Dreading Christmas was something I fully expected. I’ve spent the build up to this weekend hating the excitement and business around me. The more frenzied it all got, the more I wanted to crawl into a hole and wait there until January.
But the C-day has arrived and I am actually feeling alright about it. Our friends arrived this afternoon and we’ve had a pleasant evening so far. We walked down to my favourite pub for an amazing dessert they do. There was a happy, festive atmosphere in the packed out pub.
We had food and now we’re snuggling in our pyjamas watching Gremlins, one of my favourite films. I’m starting to think that Christmas can be OK. It can just be a few days off work, spending time with friends. If I consciously tell myself that, I can begin to ignore all the emotional baggage this time of year brings up.
My CoDA meeting this morning was wonderful. We had a big group, as everyone wanted to get a bit of support and grounding ready for tomorrow. It felt reassuring to be in a room with other people who were also struggling with what Christmas brings up. I was amazed to hear of all the ways Christmas triggers my friends’ codependency.
I heard so much I identified with in my friends’ shares; the anxiety about opening gifts in front of people, the fear of giving a gift someone might hate, the social anxiety in those long hours of awkward conversation, and so much more.
What was also striking was the grief people talked about. I hadn’t thought about it much before, but Christmas brings up grief for the happy times we’ve had and lost. Hearing this in the shares today definitely stirred up some sadness in me. I thought about how it all felt so easy and so right when I was small. Christmas was simple. I got excited about presents and Father Christmas, and I loved spending the day with my parents and grandparents. I belonged with them and never questioned that.
Thinking about all that made me feel intensely sad, because I have lost that simplicity, I’ve lost that childish joy and that complete confidence in being held, safe and loved within my family. I still see them, but I don’t feel part of that closeness anymore. I don’t belong with them, because by cutting my brother out of my life and exposing the sexual abuse he subjected me to, I have figuratively thrown a grenade into the family. It’s all become tense and fragmented. And I am the nucleus of that dysfunction.
So although being with my family this weekend would have been really tough for me, being without them is almost as difficult. It’s the first Christmas that at least a few of us haven’t got together. And it’s hard for me to not feel like that is my fault. Because I do see it that way. It’s a young part of me, but one that shouts loudly inside. She feels like this is all her responsibility. She feels as though this family would be happier without her. And that’s a difficult force to contain.
I hope that the young part of me will quiet down so I can manage to enjoy some part of tomorrow without being hijacked by her destructive emotions. And for everyone else who gets triggered, drawn into the sadness of nostalgia, or for those who just feel desperately lonely at Christmas, I wish you hope too. And courage.
Remember it is just a few days. And while they may be emotionally charged, they will also pass. January will arrive and life will become normal again. That’s what I hope will get me through this.