Gaslit for Christmas? No thanks. A message for my fellow survivors.
Tis the season, folks.
We’ve been here before.
It happens once a year.
Halloween is over, November sneaks in and before too long we’re at the grocery store over buying food for a feast. For many Americans, it is the first round of over buying that we’ll do this year because Christmas is also right around the corner.
We mentally prepare ourselves for the onslaught of holiday music, Christmas movies, and for the week leading up to Thanksgiving Day we’re planning our dinners, and cooking for a small army. Along with the Turkey, Ham, Yams, Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, and pies comes a huge dose of sentimentality.
There are thoughts of seasons past, yesteryears, and if you’re anything like me, there’s a longing to recapture the magic of those holidays. And there’s a longing for reconnections of friends and family and for some that’s perfectly okay. For others, it can get a bit trickier.
See, I don’t believe that ‘time heals all wounds’. In my experience, time simply makes you remember the ‘good’ that was present in those years. We sort of forgive the wounds or, if not forgive them, we tend to forget the worst things because we are no longer in them. Time provides space and distance and, once away from it, life distracted us with the business of living.
But the holidays are, by their very nature, reflective. They’re sort of built for this. It’s a time to take stock in where we’ve been compared to where we are, and this year, given COVID-19,being thankful that we’re still here. Yet we haven’t been untouched by it. Mostly, we’re being traumatized by it, in real time.
With the ever present spectre of Covid, in the media, on social media, present in the masks we wear to go outside, the social distancing, etc., it makes that sentimentality sting just a little bit more. Death, at least for the sensible portion of the country, is no longer an abstraction. It’s the real deal. It’s a very present reality that has made us recluse in a way we’ve never had to deal with in our lifetime because of the remarkable advances in medicine and technology had insulated us for so long.
As someone who suffers from cPTSD, and is in recovery, this past year has been especially torturous because I am watching people go through what I’ve been through. I am also watching myself, who knows the signs and symptoms and prior behavior due to this trauma, trying to process this new grief as fast as I can by intellectualizing what is taking place.
I’ll let you know if I’m successful because, to be honest, the jury is still out.
Yet the danger remains and not just the danger of COVID-19, but the danger of letting our guards down in regard to toxic family because of COVID-19 and the super bright harsh reality of the times we live in.
I had a conversation with a family member just this past week that was filled with love and light and memories of home etc. and being biologically created to return to ‘where the food is’ whenever things get dicey, those words were something I desperately longed to hear. In short, I was gaslit.
Those words themselves were abusive in of themselves. Because it came from a former abuser and for a minute there, I let my guard down and received those words as truth because I have a conscience. I have a soul. I have a desire to return to what was because right now, what ***IS*** sucks. Perhaps they, too, were sentimental because of COVID and the holidays but that’s not a risk I can take.
Thankfully, I live too far away to be able to jump in a car and return to ‘what was’ because the temptation was real. It is real. As an addict desires to return to the needle, to the bottle, to the bed of a stranger, or whatever their particular choice of maladaptive coping techniques, I could have easily found myself heading back down a road I thought I’d abandoned years ago in hopes that ‘this time it’ll be different.’
( I believe the root of all addiction is abuse and a dose of “this time it’ll be different.” )
It hurts. I’m hurting.
The definition of misery is failing to give up hope for a past that never was. And for many who had toxic relationships with family, that hope is never really gone. It’s still sitting there alone in a dark room waiting patiently for a miracle that, most likely, will never come.
So, this year, as you struggle to hold yourself together through all that has transpired up to this point, it’s totally okay for you to find a moment to grieve for that hope. To recognize it for what it is and, in the meantime, to be patient with yourself and be thankful and grateful, but along with COVID, be cautious about slipping backward.
Masks can’t protect us from everything but a bit of social distancing, just might. And just like the songs says, “Everybody hurts, sometimes. Hold on.”