Monday, 6 December 2021

Christmas is so triggering it turns me into the Grinch, and that's okay | Editor's Letter

Christmas is a huge trigger, yet the brave face must go on as no one likes a Grinch. I tell myself year in year out as I put others' festive joy before my mental health - but not anymore.

It's the best time of the year for many of us. Still, for some, it highlights how alone we feel or are,  brings on PTSD flashbacks of dark childhood times, or is exceptionally stressful due to finances.

There are countless reasons why Christmas may make you feel like the Grinch, and that's okay. You don't have to like the festive season or hide behind a mask.

You also do not have to put aside your boundaries and needs because it's the holidays. 

For example, if a family member at the function triggers you, it's okay if you don't want to go. 

If you don't want to get glam on Christmas Day because you're doing everything you can to keep it together, you don't have to.

If you don't want to buy everyone a present because times are tough, you don't have to.

If you don't want to drink because you're feeling sad and it won't be best for you to do, you don't have to.

Christmas is about being around those you love, trust, and be yourself around. So, it's no wonder I was a Grinch for years, and it haunts me now.

Until I was 16, Christmas was the worst day of the year. Besides the childhood excitement of getting some free shit, I knew the rest of the day would be spent walking on eggshells.

There was no time to be excited for Santa. We were all too busy being hyper-vigilant, making sure the atmosphere wasn't turned to chaos. 

One Christmas in particular that haunts my mind when I first hear a festive song in a supermarket or see the John Lewis advert is the time the entire turkey, still hot, was thrown hard in my face from close range. I was 14-years-old at the time.

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Why was a turkey thrown in my face at Christmas dinner? Why, because I asked for some more of it because it tasted so good - believe it or not.

As "you fat bitch" was screamed in my face as I wiped the turkey residue away, my love for Christmas left my soul, and it has never come back.

While my past, growing up in a toxic home doesn't leave you in adulthood until you heal. And even then, healing is a lifetime journey sometimes. So it's only now, a decade after a turkey slapped me in the face, that I'm starting to feel somewhat festive.

As I said, as soon as the Christmas songs begin, the trauma becomes more evident than ever. I wish I could say I'm alone in experiencing this, but I'm not. I'm far from being alone, but we hide it. 

We hide the pain, so we don't ruin Christmas with our trauma or torment. But, in doing so, we stop raising awareness. We stunt our healing. We once again give up our voice and needs to keep the peace.

Christmas is the worst time for any child or anybody living in a home riddled with domestic abuse and violence. 

In a report published on December 23, 2020, by the Early Intervention Foundation, researchers stated over 15,000 children were likely to be exposed to domestic abuse that Christmas. 

During an interview with The Independent, Women's Aid has previously warned that perpetrators may blame their abusive behaviours on additional pressures over the festive period.

A survey carried out by Stowe Family Law found that one in six of those who took part said they were more likely to suffer emotional or physical abuse from their partner over the Christmas period.

Why is Christmas such a high time for domestic abuse and violence, you may be wondering?

While no excuse, there are several reasons why perpetrators are particularly nasty over Christmas.

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Around a third of the 440 people polled by Stowe Family Law said that money was the chief cause of strain on their relationship. In contrast, two in 10 said that "spending time with the wider family" was likely to trigger tension with their partner.

Sarah Jane Lenihan, a partner at the firm, told the publication: "Domestic abuse charities report they see an increase in calls during the Christmas and New Year period by as much as 50 per cent. Alcohol-infused violence is something I hear a lot of, and sadly Christmas is a time when many overindulge."

Charlotte Kneer, chief executive of Reigate and Banstead Women's Aid refuges in Surrey, also told the publication of how it was a difficult time during her years of abuse.

Her partner was jailed for seven years in 2011. The person who lobbed the turkey at me also ended up behind bars in the end... as a warning to any abuser out there, the evil rein always ends.

"You don't have any rights as the victim in an abusive relationship; even if that right is making Christmas nice for your kids, you don't have that right," Charlotte said.

"It also is a pressured situation as you are under the same roof. There is a world of ways your abuser can make your life a misery over Christmas, and you are just like a rag doll, being thrown from one situation to the next with no control," she continued.

So, yeah, you get the gist. Some of us are trying bloody hard to be strong at Christmas, but we can't burn ourselves out for the sake of others' joy, and we shouldn't have to.

Instead of forcing your loved ones to lavish up the festivities, give them space when they need it and a shoulder to cry on.

It's the best present you could give. Believe me.

Written by VavaViolet's Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Sophie Blackman.


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