am very thankful for all of you.

Related Topic:

How to Endure Holiday Season After Child Abuse

Photo credit: Rosanne Mooney

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