December is here and the hustle and bustle of the holidays are in full swing. Lights are being hung, holiday music is being played, family and friends are gathering, and gifts are being bought. Some people look forward to this time of year, while others either feel like a holiday “Grinch” or simply look forward to the holidays being over. If you love the holidays, despise them, or are in between you’re not alone. In fact for many people this time of year is quite painful.
For myself I feel holidays tend to highlight the importance of family and being together. In my own life, family doesn’t equal being loved, accepted, and supported. It has equaled being abused, feeling rejected, and living with a hole in my heart. It’s why this time of year can be so difficult not only for myself, but also for others that have experienced trauma. Memories can surface, and the feelings of sadness, anger, rejection, and hurt can easily be triggered.
Family can be one of the biggest triggers for many that are healing from trauma, thus it is why it’s important to remember to take care of yourself! You are the one that knows yourself best, and knows what works for you. For myself I journal, I enjoy doing art, and love to cook. My cat Chloe can always put a smile on my face and spending time with friends keeps me feeling upbeat.
There have been many things I’ve learned about myself over the last year; however the greatest of all has been the need to DISTANCE myself from my family. In order to heal, be happy, and reach my goals, I can’t put myself in a situation that is constantly re-traumatizing, no matter how much I love them. Distancing myself has not been easy, (especially during the holidays). Who doesn’t want to feel loved by their own mother? These feelings I believe are completely normal for anyone to have. The difference this year is that I’m beginning to accept that as much as I may want my family’s love and acceptance, the reality of me getting it, is slim to none. By beginning to accept this, I have opened myself up to creating my own “family”, the family I’ve always wanted. My “family” which I’ve created for myself is made up of friends. It’s full of love, support, and unconditional acceptance. It’s filled with hugs, laughter, and quality time together. It’s about cherishing one another for who they are and being thankful for what you have. Family I’ve learned is what you make it. For me my family no longer needs to be defined by “blood relatives”. I’ve created my family with the people who love me for who I am. This Christmas will be in some ways very sad for me, but in other ways very special. I will have a holiday that is full of friends that I love and am thankful for. For the first time in 28 years I won’t feel the need to “pretend” or be “on guard”. For the first time I will have a holiday that is actually about spending time with loved ones and having a good time which is something very important to me.
I hope by sharing a piece of myself will help someone this holiday season. This time of year is not easy for many of us. Beginning new traditions and breaking out of old patterns takes time and being gentle with ourselves. I personally love volunteering and get a sense of fulfillment by helping others. One holiday season a few friends and I went and sang Christmas carols at a children’s hospital and handed out teddy bears. Another year I visited an animal shelter and donated my old towels and played with the animals. Whatever helps you during this time of year DO IT! Bake those chocolate chip cookies, or take a warm bubble bath. Take a hike through the woods. Reach out to a friend or loved one and remember you are not alone this holiday season. Come to a Vital Cycles meeting, share with others how you’re doing as well as what helps you this time of year.
make these the best holidays you’ve ever had,