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#418013 - 12/03/12 12:27 PM Christmas can be difficult
expom Offline

Registered: 01/07/09
Posts: 126
Loc: Australia
Looking around town, it is easy to see that the “Silly Season” is well and truly upon us: That Yuletide of “Peace and Goodwill”; the time of feasting and family; of expectation and wishful thinking. And there is a long tradition to uphold; a short carol sung to the tune of Greensleeves dates back to the mediaeval times of King Henry the 8th

Let's dance and sing and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year,
Make merry now nor draw a tear,
So early in the morning.
Then shout and sing till rafters ring,
For joy and mirth the seasons bring;
We'll welcome Father Christmas in,
So early in the Morning.
For many of us, though, this is a difficult time of year.
I’m glad that my wife takes the initiative of sending Christmas cards to my family in the UK – because, truth be told, I’ve long since lost the desire to maintain the hypocritical pretence of doing “NORMAL” when it comes to my biological family of origin.
Others that I know have an even tougher time: Those who were sexually violated as children by older brothers and sisters; step relatives and blood relatives; and even mothers.
I continually fail to understand how it is that otherwise, apparently, well adjusted people, can feel comfortable making the annual pilgrimage through carols by candle light and nativity plays to that ancient stable and yet sit quietly knowing that they have left one of their own out in the cold, unsupported facing the ever present demons of yesteryear.
They claim no responsibility for the sexual abuse that I was exposed to for years as a boy; while continuing to deny that their emotional neglect of me had any bearing on setting me up to become the victim of a predatory paedophile’s grooming.
I signed the cards. I even went out and bought the stamps but this year – like the previous 5 – I will not be counting down the minutes to midnight to make those myth-maintaining phone calls. That’s how long ago it was that I told my family of some the things that I had been required to endure whilst living among them. That’s how long it has been since they asked me to be patient with them because they did not want to face what I’ve been through.
My story isn’t unique – it’s all too common. But pause a minute and think of the ways that these tendrils descend through time and contaminate the relationships that we want to maintain and preserve. I actively engage in hunting out the perfect present for my wife’s sister, mum and dad – all the while fuelling my own guilt about not doing the same for my parents and siblings. Sure I can use the excuse of being on the other side of the planet but that’s all it is = an excuse. And who do I think I’m fooling?
Years ago – before I even started my journey of recovery from the long term effects of being sexually abused as a boy – I used my job (my nursing duties) to ensure that I didn’t have the time off work to enable me to travel to my parents for Christmas. In fact, thinking about it now, I haven’t spent a single Christmas day at my parents’ house since I left home at the age of 17. My wife and children have never woken up to Christmas at the home of my parents – such has been the subconscious desire to protect them from the controlling manipulative behaviours that I have been exposed to.
I’m lucky – I guess: At least I’ve had the choice. There are many that don’t.
Christmas and, to a certain extent, New Year are difficult times precisely because they are times when the celebrations are family events and reflection is encouraged.
For many survivors of sexual child abuse, these already stressful times can be really fraught. Have a look around the family gathering and you will be able to spot us; there are certain traits that we adopt.
• Busy. Always fussing; cleaning up; passing round food; never stopping to engage in meaningful conversation
• Boozey. Escaping into a bottle; never blotto because that would lead to lack of control but always well oiled; first to crack a stubby of beer or open a bottle of chardonnay
• Absent. Capable of running away in an instant (without even leaving the room); the first to volunteer to go fetch milk, pizza, Aunt Mable, gas for the barbecue. In a social setting and can’t find me? Check the kitchen sink. For others; check the back yard – playing cricket with the kids or check the TV in the spare room.
It’s so much easier for us to avoid and hide in plain sight. When forced to maintain conversations beware, the dis-inhibiting alcohol encourages us to pick a fight so that we can go back to our preferred trait.
And the funny thing is that this is all subconscious but we all seem to do it – just ask any group of adult survivors.
I have one friend who goes camping in the Australian outback with his kids for Christmas – goes a couple of days before Christmas and comes home the day after New Year. No television, no mobile phones, no work calling. His wife and kids love it and the rest of his family have had to get used to it.
And a couple of years ago, my wife and I headed off to Treasure Island, Fiji for Christmas and New Year. My wife was only resistant to going until I told her that that was where I was spending my holiday season and I’d prefer to have her company but if she felt she needed to stay home that I’d respect that – all the while getting her to look at the resort on the internet. We had a great time – and more to the point, so did the rest of the family. They managed really well without us and worked out what family traditions they wanted to keep going in our absence.
These coping strategies are important – both personally and in relationship with others. I think this is especially so at Christmas time (regardless of any religious beliefs one might have).
There are times when it is especially important for me to remind myself that I am so much more than a survivor of sexual child abuse. Yet this time of year stirs up more memories than at other times of year.
At this time of year it is more difficult to avoid the bad relationships that can drag us down. And somehow, it is also more difficult to maintain a positive attitude – perhaps because of the guilt associated with not having perfect relationships.
So, in order to cope:
• I reserve the right to arrive late to parties and gatherings;
• I reserve the right to go home early
• I reserve the right to go and inspect the garden; walk the dog; pick up; drop off; collect or return if it keeps me engaged and enables me to accept the invitation
• I reserve the right to disassociate; to switch off; to run away without leaving the room and to fake taking a nap
• I reserve to the right to ‘forget’ to return my mother’s phone call and to ignore the flashing light on the telephone answering machine
• I reserve the right to re-wash the glasses and spend ages polishing them if it means that I can avoid conflict and stress
• I reserve the right to play Jenga, X-Box, back yard cricket or lego with the kids – even if the table needs to be set
Because – after all; Christmas comes but once a year.
And if we don’t cope: what then?
First of all, understand this: We don’t mean to cause you stress or upset. If we need to do something FOR us; we’re not doing it AGAINST you.
Sometimes we do need to have a loving gentle reminder that this is now and here is where we are. Not back there; not, back then. And we are not defined by the set-backs that we have had along the way. This has been a difficult year for me with quite a few setbacks – not least being turned down for Criminal Injuries Compensation in the UK because I got one date wrong.
It’s OK to remind us to stay in the present and that – despite any assertions that I can come up with – doing the chicken dance with my Mother-in-Law won’t kill me (but upsetting her might).
It’s OK, too, to remind me that distraction therapy can best be achieved with things that are familiar – so come on, join in the carols; watch the Queen’s message to the Commonwealth and have a go at landing that new remote control helicopter on grandad’s head while he’s asleep in his chair.
Because it is too important that we don’t let go of the fact that the effects of the sexual abuse we endured are also felt by others; and Christmas is a really good time to practice having a good time and also for learning to treat ourselves in the way that we would like others to treat us.
We already know that next year isn’t going to be any easier. The Royal Commission into institutional sexual abuse is going to stir up memories and emotions and perhaps more pointedly; there are going to be so many more insensitive remarks made by television reporters, notaries and casual acquaintances who are, no doubt, going to parade their own ignorance whilst simultaneously asserting that their opinion is more valid than mine.
So, until then:
Let's dance and sing and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year,
Make merry now nor draw a tear,
So early in the morning.
Then shout and sing till rafters ring,
For joy and mirth the seasons bring;
We'll welcome Father Christmas in,
So early in the Morning.
I endured all my yesterdays. I prevail in all of my todays. I exercise my right to be able to enjoy my tomorrows. I choose not to do it alone.

#418723 - 12/10/12 06:12 PM Re: Christmas can be difficult [Re: expom]
confusion4life Offline

Registered: 02/12/12
Posts: 109
Loc: Italy
everything is always okay in the end, if it's not, then it's not the end


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