Every year as Christmas approaches, I have this idea that I’m going to really connect with the joy and spirit of the season. I want to feel the love of my Savior, reflect on His birth and the events surrounding His miraculous ministry. We decorate with Nativities, listen to uplifting Christmas praises of our Savior, and read inspiring stories and scriptures.
But it doesn’t work.
I feel close to nothing (besides frustrated). The joy and hope don’t flood in like I planned, no matter how much effort I put in to it. And then pile on the stress and chaos of prepping Christmas for my six kids and other holiday bustle, and it’s almost too busy to dwell on what’s wrong–what’s wrong with me? Why am I feeling blah or down?
This happens every year, though I only realized it a few years ago.
I haven’t quite figured out the exact source, but I know it has to do with sexual abuse, and likely, relatives (because family is so often associated with holiday festivities). The memories are buried, yet even though I can’t remember, my body does. I get sick often just before or on Christmas. This year, I also have tightness and pain in my shoulder muscles that keeps coming and going, even though I’ve done nothing to injure it. I know myself well enough to know that emotions–usually subconscious ones–frequently manifest as physical pain (the pain usually stops once I acknowledge the source and work through it).
I graduated from therapy a few months ago, so I find myself thinking I should be fine. I shouldn’t still be suffering from my past that wasn’t my fault to begin with. It’s discouraging to find myself still struggling with these deep feelings even though I haven’t been thinking about the abuse and have done so much work to find healing.
I know I have said so before, but it is really easy to think you’re not progressing when you hit these bumps, when PTSD and triggers come bursting through uninvited. But you are, and so am I. We have to have patience with ourselves.
I still haven’t identified the cause, but I feel on the verge of tears. I feel lost and sad, hurt and frustrated. Maybe it’s directly linked to the abuse, or maybe it’s a secondary feeling of the loss of what could, or should, have been in my childhood. The abuse hurts, but so many of the side effects hurt worse.
If you’ve been suffering quietly this season, know you are not alone. You matter. Talk to someone–a friend, a trusted family member, a therapist. Don’t bottle up the pain hoping it’ll magically go away. Write it out, meditate, and take a moment (or several) to work through your feelings while doing lots of self-care. Do not be afraid to ask for help.
We can get through this.