“The holidays are so challenging for us. Gradually over the years I have pulled away from many in my life. I now spend most of my time alone. I will be alone on Thanksgiving and Christmas again this year as I was last year and the year before. It is a lonely time. The trauma I still have ensconced in my body from past holidays glows hotter every year, almost unbearably. The problem is being alone is a gateway for me to depressive episodes. I know it’s inevitable, but I just hope it’s not debilitating. Peace seems unattainable these days.”
“I have never read anything that mentions estrangement at the holidays and the pain is almost unbearable. For myself as a single mom and for my son. The loneliness and feelings of being “not normal” just bombard constantly. Thank you for including this in your email.”
I could not have imagined the number of responses and the amount of feedback I got on this guide. This is one of those moments where I can’t help but question “Where else do I assume I am having an experience that I deem abnormal when in fact it is highly relatable to the people I relate to most: other survivors?”
Is the isolation and the feeling that you don’t belong fun? No. Hell no. But I think we are uncovering how many of us are afraid to be honest about things that really matter: Like the holidays, and being alone, and feeling overwhelmed, and wanting so bad to buy into the picture-perfect ideals around the holidays, or life in general so that we can find…relief.
The relief is in truth and your truth specifically. By no means am I glad other people are hurting during this time of year. I am humbled and grateful that so many are sharing an experience that tends to be looked down upon from retailers, and streaming services. We are not alone in this. We aren’t!
Last month we talked about how to be prepared as much as you can for what is to come.
Today, I want to talk about the importance of who you are. You have heard me rant over how much is overlooked in the world around trauma recovery. When there is abuse involved, it is as if the survivor has to prove how traumatized they are to ask for help, then retraumatize themselves to get it. I think we represent a lot of untold stories around many leaders (others who abuse power) who would just assume find solace with other abusers than pull at the thread of how much said leaders invest in silencing people who need help.
While you may be sitting in a difficult spot and managing (surviving, numbing, coping), I want to remind you that your story is one that makes a difference. You see, it is common to move through the world and adapt to what others expect to make them comfortable around you. It is often out of survival that we suffer silently to keep others close, because if only they knew the torment we lived with, it may be too great an interruption to their lives, and then they would no longer be a part of ours.
But where does authentic change take place? Where does healing happen? Where are conversations expanded around hurt people who need help? By people like you who cannot and will not and do not fall into the categories of what has been defined as normal.
What we don’t see is we are often seeking to adapt better to the people and communities who don’t tell the truth. We see our loneliness as the problem for not accepting things as they are, and yet accepting things as they are is often what delays the healing from what can no longer exist in our mind and body.
Beyond the difficulty of the holidays, I want you to ask yourself who would benefit from knowing your story? I can confirm many, many people would. Are they glad you are also hurting? No. But does your existence make room for another person to exhale and have a lifeline of hope that they are not as abnormal as they thought? Yes. That matters.
You matter. Your story matters. The way you are coping to get through the holidays right now matters. Let’s be honest, many of us are hurting because we spoke up and finally said “No more!” Damn. There is a transition period where the loneliness of losing those who will not hold our pain with us change from being people we crave, to moving them out of the way, so we can see that part of us who longs to be our focus.
As you go through this week, please comfort yourself with all the things that help you cope. There is a time and place for discipline, and for coping. Whatever that mixture is for you, I hope you are bathing yourself with truth over how hard you have fought to overcome. And, if that includes cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner and keeps you going, then be the damn cookie monster! (Obviously, I am referring to chocolate chip cookies and not oatmeal raisin). While your life may not be the way you wish it were, you have paused to heal. You have stepped outside of what was normal, in order to offer your story relief. Brave, brave, brave.
Please don’t trust the holidays lies to tell you who you are. You are a precious soul trying to find their way. There is understanding for you in this world. There is space for your story to be told and known. I am sorry for the ways you have hurt. I am honored to know you too are trying to stop the pain.
I am so glad you’re here!
And to Tom and Michelle who graciously allowed me to share their replies at the intro, our community had some feedback for you:
“Your message hurt to read because it is relatable. I hope you feel less alone and that this holiday season is a turning point for better days ahead.”
“I hope you know it meant a lot to read your words. Your honesty is refreshing.”
“I am so sorry for the ways you have been hurt. I really mean that.”
“It brings me comfort that your son has a mom who is honest and cares about him this way.”
“I just wanted to send the biggest hug to you!”
“Single mom here. While not estranged, I may be on my way there. Your words meant a lot. It showed a lot of character!”