Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Shutting Down To Get Through The Holidays

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.
Patricia

18 comments:

mountainmama said...

that very much helps me, thank you patricia.

in my case during last week's holiday, i did not shut down, but i wish i had. i felt so many feelings so strongly, yet knowing they were sometimes irrational or wouldn't have been appropriate to express with the strangers in the room, i held everything in. and then spent the rest of the weekend dealing with the results of what felt like an emotional implosion.

it's a great comfort to know i'm not alone in my difficulties. thank you for your blog.

i hope this finds you well and that the holidays are a peaceful time for you~~~

Patricia Singleton said...

Mountain Mama, I did have a great Thanksgiving with my inlaws, husband and son. I am glad that you got some comfort from my article. It does get easier with time.

mountainmama said...

i'm glad you had a nice holiday :) and thank you for your encouraging words of wisdom~~

Patricia Singleton said...

Mountain Mama, you are very welcome.

Just Be Real said...

Patricia thank you for sharing this very good post. Very encouraging to a lot of us who may suffer with the holidays and families we struggle with. Blessings....

Patricia Singleton said...

JBR, you are very welcome. I am encouraged when one of my articles helps another survivor with their struggles. Feelings of sadness are a big stuggle for me during the holidays when we are told that we "should" be happy and joyful.

sarah said...

blogging has helped me too - to have my voice, to find strength and courage and face the demons. You got courage. Stay strong. Sarah

Patricia Singleton said...

Sarah, thank you. You have courage too.

Colleen said...

Thank you for this post. I am OK this year with celebrating with my family of choice (as you put it so well) but still struggle with that shut down feeling. I battle with myself. But it does help to know i am not alone. Blessings!

Patricia Singleton said...

Colleen, you are welcome. I wish that I could say that I never shut down any more, but I still occasionally find myself doing it during moments of extreme stress.

April_optimist said...

These days I can look forward to the holidays but that's because they are on my terms now and I don't see my birth family. Wasn't always this way, though, and good to see your posts on this subject.

Marj aka Thriver said...

You know, Patricia, some of the best writing just seems to write itself and show up on the page like you said. This is such an excellent article! I think it has the power to help many, many people.

It would be the perfect article, and theme, for a blog carnival for the month of December. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to planning one and I don't have a host. Don't suppose you'd be interested? No pressure, of course.

But, the bottom line is: This is good stuff! bless you!

Patricia Singleton said...

April, sometimes healing means not spending time with our birth family in order to protect ourselves so that we can heal. I am glad that you now look forward to the holidays. Have a glorious Christmas and Happy New Year. Thanks for your encouragement.

Patricia Singleton said...

Marj, thank you. I just don't have the technical skills to host a Blog Carnival. You are right some articles do just write themselves without much direction from the author.

misssrobin said...

I have been out of therapy for about a year now. I miss it. I think it's time for a tune up, so to speak.

I've kind of lost myself again. Gotten back to flexible boundaries, if I remember to have them at all. And then feeling taken advantage of and not knowing why.

This was a good reminder of some of my successful times. I've had good holidays, usually when I've been in therapy recently. When I've been away again, I too often become that child again -- at everyone else's mercy.

Thank you for the memory jog. I'm going to do some serious work, and make an appointment, before Christmas. I deserve it. I don't just have to wait and hope.

Patricia Singleton said...

Miss Robin, you are very welcome. You do deserve the best that life has to give. We all do. We all have choices. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

Colony Kat said...

WOW! Thank you for putting it down for me to read. I'm no longer forcing myself to spend time with these people but.... I'm sure you know the rest.

Patricia Singleton said...

Colony Kat, you are so very welcome. Congratulations on removing yourself from the presence of your abusers. That is such a powerful, courageous step to take.