Coping with the Holidays
A lot of us look forward to the coming “Holidays”. It is a time to be with family and loved ones, share meals, catch up on what others are doing and reminiscing past times together. Some of the salads and side dishes are a bit over the top, but the turkey and pies are awesome. Some love the stuffing and cranberries, not me. Gawd, I’ve even seen some take bites of them together. Ugh. We get over-stuffed, some drink too much and stay up too late, and some tell the same stories every year. All in all, it is a good time for one or two days and by the grace of God we forget the irritating parts before we gather again next year.
This is not how the “Holidays” work for everyone. Some of us cannot forget things that happened in the past, nor should we. If you are a survivor of child sex abuse, seeing family may be difficult at best, and impossible at worst. If you are one of the thousands suffering from PTSD from your abuse, just coming out of your house on a holiday may not be an option.
As survivors, many things happen at holidays that can trigger us. So here is the simple message I want to share. Be careful and take care of yourself. Try to keep an ally, a friend or partner, who understands and will support you close at all times.
If you are not comfortable dealing with some people you know will be present, it’s really okay to just say, “I’m not coming, it just doesn’t work for me.” If you get there and you do not feel safe, leave. I don’t know about you, but I find it is so easy to fall back into the “I’m not good enough” or shame mode, and just accept comments or actions that revictimize me. As survivors it seems that denial and dissociation can work fine as coping mechanisms, but they keep us in our box of loneliness.
Is it really worth it to stand up and protect yourself from those that would revictimize or invalidate you? My answer is yes; it is worth it because it honors you and your truth. You are worth it! It is your voice that rings up to heavens. The universe is in tune to your cries. If we learn to love and take care of ourselves we really can find comfort in our own skin. Living your story not only changes you, it changes those around you.
So this holiday season I hope you intentionally choose places to go, and people to be with that love and support who you are and the journey you are on.
Go in peace.
A version of this blog was published on 1in6.org and Joyful Heart Foundation.org websites.
We are once again in the season that elicits feelings of excitement for some, dread for others and both for some of us. I have recently explored keeping healthier boundaries in place that allow for room to breathe and reciprocity.
Boundaries, what exactly does that word mean? Here’s what Wikipedia has to say: “Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits. Personal boundaries operate in two directions, affecting both the incoming and outgoing interactions between people.”
As a survivor of sexual violation over time by my minister, I learned different boundaries than most kids. Being victimized taught me if you want to use me, that’s okay, I have very little value anyway. After getting away from my abusive situation I put up some very thick walls that looked remarkably like a fort. I learned if I keep people completely away, then I can be safe. I was also willing to fight and destroy anyone who challenged my walls or me.
Those walls were my boundaries and in my mind, they made me safe. Cross them at your own risk! The problem for me and many other survivors is that those are not “normal boundaries” and therefore no one else knows where they are until they bump up against them. I must say this has made long-term relationships difficult at best. After I blow up, people often wonder “What was that about?” or “What did I do?” or “I wonder what’s wrong with him?”
The boundaries that my pastor/mentor/abuser broke were replaced with trauma-informed defenses. If you were going to be around me in my younger years you better get used to short limits and intolerance on my part……………………………..
Read the rest at Joyful Heart Foundation.
A lot of us look forward to the “Holidays”. It is a time to be with family and loved ones, share meals, catch up on what others are doing and reminiscing past holidays together. The salads and side dishes are a bit over the top, the turkey and pies are awesome. Some love the stuffing and cranberries, not me. Gawd, I’ve even seen some take bites of them together. Ugh. We get over-stuffed, some drink too much and stay up too late, and some tell the same stories they tell at every gathering. All in all, it is a good time for two days or so and by the grace of God we forget the irritating parts before we gather again next year.
I want to give a shout out of thanks to Vickie Polin for the reminder that this is not how the “Holidays” work for everyone. If you are a victim of child abuse of any kind, seeing family may be difficult at best, and impossible at worst. If you are one of the thousands suffering from PTSD from your abuse, coming out of your house on a holiday may not be an option.
If you are a survivor of incest it can be like walking into the fire to have a family meal. Get a drink, quick. If you are one of the many that have reported the incest, chances are pretty good no one in the family speaks to you, anytime of year, and blames you for what others did. Your honesty and speaking your truth leave you ostracized from all family contact. They will punish you for what they cannot, or will not face. They find it easier to believe the denial than have to face that a loved one did horrible, unspeakable things to you as a child. Life is better if it just didn’t happen.
As survivors it seems that denial, or dissociation, can work for us as well. “Is it really worth it”, is something all survivors struggle with. And living through the holidays is definitely one of those times. It just isn’t fair. The perpetrator is sitting around eating and drinking and pretending nothing happen to cause your absence. But it did, damn it! And you did nothing wrong but are put in a place of paying a price for the liars and the weak of character.
I want to shout it out, as painful and unfair as all this is, you are a gift to the world. It is your voice that rings up to heavens. The universe is in tune to your cries. Learn to love and take care of yourself and you will find your new place among the righteous. Speakers of truth of the heart are more powerful and feared than any on earth. That kind of truth cannot be challenged. Be proud, stand tall and take your place.
To those of you who are about to eat and drink too much at the family gathering, remember there are hundreds of thousands of who have been mistreated as children to the point they have limited or no family connection and their holiday best is trying to forget what was done to them.
Are there any you are helping keep outside by your silence? Are there any that your support could help bring to the table?