While dealing with Christmas in the aftermath of abuse, there is usually more than just a meteorological chill in the air. Every year, random events seem to trigger paranoia. For me, it’s usually: Are they trying to get me back for Christmas? Then, of course, there is the onslaught of happy families on television to contend with. That takes its toll; there is so much emphasis on romance, family, and togetherness that it’s pretty much impossible not to feel like the odd one out.
Let’s dig into these feelings a little, and find out how you can deal with them.
I can pretty much guarantee that, at some point in December, I will be crying my eyes out. I used to be afraid of that moment. Now I am okay with it. This is a time of year when I can feel totally overwhelmed by a feeling of utter loneliness. Not the kind from not having loving people around (my Family of Choice is the best). I’m talking about the kind that makes me realise that, biologically, I am a family of one. I feel orphaned. I cry because I remember how disliked and unloved I felt.
Outsiders don’t understand because they think I made that choice. I did, but it is the same choice as getting out of the path of a speeding car. It is an action to save your own life, and it really has little to do with the wish to be without a family.
There is such an enormous focus on family and reconciliation at this time of year. So, of course, I am going to be triggered at some point. I used to think that preparing for that trigger was tensing up so I could catch the fall. But just like with ice skating, the tenser you are, the more likely you’ll fall.
So these days, I try to relax when a significant date or a holiday pops up. I make sure I surround myself with the people that love me and understand. I try to avoid other triggers as much as is within my control, and I leave myself space and time for some extra self-care. You get the drift. I try to make my life as comfortable as possible. As I relax, the flow of emotions comes in less extreme peaks. It all has to do with giving yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling. Maybe you feel sad despite being with your beloved Family of Choice. Maybe you feel happy even though you are not celebrating with your family of origins. Neither makes you a bad person.
What you feel is what you feel. And that is okay.
You realise what the trick is, right, not to get swept away in the emotion of it all? Stop comparing! Not only stop comparing yourself to the rest of the world but also stop comparing your present life to the life you had—or wished you had. The only life you have is the life you are living, right? So stop comparing it to all the other lives you might have had. Leave it to the parallel-universe-you to have that great family life, that magic marriage, or that winning lottery ticket.
You may not have grasped every dream and wish in your heart, but there are good things in your life, I guarantee it. There are great people that love and support you. There are hobbies you love, museums you can’t wait to see, and parks you are itching to take a walk through. There is music that moves you to your core, there are dishes that you cannot wait to stick your fork in. And believe me that however bleak you think your life is, there are always happy memories that can’t wait to be made.
When it comes to sad feelings, those days you keep longing for your dreams and wishes, you pull those good things around you. Like a blanket keeping out the cold.
Make this resolution: from now until forever, you will pull your warm blanket of goodness tight around you. Promise yourself to focus on all that is positive in your life. It may not take away the hurt, or stop life from being complicated, but it will keep you warm on cold days, at least…
Christmas can bring out stress in even the most peaceful people. There are gifts to buy and overcrowded shops. An elaborate meal must be cooked for family and friends. The house is to be made to look festive. The list goes on and on. Add a toxic family dynamic to the mix and the stress can be overwhelming. So let’s talk about some ideas for how to survive the holidays without losing your mind.