The holidays are coming….they come the same time every year. Different holidays affect people differently. For me, Halloween is just fun, no triggers. However, Thanksgiving is at the top of my trigger lists. The challenge is to sort out why the holiday is a problem then create a plan that helps you navigate the holiday. I noticed that being around my mother at Thanksgiving time consistently resulted in a negative experience for me. My counselor helped me put a plan together. As a gift to myself, I chose not to see my mother on Thanksgiving, even though I live close by. I don’t see her, not even a hello on the phone. One day of no contact as a gift to myself. Unreasonable, I was told. Mean spirited, unforgiving, yea I ran the gamut of criticism. But this was about me, not my critics. I needed to keep me safe. Other people’s opinion could not be part of my consideration. The relief for me was awesome. I repeated my choice year after year. Since my mother didn’t have me around to take her distress and nasty attitude, she turned to another target. Suddenly my choice became much more reasonable to my critics. Please understand that abuse victims are targeted and attacks are specific. In a family, one person may be singled out. The bully/abuser sets up the situation to make it appear that the victim is unreasonable, mean, selfish, liar, and totally unbelievable. I spent several weeks learning about the dynamics between Bully and Victim. I learned that the victim needs a plan to stop or get away from the bully.
This planning is helpful if the person has a team member. Yes, people need teams of people to live together peacefully. Ideally, family members are the best team members. Sadly, the people a person should be able to rely on are the bullies and predators doing the attacking. Fortunately, my husband is my team member. I can nod to him while visiting my parents and he knows this agreed upon signal that I am ready to leave. If you at an event on your own, decide in advance at what point you need to leave. Recognize your own early signs of distress and plan to leave when the earliest signs appear instead of trying to “stick with it” to prove something. Several things to keep in my when creating your plan…..
Self-care is not selfish.
Take PTSD into consideration, it isn’t healthy to deny that it will effect you.
Having an exit plan and a way to leave is a healthy choice.
You have nothing to prove.
Is it an event that could be skipped completely?
No need to apologize or justify your own self-care.
If there are several events choose only a few to go to.
Make new traditions.
“No” is a complete sentence.
You do not need to consider the feelings of your abuser.
If you are in a support group or counseling, review with them your plan, ask for suggestions on how to refine it.
I now have a variety of plans for different situations. I used to write them out and keep them in my purse. Now, I can plan and carry out my plans with greater ease. In all this remember, if you say yes to the bully/predator/abuser in your life, you are saying no to yourself. The holidays can be a wonderful time of the year. Plan to make the time peaceful and joyful for yourself.
Here are some links to other web pages discussing the holidays and PTSD.