Christmas is just around the corner, but for some, this holiday season can be far from jolly.
I remember as a child, Christmas was a very stressful time for me, which was masked by an illusion of family happiness and giving. The reality was adults overdrinking/drugging, verbal or physical fights and feelings of disappointment . . . There was all the hype of what Christmas was supposed to be, followed by a feeling of let-down when it didn’t measure up.
During this season, I am flooded with unpleasant memories. A particularly traumatic one is being informed on Christmas Day by my caregiver at the time, that my father was in the hospital for attempting suicide.
Although these events are now a thing of the past, this time of year (December) triggers memory. My body still remembers and I am flooded by involuntary feelings of sadness, grief, anxiety and fear. In times past, when I had these overwhelming feelings and sensations in my body, I experienced an intense urge to escape them – to numb-out the feelings and I would become reckless in my attempts to avoid feeling at all. This was before I had any understanding of the root of my distress –– i.e., where these feelings came from – it was simply an automatic response to those intolerable emotions.
This time of year looks very different to me now. Once I recognized and acknowledged the source of these sensations and their attendant emotions –– once I faced the pain of my past – and allowed myself to feel the emotions (In a safe environment), it freed me from the trap I was in.
I am now well aware that December itself is a trigger so in order to keep myself safe when these feelings arise (because they will), I take pro-active measures to make plans ahead of time. Here are two simple self-help measures you too can use to prepare for a safe holiday:
- Think ahead. Know what/who/when, your triggers are – Knowing these will give you a head start in the preparation of how you will cope once they arise.
Set a plan
- These are the questions you’ll want to address: Should I avoid being alone? Who will I be with? Are these people looking out for my best interest? Are these people part of the trigger? Where will I be and will that environment tempt me to drink/drug or some other unhealthy vice of coping? If I am triggered and am struggling to cope, who can I call? what coping skills can I use? *make a list of these questions/answers and carry them with you, so that, you can refer back to it if you are in too much distress to recall or think clearly.
Be good to yourself. While it can take courage to reach out and ask for help in advance, and effort to sit down and make this plan, the effort will be worth it. This is both a healthy and a powerful coping strategy, called anticipation. It can, and does help to emotionally and physically prepare both mind and body and will alleviate some anxiety.
Whatever your holiday season looks like, finding your truth will allow you to live at peace with yourself.
Keep healing, growing and finding your truth!