As 2022 draws to a close I just wanted to pop in and wish you all a …well, I guess I want to say Happy Christmas/Happy Holidays and a fabulous New Year…but I know for many of us this time of year is really difficult and sometimes that upbeat message can fall flat or feel almost like a full-on smack in the face dose of toxic positivity (and I really don’t want to do that!). We look to be happy at this time of year, long for it even, but the truth is this- Christmas can be massively triggering and for many of us it can feel more like survival than the joyous time the movies would have us believe it is/should be. At this time of year, we spend a lot of time trying to look ‘fine’ when we are anything but.
I’ve worked hard over the years to create a Christmas that I want rather than one that feels obligatory (with family)- but it’s been hard won! Really, for as long as I can remember, Christmas has always felt tough – well certainly since my parents separated when I was a kid. Splitting Christmas between mum and dad was tough. Feeling like my loyalty was split. Then being carted off to my mother’s boyfriend’s parents’ house on Christmas day and feeling like an outsider as the ‘real’ grandchildren were spoiled by their grandparents and I sat there feeling like a cuckoo in the wrong nest – it was hard.
Then there was returning to my actual family on my dad’s side a couple of days later and being overlooked by my own grandparents. I was frequently gifted things from charity shops that didn’t fit or were so well-worn they had to go in the bin. Yet, at the same time, I’d get dragged around the city Christmas shopping with my grandmother who would gift herself diamond jewellery and expensive perfume: “Don’t tell Grandad, if he asks say it’s Cubic Zirconia.” I’m not knocking charity shops at all, what I am saying is that my grandmother always put herself first no matter what. And in a family that couldn’t express love in words they were also pretty shit in deeds…but then of course it wasn’t love. As much as I wish it wasn’t the case – sometimes family is just biology and blood doesn’t mean love.
Looking back, there was no Hallmark quality to those childhood/pre-teen years.
Then as an older teen I felt just…what?…desperately lost and alone, isolated, unseen – and that, of course wasn’t solely restricted to Christmas but I think it all becomes glaringly apparent in the holiday season doesn’t it? It’s a time when you look around you and see ‘seemingly’ happy families enjoying time together and there I was…out in the emotional wasteland. It feels a bit like that 80’s show Bullseye, when the host would say, “Look what you could have won!” as the contestants stared at the speedboat and ‘his and hers’ shell suits disappointedly having failed to answer a question correctly. Only we didn’t long for the speedboat – for us the prize was that… magical thing, the bond, the love, the feeling of belonging, being safe in ourselves and held safely by others…it’s the absence of that thing that has left that gaping hole inside us all these years that seems impossible to fill or repair. And the laugh is, it shouldn’t be a prize to be won, something that some people are blessed with, and others aren’t. But it is. And the fall out is hard to put into words…but if you know you know.
OMG I am really a Debbie Downer today aren’t? Thanks RB for the uplifting Christmas post!
Thankfully, meeting my wife changed things up massively so far as Christmas goes and having my kids has been a massive game-changer, too. But despite the special family Christmas and the new traditions I have created with my little family I still find this an incredibly tough time. I am already bracing myself for the period between Christmas and New Year which I guess I should really refer to as my ‘Signature Depression Zone’ because without fail, that lull point hits me really hard. I am much better at self-care for all the parts of me now but no matter what I do, there is a still a little voice in there somewhere that wants someone else to bring the love.
This year’s Christmas build up has been hard, too. Anita and I found ourselves navigating a complicated rupture over the last month (fucking wonderful!). It has dragged on a bit and has taken a lot of talking and processing. I haven’t got around to writing about it yet and I didn’t want post anything whilst we were in the thick of it because it seemed to be so dense and hard to make sense of and at times I was really triggered and didn’t even make sense to myself but I will get to it now that we seem to have come through the thick of it (just in time for the CHRISTMAS THERAPY BREAK!)
I think (now that I have come out the other side a bit) the ‘Mother Wound’ stuff all started coming to a head with Anita because once again the relationship with my own mum was thrown into sharp relief. Or should I say the lack of the relationship? Oh and of course it’s the anniversary of the shit hitting the fan with Em (ex-therapist) which is essentially ‘mum’ stuff. So, yeah, it’s been a tough month, really. Of course I got to play out stuff with Anita that was maternal transference 101 – which I guess is the work. I just don’t think I realised quite how much my relationship with my mum is hurting me even now.
I genuinely thought I was getting better at managing how she (my mum) affects me. But this year, once again, I feel like that little girl who’s been left: not important enough, not valued, not kept in mind. As I say adult me does a cracking job of looking after my kids and as part of that, I give my inner child all kinds of experiences that I know she would have loved and it goes some way to a repair for that sad little part of me. A visit to see a Father Christmas show and meeting the Big Guy in his grotto this week was enjoyed by me probably more than my kids!…but it doesn’t completely take the edge off for that little girl that just wants her mum to fucking show up and care.
The end of November and December have been hard (not just the rupture with A). We’ve been running the gauntlet as a family with various illnesses – the flu-like cold from hell was bad (still dragging on) but then norovirus was the absolute fucking pits. I won’t drag it out here but basically, it’s been another occasion where my mum just hasn’t been there in any tangible way. I have told her how hard it’s been and how much of a struggle we’ve had. Silence. Asked if there’s anything she wants for Christmas. More silence. Adult me doesn’t care – but I feel her lack of interest and care for my kids acutely. Her disregard for them feels like a repeat of the disregard she had for me.
It’s also really compounded when I’ve been going to see K and she’s said she is so sad for me and wishes she could be a mum/granny to my family as we deserve so much better. And despite the recent wobbly bits with Anita, again she has, as I repeatedly say, given me a more consistent and positive experience of mothering than anyone else. She has been there now for nearly three years and seen and held more of me, my pain, than anyone.
Today is Christmas Eve and yesterday I finally received a reply to my messages to my mum from mid-December (one of which was about my brakes completely failing on ice on the school run…literally had nothing!) “Sorry for the delay…” to tell me she’s bought a present and will get it to us in the New Year. Again, adult me doesn’t care…but kids at Christmas? You have grandkids. Do better. That’s what Amazon is for. Tbh I am just so done now. And to be honest it’s not even about gifts. We don’t need things. We don’t need money spending on us as proof of care. Like I said the other week my love language isn’t gift giving. All we have ever needed is quality time, care, to be celebrated for who we are… a relationship. But it isn’t forthcoming.
I realise the only person that can break this cycle of pain and disappointment is me. I have to find a way to stop letting this stuff hurt me over and over – because I am repeatedly allowing my young parts to be hurt and keep in a pattern that was forged long ago – but the one I am in the therapy trying to heal. And I have to make it so that my kids don’t end up hurt too. I’m not sure how to do it though? How do you stop caring that your mother really doesn’t want you?…even as an adult.
Anyway, this wasn’t a therapy post was it? But it’s the core wound again. I won’t babble on too much longer as it’s just morose and depressing.
Thankfully Anita is solid. We had our final session of the year yesterday which was really nice, settled, calm…which I am very glad of (you’ll see why once I post about the rupture stuff!). We had a story and a really lovely long cuddle and easy chat that felt really connecting. It felt like just putting everything to bed for a bit…or at least trying to. Anita is off until the 9th so it’s a pretty long stint and I know it’s not going to be easy this year.
It’s sad that my therapists both gave me Christmas cards sending their love and presents this year – and my mum hasn’t. I am trying really hard to take on board that I am valuable and worthy of love and care, and am recognised by people that mean a lot to me. But the stab of rejection feels so acute by my mum. Does anyone else feel this way at this time of year?
When I opened the package from Anita yesterday, one of the items was this coaster:
And honestly, I love it. I love it because it’s true. And I love it because she gets it. And I love it because it represents so much of what we have built together and shows how simple a need it is. There is no shame to be had from needing that or expressing love through touch. And I am so lucky to have found her. However, she’s not my mum, she’s not family, I can’t access her when I need her. I can’t call her up and say, “A I don’t feel good can you come?”…because it’s therapy. But then I don’t have that with my family either so…it’s better than nothing isn’t it? A lot of the time it is easy to get caught up in what therapy isn’t or can’t be…but actually what it IS is A LOT.
Anyway, sending so much love to you all this holiday season. Take good care of yourselves wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Solidarity to those of you in complex family situations, trying to fit in and yet feeling like you stand out like a sore thumb. Love to all your young parts who are reminded of the pain of your childhood and navigating triggers whether through being in contact or not. And sending care to everyone who feels alone whether in actuality or emotionally. We’ve got this – our adult selves can be there hopefully enough to hold the hands of the little ones that feel so sad x