Here we are back at Christmas. This is probably one of the harder times of year for people. It is also the time of year that people think there is no problem at all. And for some that is a completely honest statement. But for others it is something to think while the world falls apart around them.
This is not an easy time for me. I find myself more depressed, more easily stressed out, and suffer unexplainable crying jags. In other words I am profoundly not having a jolly time. For me the reason is trauma triggers. A lot of not good stuff happened for me this time of year as a child. As a result I struggle with this time of year.
Don’t get me wrong. I totally love Christmas music. I love the stations that play holiday music for a solid month. I love the stories that are shared of holiday experiences. And I very much love making people smile with gifts or acts of kindness. I am not a humbug sort of person. I even have a shelf of sappy Christmas movies that I watch. But sometimes the past and the triggers that come up are often more than I can handle.
This is really hard for some of my children. I know that some of my adult children want to fix it and make it better. That somehow there must be something that they can do that will make this easier for me. There really does not seem to be anything that they can do that can fix it. I have explained to them that it is really me and that I am the only one who can change how I react and respond to the holidays.
I have made a few goals for getting through the holidays. Goal one is to just relax and stay present. Don’t worry about anything that is not relative to this moment. I have a schedule of things that happen and when they happen. Things like bill paying and so forth. Goal two is to just enjoy my family. Enjoy the moments that I am with them. Make cookies with my children. Play games with them and just enjoy being with them. Goal three is to enjoy what comes my way. Whether that is something fun having to do with family and friends, snow days, or just being in a quiet moment. All the goals are really about being in the present moment and not continuing to allow the past to ruin this time of year.
It is also important for me to allow myself to grieve if that is what I need to do and not block hard feelings from coming. Being present means I can allow them to come but I don’t have to hold on to them. I can acknowledge them and let them go. Way too often I hold on to those thoughts and let them take up valuable space in my mind. When what I need to do is to acknowledge and let them go.
This holiday season I will sing, dance, and make merry. And I will engage in self-care and tenderness to myself. I will remember to take deep calming breaths and be courageous.
Sometimes I hear the phrase “it takes a community to raise a child.” And there are so many ways that I agree with that. Community is very important. To everyone. This past week I experienced a rather hard thing. Someone I know died. Their death was shocking and surprising. Mostly because it was unexpected. It is not officially known what happened but the conclusion at the moment is that she killed herself.
I know from experience what that dark place feels like and how hard it is to walk away from it. And I know that there are a lot of people in the world who feel that dark place as an intimate place, as somewhere there is no escape from. And that they feel so lost and dark and down that the world would better off without them. Here’s the thing, it isn’t better without them.
The ripples that come from a suicide are huge in their scope. Generations are affected. There are very, very few people in this world that would not leave anyone behind. Everyone has someone that cares or loves them more than words can describe. And everyone is affected by suicide. Everyone connected to that person walks around wondering,”what did I do or didn’t do?”, “How could I have reached them?”, “Why wasn’t I enough for them?” And though those are not fair questions to be burden with people are left to wonder.
No matter how dark things are right now, and no matter how long things have been dark they have not and will not always be that way. Our future self is so full of promise. Everyone is so full of potential and possibility. That the loss of one is so keenly felt. Everyone goes through those times of wondering, like the main character in “Its a Wonderful Life” we often what difference does our being here make? Or who would really notice if we ceased to be here? I have felt that, most people have felt that. And just like the main character learned in the movie the ripples that our lives create are vast and some are so faint that we do not notice them or what change they have brought to someone.
I guess what this boils down to is someone I cared about died. They took with them the opportunity for change and all the miracles that their life brought to people. I have lost way too many friends and family to suicide. Its not okay. Part of me wants to reach out wrap everyone in bubble wrap and just keep them safe. We all live our lives an we all have dark times. For some people I know it is the horrors of war that haunt them, for others it is the trauma of childhood abuse, or mental illness that seems to sap away their energy. These are hard things. But no one ever has to face them alone. Some choose to face them alone, and others think that they would be a burden to someone if they shared the darkness. Those burdens are best carried when the weight is divided among others.
When my heart was filled with sadness from this event I was unsure what to do. Then I reached out to someone wiser than me and they helped. And then that person reached out to others in my behalf and they helped me carry my burden. I have lived though horrors and trauma that I do not share in detail with people. But still when I reach out from my dark times to others the darkness is lessened.
So if you know someone who is in pain reach out and help them to find the help they need. There are many places to go for help. If you are hurting and think that there is nothing left and nowhere to go for help stop and reach out to one person. One candle can light many candles. Don’t suffer alone. Don’t leave us before it is time.
It takes great courage to live. Please be courageous.
Over the last 20years of healing I have learned a number of things.
1) Things get better- it took time and work. But I have gotten better. I can do things now that I could not even imagine doing just five years ago.
2) Community/support group- It is necessary to not try to live this out alone. I have found that I need someone to hear me and to understand. Someone to be there for me when things are way too much for me to do alone. This group can be anyone. For me it is my friends, family, religious leaders, therapists. It can be anyone that fills those needs for you.
3) My story of healing and survival is Sacred- I know that there are people out there who want to hear and give sacred space for your story. I also know there are people out there who don’t give a flying fart in space about your story. That is why who hears it and who doesn’t is important. I have no problem with people knowing that I have survived intense years of trauma. But the story itself…that is sacred. The humiliations, pain, and terror that I survived. That is mine to be shared only with those who have earned the right to know.
4) That feeling of mind crushing soul destroying depression that tells you not to exist anymore can and will pass- This is why you need community and support. It does not last forever and it is hard to get through. It is near impossible to get through alone. That is why we need those we love and who care about us to be aware of our struggles. Because they love us they want us to stick around. And they really do want to listen and help. And that feeling does pass. It comes back sometimes, but it passes.
5) A safety plan- I have needed and implemented a safety plan in my life. When things like number 4 happen I know who to call. I have a list of people to call. I have a strategy for getting through those insanely dark times. And the biggest part of that is speaking up and acknowledging the pain. There is nothing that the darkness of depression hates more than turning on the light. And talking about it…turns on the light.
6) No matter what has happened in my life I am loved- There are people out in the world who love me and reach out to me. They have helped me through to this point of growth that I now enjoy. And when I am alone (which rarely happens) i have my dog. Love is non negotiable. Everyone needs it. It is why we sometimes do stupid stuff to get that feeling. Sometimes those things are actually destructive. Finding a way to get that feeling and stay safe is important.
There really is a lot more that I have found out along the way. But community, safety, and the knowledge that the darkness does actually pass have helped me through the dark times. The times of curling up in a ball and hiding to where I am now. But the most important thing that I have learned is that I have already won. I am still alive. I lived through the hell I experienced. And I have lived to tell my tale. I have great sorrow and for those whose pain takes them from us too soon. And I have great love and compassion for those that struggle everyday to remember to breathe. Everyone’s journey is sacred. And we all need to be community for each other so that we can all heal.