Thanksgiving and Christmas can bring up many emotions for an incest survivor. Dealing with family members that you may not see other than those two holidays can bring up any unresolved issues and memories of past abuse, especially if the abusers are still alive and at the family activities that most people participate in during these two holidays. Some of us, to be peacemakers during the holidays, pretend that the abuse never happened. You don't want to upset anyone else with your emotional garbage when Thanksgiving and Christmas are supposed to be such happy times. You don't want to be seen as a Scooge because you can't pretend to be happy. You try to let go of your anger, once again, to appear normal. Sometimes you just want to be happy so bad that you pretend that you are for a little while. Holidays are when you miss the most the family that you never had as a child so you pretend.
You don't want everyone else to think you are crazy because you can't stand to be in the same room with the person who raped you. Afterall, all of that was years ago when you were a helpless kid. What most people don't understand is that the second you step into the room with your abuser, especially if it was your parent, you become that helpless kid again. The fear comes back full blown along with the rage that you carry with you as an adult. Both emotions can cause a volatile situation that you don't know how to deal with. You become so scared that you forget that you are now an adult who can protect her/himself. (Yes, incest does happen to little boys too, just not as often.)
Many times, in order to get through the holidays, you just shut down. It doesn't matter how many times that you tell yourself that you won't shut down this time. You still do it when your emotions become overwhelming. Shutting down is an emotional response that your mind uses to protect you until you are strong enough to deal with the situation and people involved. It probably saved your life when you were a child. It kept the body alive until the mind could cope. Sometimes coping is all that you can do to get through this holiday without really going crazy.
What I have just described was how I got through many holidays as a young adult. I don't shut down today. Today I am strong enough and brave enough to face my demons head on. Writing this blog helps me to do that. In remembering, I don't continue on in those old ways. What I accept, I can change. Today, if I find myself starting to shut down, I have another option. I can choose to leave physically. I can choose to feel what I feel. Fear, rage, sadness can all be part of my emotions during a holiday or any other time of the year. So can happiness, joy, peace, excitement, love. All of those are acceptable to me today. Today I can deal with my holiday memories from the past and talk about them with my support system of family and friends. I thank God for each of my support members.
This wasn't the article that I just sat down to write but it is the article that typed itself onto this page. Hopefully it will help someone else get through the upcoming holiday of Christmas by letting you know that you aren't alone with your struggles with family.