Sunday, December 21, 2014
The Holidays Are the Worse Time of Year for Some of Us
I loath this time of year. Ok, maybe I am a Scrooge, but it is a time of year where people parade how rich and full their lives are and anyone who is poor or lonely or down and out, it feels like just another smack in the head. If you are poor watching the shop-a-thon hurts. The basic bills are barely being covered nonetheless having money for giant flat screen TVs. Who are those people who can afford a new Lexus as a present with a giant ribbon on top? This week, I have to make some cards at least while half out of my gourd coughing like crazy and hope I do not cover them in germs!
Hey this is the time of year where for thousands, depression skyrockets, add in a big dose of seasonal affective disorder and life feels like hell on earth. I even prayed to God asking why so many things are going wrong with me, and fearing a horrible painful death as my face swelled to grandiose dimensions. Job like prayers have gone to the Lord, asking why my life has sunk to such a rotten status and feeling like I am disappointing everyone in the world because my energy has sunk to it's lowest levels yet. Has my narcissistic mother gotten out a Voodoo doll and stuck it full of pins with a giant one meant for my jaw? While I cough my brains out and take 9 antibiotics a day to keep my jaw from rotting away and wondering if I will live, I am sure she is happily shopping and enjoying her life.
The irony that this was a warmer December where I could have gone out a bit, has not escaped me. The frustration makes me want to pound my head on the nearest brick wall. Typhoid Mary came to my self help group and passed out germs from hell, with a self satisfied smile. At least that day after it took her 30 minutes to admit to us, she had no voice, I didn't have to hear about her expensive endless world vacations. How do people even get that rich?
This time of year is so bad for me, that for years I prepared for the swathe of severe depression that overtakes me to avoid being committed to the mental hospital or even worse fates. I have to tell myself to just make it to Jan 2, and then later make to March 1st. It is like running a Depression marathon. Add in illness, and Ground Hog Day recurring money problems where my husband's freelance employers cut his small amount of work and never heard of Christmas bonuses and well I don't have much to smile about lately.
The holidays are sad to me. I don't celebrate Christmas religiously but it is all around you. When I used to celebrate it, it was still the saddest time of the year. How did people get lives that are so rich and full? One shouldn't fall into envy or constant comparisons, but how many feel more depressed because of the expectations all these holiday seasons lay upon us? For ACONs, the holidays can be especially hard especially given the baggage with family. For those of us newer to our no contact status, one can feel cast adrift watching churches and friends travel to spend time with their families.
For years, on the week of the holidays, I spent it bawling my eyes out. It is hard to explain. I know it has to do with the severe abuse, the feeling of being a throw-away person, the years of asking when I would be in the position to give nice presents to others? I also got to watch my mother buy everyone's love and loyalty. If you have a crappy family of origin, Christmas brings back a flood of memories of ABUSE. You remember the family dinners where everyone ignored you, where you tried so hard to please. You remember the expectations, the eager anticipation, the presents which you gave which your narcissists scoffed at and never seemed good enough. Buying for people who can shop til they drop is not easy. They are not in need of anything. My childhood was spent buying various expensive glass owls for my mother which she collected. An entire month's worth of money delivering newspapers would be dedicated to one of these presents.
I remember the show-off sessions, the week before Christmas at my grandmother's house with cousins, aunts and uncles, as my mother generously lavished at least a couple thousands of dollars worth of presents on her siblings and nieces and nephews. Their love for her cemented in goodies. When my sister had her children, my mother, would load up 20 huge shopping bags full of presents to drive to my sister's house and play Mrs. Santa Claus. I could not match any of this present giving. I made a coloring book for a nephew and niece, and a painting for one but the money simply was not there. It hurt. A lot of years I couldn't afford any presents. I obviously wasn't seeing them very often either. My mother never missed a shopping spree during the holiday season. She never had a year when she went without.
Sadly too my materialistic parents mocked the presents bought by my poorer aunts and uncles. One aunt would buy us those "FUN PAD" books for Christmas. I loved them, but my parents mocked her gift so heavily, I had a hard time enjoying it. When I see those books, I smile, but then have that side memory to go with it.
The focus on money and social class became even more acute. A lot of mixed emotions go through me remembering the holidays. While I enjoyed some of my presents that came at a cost, it was sad watching Aunt Scapegoat being forced to pass out cheap coloring books and bags of fancy pasta for gifts while her sister never lacking for money was able to hand out TV sets, and expensive clothing and tools to her family members.
When I was a child, my narcissistic parents made a huge deal of Christmas. We did get a mountain of presents. Some would say to me, "how generous!" but these presents came with a cost. These presents served as evidence for both of my otherwise uncaring parents to say, "We were loving parents, look at all these Christmas presents we got you!" It also was show off time for relatives who were poorer and often jealous of us. If I misbehaved or disagreed with my mother, the presents would be brought up, "how can you treat us this way after everything we have done for you!" Of course for me this continued into adulthood, every time I needed help, and took it, it would be thrown back in my face. If I dared to disagree with her, she would bring up help she had given me to repair my car, years earlier. She never seemed to lack for anything, and for me one of my greatest regrets in my life is that this power dynamic was never changed. As I sink further into poverty, her cackling face haunts me.
So Christmas was weird. My father would get out movie camera and would make us rehearse running down the steps, and seeing our gifts and presents, and would have us repeat such doings until our enthusiasm was pleasing enough for him to record. My golden child sister always got the most presents, some years it was more obvious then others, but she would get at least 5 more gifts then me and my brother. The tables were never turned. Materialism was celebrated and shopping. The week of the holidays we spent at the mall. Today as an adult who lacks all expendable income, thinking about the amount of money spent on the holidays boggles my mind. My mother would make a lavish expensive dinner too usually with some sort of filet mignon or beef roast, I remember costing around $50.00 alone in the 1980s.
One of my friends told me she fears being alone on Christmas, her relatives are all going to other places. I told her she could come here, but watching me cough in bed may not be that exciting and I am mostly housebound. She is seriously worried. Trust me I understand. Imagine being at home with the walls closing in, as everyone else shares family dinners and the rest. There are people out there, who don't have families, and or even friends to spend the holidays with. In some people's cases, they may have people to visit but no money to do it. Imagine being homeless during the holidays. I cannot bear to watch TV with all the greed-fests training the consumers to spend, spend, spend. One cartoon show had the children lamenting not getting their presents.
Even if one has friends, most of them are spending the time with their families. So there are people all alone, and feeling depressed. The happy families on TV , people with presents and Facebook taunt them with their life-long failures. I can take refuge at least in my husband's arms but we both feel sad this time of year. This is the time of year, where I go look at pictures of me in the Spring, to convince myself not to give up. The flowers will come again. The whole mess will be over soon! Don't give up.
Christmas and the holiday season can feel like hell for the ACON. If you are no contact, there can be some pain there. You have gotten away from your abusers, but this often means all the side relatives have teamed up with them instead of you. The invitations fall away, your name gets crossed off holiday card lists. All the expectations fall flat. Some can escape into serving others, I recommend serving at the soup kitchen if you are alone on the holidays, while others face other types of pain. I just want the whole mess to be over with.