In an effort to disarm the normal program that runs in my head around this time of year I am thinking outside the box for how to deal with it as well as trying to maintain a present connection to myself. I am becoming more aware of the things that are triggers for grief, anxiety, fear and staying a little more grounded or present helps me to not be swept away but see the program the normal runs on an unconscious level. And I call it a program, you could also call it a pattern or unconscious habit.
I am giving myself permission to celebrate the holidays however I need to, and pay attention to how I feel. I normally over compensate and throw myself into full on Martha Stewart mode and try to stuff the pain and anxiety by baking cookies and shipping out mass amounts of presents and home made foods to friends and family. This year I am reigning it in, I don't want to stuff how I feel and I don't want to exhaust myself. Oddly enough trying to outrun the anxiety and bad feelings gave me more anxiety and problems than if I had just decided to be sad and feel the feelings when they surfaced. Just to clarify in case you have not read prior posts; I am essentially without family due to drawing difficult boundaries, their lack of acceptance and support. I came forward about childhood sexual abuse and no one could handle what I had to say, or the idea that the accused family member could do such a thing. Something our culture seems to have an issue with- a person who seems like a shining member of the community get accused and they cannot reconcile how the person has two sides. Either their heads explode or they quickly shift to denial in a desperate attempt at self preservation. The Woody Allen and Bill Cosby abuse scandals are perfect evidence of this type of reaction.
I was really not feeling excited about Christmas this year at all, in fact I didn't feel like putting up a tree and going through all the ornaments, even though I pretty much purged all Christmas decorations associated with family and memories last year. I feel a lot of grief since family is actually very important to me, it is unfortunate that I cannot have what I really want: respect, healthy relationships and support against my abuser.
The Winter solstice/ Yule idea came to me as a way to break up some of the holiday stress, and change the rhythm of things. When you are seeking to dismantle psychological triggers or patterns changing up something in the normal progression of things can often be enough to snap you out of the place where you get stuck. I love that the holiday celebrates the change of the season and is all about nature. You don't have to be pagan to appreciate the seasonal changes and celebrate. Who doesn't like the idea of a bonfire, good company and some liquor infused concoction on the longest day of the year!? Solstice/Yule falls on December 21'st give or take (sometimes it's the 22nd). So that is a few days before Christmas, and my idea was to shift some of the festivities to that day and do something more simple on Christmas. I am hoping that it would be a psychological trick to take some of the pressure off celebrating Christmas, when my mind typically tends to build up Christmas as this huge thing. Also if you are looking for another good reason to do this for yourself breaking up the flow of Christmas festivities might be a relief, or a perfect excuse to plan some more social events!
I don't think I am going to buy a traditional Christmas tree this year. I want to do a natural/winter theme and focus on decorating all around the house. I bought two small fake flocked tree's, and will focus more on a winter decor. I also might do a traditional solstice/yule tree and decorate a live tree outside with dried oranges and bird seed ornaments.
Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments and things that have worked for you in coping with the difficulties during the holidays.