Trigger warnings: narcissistic parents, child abuse, suicidal ideation
It has been a while since I last posted. I think the main reason for that is the feeling that my posts aren’t really worthwhile. Either i’ve got nothing new to say, or I don’t think anyone will read it or care.
There has been the subtle influence (or maybe not so subtle) of the Inner Critic in there, telling me that nobody reads my writing, comparing myself to all these other wonderful writers with hundreds or thousands of readers, and really losing sight of the point of this blog. Is is supposed to be a form of release and processing, some self-therapy.
So with this being a tricky time of year for me, what better opportunity to get back on the blogging horse?
I want to start by going back to September of this year, when I started my blog. It was the end of a 9 month period of bleak depression, rage, self-loathing, turmoil and darkness. I had gained 20kg during that time, was suffering with sciatica and gastro issues from being ‘beached’ on my sofa eating crap all year, and had pretty much self-loathed myself into the ground. I managed to take some really positive steps to get things back on track, and am still in a better place as a result, despite hitting some major bumps in the road.
But what started it all off? Well, probably a year to the day, things started really going downhill.
It was my mum’s birthday yesterday. In 2020 I decided I was going to stick to my guns and not phone her for her birthday. I was in turmoil over the decision. On one hand, I had spent the year going through all the terrible things she had done to me. On the other, she was still my mum, and I couldn’t help but think deep down that I was just being ungrateful (as they had drilled into me and my brother) and they had done their best. Wasn’t it cruel of me to continue to shut them out? Wasn’t it bigger of me to forgive and avoid the pain of this separation in their old age? On the eve of Christmas, would it be better to smooth things over with a phone call, risk being triggered and hating myself for giving in, or would it be better to stand up for myself for once?
Well, I chose to stand up for myself and not call. It didn’t play out too well.
My dad texted me at the end of the day – ‘I just find it really sad that you couldn’t even give your mother a call on her birthday’. I don’t need to look up the message to remember the exact words.
Despite planning not to call, I hadn’t prepared for the aftermath. There were additional messages along the same lines. In hindsight it was really foolish not to steel myself mentally, because the messages had a really big effect on me. The injustice of it all, the pain, frustration and rage. The guilt, oh yes. Guilt and shame as means of control – my parents’ M.O.. Their skills have not waned over the years. In fact they have become sharper, as they’ve been forced to act at a distance.
Anyway, I felt bad about all of that. But I was desperate not to let it carry over into Christmas. Despite everything, I really love Christmas. I want it to be amazing, I want everyone to be happy, particularly my daughter. I want there to be something magical and exciting to look forward to. The imagery of the season, the snuggling up inside away from the cold, sharing quality time together, giving presents, eating great food and drinking to excess in the safety of your own home….I want all of that.
There are aspects of Christmas I do struggle with though. I can’t receive presents, for one. Well, I can, but I hate it. For a good 20 years the receiving of presents has been a horrible experience on the whole. The fakeness of receiving something you don’t want or need, but being forced to act like it’s the best thing you’ve ever seen. The alternative being to get a tongue-lashing or a beating, and for the whole day to be ruined.
Maybe I sound spoilt, ‘oh poor you not getting the presents you wanted, you’re lucky you got anything’. I’m not spoilt. My brother and I learnt from a very young age not to ask for anything. Anything. Presents, clothes, days out, food, you name it. If you asked for something you were a greedy little shit. If you were asked what you wanted, you may answer, but cautiously. If you sound greedy….no, better to keep it very simple or you will upset someone. And whatever you received, you had damned well better be grateful.
So presents are one thing I struggle with. I love giving presents though, and try to add no weight, expectation or guilt to the situation. Though it is hard sometimes not to reflect back what I have received for so long.
The other thing I struggle with these days is the feeling of being left out. We want our daughter to be safe and to enjoy every minute of Christmas, and as a result we need to be strict about what food is around, to have zero risk of an allergic reaction. Unfortunately this means that nobody wants to spend Christmas with us. Christmas without milk, cheese, chocolate, red wine, biscuits, cream, yorkshires, Baileys, cake….clearly not of interest. So as a result, no family want to spend time with us.
Tied in with this used to be the guilt of not wanting to spend time with my parents at Christmas. The guilt got to the stage that I would actually just invite them to come, despite knowing what a bloody stupid and awful idea that was. At least I have got over this.
Anyway, so our family of three is together by ourselves while my wife’s family congregate on the other side of the country. Nobody seems to think about how we feel about that. In truth, there are many aspects that are better this way, but I can’t help feeling a bitterness about it. It’s a familiar feeling for someone with CPTSD – being left out. Being an outsider, different…broken. It takes a lot of willpower not to let that ruin things.
This is the one that I really dread. Since I was old enough for there to be parties I was not allowed to go to, NYE has been awful. All i’ve ever felt is sadness, loss, bitterness, envy, just a host of negative emotions. As I got to my late teens, it just turned into a time to make me think about myself and how miserable my life was, and even on good years this feeling has been inescapable. My wife and I have shared a mutual disdain for it, a seemingly arbitrary line in the sand where ‘normal’ people seem to have something to celebrate and can feel the promise of something changing for the better. And that awful feeling of expectation.
Three years ago my uncle suddenly died on the eve of NYE. It was devastating. I have spoken a lot about him on this blog, and if you have read any of that, you’ll know that the loss and anguish has only intensified as i’ve gone through this journey. So last year I was mourning him and feeling very emotional. And then I got caught up in the endless stream of self-reflection that accompanies the year’s end.
I know i’m guilty of it too, i’m doing it now. I don’t think self-reflection is a bad thing, it’s obviously very important, but I now think you need to have some skills to do it properly and safely. Last year I had no skills and, already in a bad place, I spiralled out of control.
All my thoughts were negative. I was utterly consumed with how useless I am, my many failures, my brokenness, the fact I would never heal. And so, I plunged deeper and deeper, was deeply suicidal and in early January had some serious episodes. It kicked off the year of antidepressants and sick leave and…well, the rest is well documented on these pages.
So now what?
It’s the inevitable question – how am I going to do things differently this year?
Well, forewarned is forearmed I suppose. At least i’m going in with my eyes wide open this time. I also have a support group of friends i’ve met through twitter. I think this will help. I’ve taken the alternative approach to my mum’s birthday and phoned home yesterday. I’ll probably write a blog about that too, because, as always, it’s complicated!
I think I might impose a restriction on my use of social media. With everything going on in the world, it’s misery on misery. But I do want to check in with my new friends, offer support and take some too. Perhaps I will just get a good box set and try to avoid the whole NYE things?
Things are already difficult though, so I won’t lie, i’m a bit apprehensive about it all. Most of all though, I am thinking about January and how i’m going to recover from the whole things. There’s only so much I can control over the festive season, but I should now have more skill and awareness about myself to ensure I tackle 2022 on my feet, rather than on my knees.
So thank you for reading, and I sincerely wish you a peaceful, calm, safe and restful Christmas. I hope you enjoy yourself, and feel good. That’s all anyone can wish.