This is a special solo episode of The Grass Gets Greener podcast. I share how the holidays can be a difficult time of year for me along with some things you can do to make this time a little easier for you if you struggle as well. You can either listen to this episode or read the corresponding post below if you prefer (or both).
Click the play button below to check it out!
If you've listened to the episode then that's great.
If you haven't, then the following post will cover most of what I talked about in this episode.
If you're reading this, then you probably know that the holidays can be a difficult time of year, especially for those of us who have experienced trauma in the past. The purpose of this episode / post is two-fold.
The first thing I want to do is share why this time of year can be difficult for me along with how it affects me. The second thing I want to do is share a few techniques I use to make things a little more bearable that you can use as well.
A story from seven years ago...
So seven years ago this year I moved out of my parents' house for the first time and was living on my own. Things were going pretty well for me and I was starting to feel more independent. I was learning more about myself and I was just starting to feel more comfortable in my own skin again.
I was living about an hour away from home and that was good for me because I felt like I needed to have some physical distance between myself and the location where I experienced the bullying. But, obviously, I would go home once in a while to go visit my parents and that's what I did when Christmas came around.
I remember that I had to go shopping for a last minute gift for my parents and I went with my grandmother to the store to go get this gift. As we were walking into the store, coming out of store was the mother of one of the people who bullied me. Needless to say, this wasn't a very pleasant experience for me.
I always knew that there was a risk of running into somebody from my past every time that I went home because I knew that the people were still around, but this caught me off guard. So this particular individual had been oblivious to what had happened to me in school and was unaware that one of her kids was someone who bullied me. And we actually had been friends before so it was really kind of awkward.
She was excited to see me, though, and wanted to know how I was doing and everything. All I wanted to do was just go find a rock to hide under. Instead, I just tried to be polite and courteous and not say anymore than a hello and get inside the store.
When I got back to my parents’ house I told my mom about what happened and it just kind of hit me at that point. All these feelings came rushing back to me and it literally just ruined the rest of my holidays. All I wanted to do was just go back home and seclude myself in my apartment and wish I had never gone up there.
However, that's not what I did. I stayed with my parents and we celebrated the holidays, but when I went home a few days later, I was still pretty shaken up by it. It took me the rest of the month to just sort of pull myself together and get back to my normal life. At that time I was going to grad school so it was when classes got back underway in January that I was able to get back into my routine and put it behind me.
This was the first time that this had happened and it's been the only time since then. It was really hard for me to deal with that because I don't ever want to run into any of the people who bullied me, or their families, for that matter. It's just too painful and I don't have anything that I want to say to them. I don't feel like I need some kind of closure where I need to talk to them and get an apology, or tell them how it made me feel and how it's affected me.
Maybe you have that experience as well where you either can't face or you have no desire to face the people who hurt you. Maybe you go out of your way to avoid them or maybe you're in a situation where you're not at risk of running into anyone. There's no right or wrong when it comes to handling this. If you feel the need to confront those who hurt you, then maybe that's what's best for you. I just know that what's best for me is to not put myself in that situation.
A story from today...
Something else I want to share with you is how the holidays are difficult for me today when I am around my family, in particular, my extended family. This might seem strange to you, but I've never actually told my family about the bullying. After I first told my mom about it five years after the fact, I still kept most of it to myself.
As a result, I became sort of estranged with my family. They probably thought I had become weird and didn't like them anymore or something because I had stopped talking to them.
So we've never really recovered from that. Obviously I've grown as a person since this time but it's like they haven't grown with me. So it just makes things really awkward during this time of year when I see them. I feel like I still act how I did around them 15 years ago.
It's actually a lot easier for me to open up to a complete stranger about my past than it is to open up to most of my family members. Maybe this is something you can relate to as well and it's not as crazy as it seems.
Part of it is that you have to feel safe if you're going to open up about your past. You can't worry that you're going to be judged or hurt by it. And I feel like my family wouldn't understand my situation and they would judge me. So that's really why I haven't been able to open up to them.
They say that you can't choose your family, but that you can choose your friends. Well I think that for us survivors, it's important to surround ourselves with people who understand us and who are not going to judge us.
When I am around my family and I start to feel awkward, I become very self-critical. I tell myself that I should be able to just be open with them and just be myself, but that only makes me feel guilty and worse about myself.
Getting through the holidays in one piece...
I should mention that each piece of advice I give here is one I need to make sure I follow myself.
The first thing that I recommend is to go easy on yourself. We shouldn't punish ourselves for feeling a certain way or thinking a certain thing. It is what it is for a reason and we have to just let it be and not make it worse for ourselves. Even if you're feeling depressed or anxious, you should still go easy on yourself for feeling that way.
Another thing you have to do is take care of yourself and make sure to do things for yourself. During this time of year, we are doing a lot of things for other people, spending more time with others and figuring out the perfect gifts to buy. So we have to make sure that we have some down time just for ourselves. Being around a lot of people during this time of year, particularly people you don't see very often, can be very stressful in and of itself.
The third thing I recommend is that when you do surround yourself with people, make sure that includes people who are going to be supportive of you. Even if you have to spend time with family for the holidays, try to find time to be around people who can make you feel less alone in what you're going through as well.
I wanted to do this episode and post to show you that this isn't the easiest time of year for me either. I hope that this has helped you in some way. Even though it can be a difficult time, remember that there are some things you can do to make it just a little easier.
If it would help you to share your thoughts below then I would love to hear about them and I'll be sure to respond. Otherwise just be sure to go easy on yourself, take care of yourself and surround yourself with people who get you. This time of year can be really great as well and I hope that you have an amazing holidays in spite of any pain and suffering they may cause you.
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