Holidays

A Message for Survivors on Fathers' Day

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     So, it's Fathers' Day.  And our hearts are so heavy knowing just how many of you are hurting today -- who are conflicted, unsure, angry, scared, grieving, lost, or yearning.  For many of you, it's a combination of all the above.  Fathers' Day doesn't quite seem to hold the same regality to it that Mothers' Day does - and, even societally, you're more likely to see posts of people acknowledging that they had absent or hurtful fathers.  But, just because people are slightly more aware that not everyone has a wonderful dad, it doesn't make it any less difficult. In fact, we almost feel as though Fathers' Day being knocked down a peg from the pedestal family members can be placed on, actually allows for more of us to truly feel our feelings. It's almost as if there is a greater permission to acknowledge the pain given the expectation of warmth and gushing affections is lessened. Of course, that means we're more likely to be in the pain today. So, all of us here at Beauty After Bruises want you to be able to take a time-out from your Sunday, to sit with us, and to know you're in the company of people who really really get it.

     Before we get too terribly far, we want to make sure we acknowledge that dads in general can get a bad rap. They are quickly villainized and made out to be the bad guy in all kinds of situations, often unfairly. For many of you, your dad may have even been your rock, your everything -- the only reason you're still with us today.  We are so glad that fathers like them exist and always want to lift them up in the highest regard. With that, just as we mentioned with mothers, we also know that some of you have lost this special parent - your person. So today marks a day for heart-wrenching grief - a new trauma for your already broken heart. We want to help hold that for you however possible and sympathize in your brokenness. Grief and loss are emotions that so many of you may be feeling - possibly even all of you, really - and for reasons that may not include death.  For a lot of survivors, your fathers have left, or were never there from the start. Some of you have lost your dads to addiction, mental or medical health issues, or other challenging behavior that - though he's still alive - he's no longer truly here, as himself, anymore. He's not the father you knew, nor the father you want or need right now. There's an inevitable, sometimes inescapable feeling of loss that comes with that. And, it's okay and completely normal to grieve a dad who's right there with you, but just isn't present with you. For those of you who never got to feel like you had a father - just someone to share a house with - of course you're also bound to feel as if a big part of you is missing, or as if you just don't know how you're supposed to feel. We all want to acknowledge that hurt. Many are right there with you.
     

     For every shade and color of loss and grief, whether there are tears to be had or you're all cried out: you're not alone.


"Fathers' Day....  Man.  My heart hurts most for little me - the one who had to celebrate, hand-make cards for, and love the violent, red-faced, short-tempered man who tore our family apart. It confused and hurt Little Morgan to no end."

-- Morgan, 27


     This week has seen no shortage of the anticipated emotional commercials, quirky "dad bod" advertisements, full series on popular YouTube channels centering around fatherhood, annnd of course the lengthy social media posts from friends and loved ones, reminiscing and telling tales of their amazing, hard-working, selfless fathers. Yet, here today, many of you are alone, quietly hurting. The reality for Complex PTSD and DID survivors is that it's really common for 'a dad' of someone's to have been involved in your trauma (either in big ways or small). Whether that was your own fathers; a grandfather or uncle; a teacher, coach or pastor; even a cousin or neighbor who's all grown up and now has their own kids -- knowing there's a day for them to be celebrated (specifically for caring for children) can bring with it so many unique, difficult struggles.

     It's hard to see fathers universally being revered, when a father you knew wasn't the least bit good to their own or someone else's children. For those of you who only discovered in adulthood what happened to you as a child, there can be such a visceral reaction, with emotions ten layers deep, if you ever find yourself staring at photos of them holding or hugging their own children.  ....what do you do??  Many feel fear, others just relive trauma, and so many more want to "do something", "save them" or "protect them" but are stunned frozen. Others sit with heavy, heavy guilt that they didn't say something back then, even if they didn't know at the time, retroactive guilt still sneaks in like a virus. For any of you in these positions, we want you to know we deeply empathize with all the anguish and inner-conflict wrapped up in that bundle of exasperation. You are not alone in this.  You did what you could with the information you had at the time, as well as what you believed to be safe. You are STILL doing what is right for you, safest for you, healthiest for you, and what will ensure your wellbeing. The rest can and will sort itself out in time; for now you just need to do what is best for you in this very moment.


"Every Fathers' Day I'm confronted with the reminder that he left us.  He left me and my siblings with that horrible, abusive woman. He saved himself, but didn't think twice about us."

--J.D., 36


     There are so many stories, so many walks of life and paths you could be on.  Many of you have become fathers yourselves. This may be your triumphant accomplishment, one to be so proud of yourself for! Despite all the self-doubt or questioning, through it all, you found yourself in a family, or at least raising a child of your own. This is such a hard and scary thing to do, especially if most of your examples were poor or even non-existent. For those of you worrying or wondering today if you're a good enough father to even be celebrated - or scared you won't be once you do become a dad - we want to be that vote of confidence that says, "The very fact you're concerned about this, means you're leaps and bounds ahead of the pack. We are all just trying to do the best we can with the tools we have, learn more every day, try to leave the least amount of harm behind us, and work to leave things a little better than we found them. And, if that's what you're doing, you're doing it just right!"  Yet, if you are truly concerned or know you need a little help to be able to do the best job you can, there are always resources and a helping hand available to you; never hesitate to ask.  It's one of the bravest things you can do and one that requires such personal strength - not weakness. We are one of those places you can turn, who would love to help you however possible.


"Only when I became a father did I finally see how evil mine own was. I never saw it -- never. It's hard to raise kids when you only just learned how blind you were to being treated like an dog. I'm so scared now I wouldn't recognize it if I ever did the same - but hellbent on never coming close."

-- R.W., 39


     The subject of becoming a father can actually be one filled with trauma for many other reasons in a certain group of survivors. And, we want to be sure we touch on this because we feel it's something that's missing in a lot of trauma outreach. A lot of survivors are men, and a lot of those men were made to be fathers against their will as well - just like those who became mothers unwillingly. Far too many have been trafficked, abused, manipulated, or even used for the sole purpose of bearing children. Some of you may be aware of your children, while others sit there with the tormenting question of IF you're a father, knowing all the abuse you endured and the level of probability. This is something most cannot even imagine feeling, wondering or agonizing over. In each and every one of these instances, we ache for you. Just as we do for those who have also may have children they cannot see, those whose were taken from them in messy, unfair, and even abusive divorces, and those who've even lost their beloved children. All of your pain is so real, so heavy. It is seen. It is felt. It is honored and met with such true compassion.


"Fathers' Day has so much trauma shoved into one cake I'm afraid to light the candles.  It'll either explode, or melt into a puddle with my sadness....And, I don't even know which would make the bigger mess anymore."

Caroline, 42


    No doubt, we couldn't possibly cover all the ways Fathers' Day highlight so many aches, pain and scars left by the years of childhood trauma for many survivors. There are just far too many brave and hurting souls, each with a story of their own. Like, those who've lost "a dad" in their own husband, the one who was a father to their children... Anyone who is left trying to comfort broken-hearted children today because their fathers left or hurt them deeply... All whose fathers just do not accept them for who they are, how they live, or what they know to be true about their trauma.... Every adult child who was severely let down by their dad as a kid, but are now fighting to remind themselves they do have one, and he isn't a terrible guy, but it still just doesn't feel right....  And, everyone else left so confused and torn by the role that stepdads, biological dads, adoptive dads, and countless other family dynamics play -- roles that just manage to complicate things even further. No matter what - no matter why your heart is aching or why it's just conflicted and lost today - please know that we're thinking of you and so excruciatingly aware of just how many of you are out there. We even encourage YOU to give voice to all the things we couldn't get to here. Please share with us below, in our casual little circle of healing hearts, what's on your chest today and let your experience be heard. Every story is important. And, we're all listening.

    Please know, even on these "smaller" holidays, we care very much about what you are going through and all the ways it may be affecting you. Just like we mentioned in our post on Mothers' Day - oftentimes it's the smallest holidays that can do the most damage and leave survivors feeling the most alone. So, if you are a supporter, friend or loved one - we really encourage you to at least send your loved one a thoughtful text or call them up to let them know you're thinking of 'em. Family relationships are nearly always a challenge for complex trauma survivors in one form or another - so, it can never hurt to let them know they're on your mind, even if you know very little about their history.

     And, for all of our survivors: We believe these types of holidays really need to just become days to focus on YOU. Days put in place to take extra care of yourself. To do things that you love; celebrate all the ways in which you are an honorable and loyal person; get together with friends or other great people that you call your family and are proud to know. You can even enjoy some cynical or light-hearted comedy! Liiiike, tell us your favorite "dad joke" - it's okay if it's got some dark humor to it, that's how so many of us heal! Just, above all else, please just take extra care of, and celebrate, YOU.

    We will be.

MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  
  -  Coping with Toxic/Abusive Families During the Holidays
 
-  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  -  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  -  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light
 -  A Message of Care This Mothers' Day

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A Message of Care this Mothers' Day

 

 

   This will be a shorter and more informal article as compared to our other more informational and instructional posts - but that doesn’t make it any less significant.  This weekend is Mothers’ Day.  And we know that this can be a very difficult day for survivors of complex, often childhood, trauma.  The larger holidays often gain more recognition as being difficult for people of all walks of life, but these smaller ones tend to go unnoticed and leave too many silently struggling in their homes.  We want to take the time to acknowledge this.  To let you know that we see you.  ..that you’re thought of.  ..that we’re sitting with each heavy reason behind your hurting heart.  And?  That you are absolutely not alone.

   Mother’s Day is typically thought of with all kinds of warm, flowery, loving imagery - complete with elaborate social media posts, beaming family photos, and tributes to the all the selfless mothers out there.  But, for many people, it’s not really all that warm.  And for others, it’s downright excruciating.  In the world of childhood trauma, survivors' mothers may have been the primary source of their suffering.  Erroneously, familial abuse is often assumed to be the fault of the men in a family.  But women - yes mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and cousins - can all be equally as awful and abusive.  Other moms may not have perpetrated the violence, but allowed the abuse to go on, fostered an environment that made it possible in the first place; were neglectful, lost in addiction or revolving parters; turned a blind eye to their child’s obvious suffering, possibly even denying them necessary treatment; or were just so hot and cold with their affections that the child was left absolutely confused and conflicted about what kind of mom they even have.   Now in adulthood, many of you are trying to navigate a world without her, or set appropriate boundaries, and have been relentlessly guilted and shamed by family/strangers for not loving or being close to your mom.  Most just cannot fathom that she might actually be an awful or unsafe person unworthy of that connection.  But you know.  Your feelings are not only valid, but should be honored and respected.  You don’t have to minimize them, talk yourself out of them, or try to ‘get over them’ and ‘just try to be nice to her already’.  As crazy as it sounds coming from a charity rooted in and birthed from empathy and kindness, we want you to know that you are never obligated to be nice to anyone who hurt you.  Not even if they’re your mother.  It’s okay, and even admirable, to keep that boundary.  No doubt that trying to maintain even a small amount of distance comes with so much grief attached - having to say goodbye to and mourn what you never had.  We are so saddened by this for each of you and are sending our utmost compassion.  Whatever kind of relationship you keep with your mother today, we want you to know that the hurt parts of your heart that were damaged by her - in big ways or small - they're on OUR hearts and minds this week.


Mothers' Day just brings such an awful feeling. I never know which version of my mother I’m going to get on that day.

- Jenn, Survivor


   Another painful reality for many trauma survivors is that some of YOU are mothers. ...and not always as the result of a healthy situation, but instead tragedy and torment.  Perhaps you were made a mother against your will, or still are one but have had to hide that fact from everyone you know and love.  Then there are so many of you who've had the devastating misfortune of losing a child, and that is traumatic all on its own, even in the most loving and safe of circumstances.  And then there are the moms of healthy kids, in wonderfully knit families, who are still left wrestling the seemingly impossible task of raising children when you yourself were NEVER given a good example or taught how.  Laden throughout so many of these experiences is just an abundance of sadness, heaviness, trauma, loss, shame, and fear.  Yet, too often, what rings the loudest is the silence you feel you must keep - and the aloneness with which you sit in that suffering - especially in times like this.  If there’s anything we can offer you, we'd like to see you not feel so alone anymore.  To know that someone’s taken your hand, acknowledged your aching, and is letting you know you're anything but on your own in this.  We are here.  And so many survivors just like you are meeting you here in their feelings, too.  And together, we each carry a piece and make the load so much lighter to bear.


I’m a mom, but my own family doesn’t even know. Mothers' Day is “my day” but I have to spend it hiding; hurting.

- Rachael, 29


   These are hardly the only reasons survivors may be aching this holiday.  Many of you have lost your mothers.  That kind of sadness cannot be described in words.  If she wasn’t a safe person to you, this grief becomes wildly complicated.  But for tons of you, your mom was your bright spot in all the hurting.  She was your everything.  ...the only one who saw you and heard you, did everything to keep you safe, and always fought for you.  To lose something so special and so rare as that in your world, is absolutely soul-shattering.  Your pain reverberates through just about anyone who’s lost “their safe person” - or has even paused to imagine what life without them might be like.  We’re extending extra warmth and love your way.  Just as we are to all those with their own deeply layered and extremely personal stories to struggle against.  We can count so many, many more and want each of you to feel this extension of validation and warmth.  You are important, and so is every last drop of your sadness, anger or grief.


Mothers' Day has always flooded me with a sense of being left out or not human.  My mother was an awful woman, but she's gone now.  I also cannot have children of my own - because of trauma.  It's just a loaded day.

- LC, survivor


  Whatever is on your heart, we know there will be no shortage of difficult posts, commercials, and media content to just drive that knife a little deeper.  The open gushing of amazing relationships; the gut-wrenching in-memoriam posts; newborn-babies-to-grandmas montages on TV, condescending guilt-tripping posts to “Love your mom now!” “There is NOTHING that can’t be forgiven!” and "Family is everything!", throwback photos of heartwarming pregnancies and newborn babies, all surrounded by tons of graphics your ad-blocker doesn't seem to mind missing juuuuust to make sure it doesn't leave your mind for even a moment.  We know it can be a LOT.  …especially when so much of the general public still manages to have it nowhere on their radar that this time can be really brutal.  So, even if we can’t make everyone else understand or be more thoughtful, we want to at least be that place for you. And,

     To supporters, friends, and general citizens out there:  Perhaps this little post helped to remind even you that these “smaller, insignificant-to-many” holidays can actually be the some of hardest.  Definitely don’t contain your own expressions of love to the moms in your life; it just never hurts to be conscientious and thoughtful of all those in your life who may be hurting this day.  So sending a little extra support and friendship their way could make the all the difference, truly.  Just knowing that someone thought about them and wanted to take care of them, even in gesture, can be a very “mom thing to do" that they'd been needing and missing.  It can’t fill the void entirely, but it can help a little - and a little’s enough.


Mothers’ Day to me means... trying SO hard.  Little me just longs to make her happy.  Adult me tries to pretend we’re something we aren't.  I still give her gifts with the hope she'll love me - or even just believe me.

-- EM, 38


     Finally….  If you are hurting, if you are dreading this day, fearing this day, hating this day, or just trying to just avoid it at all costs:  We want to encourage you to do something different.  Your family of origin is not what makes a family, so if you can spend it with the family you’ve created for yourself, absolutely wonderful.  We can't encourage that enough.  But, we also see great value in making this a “you” holiday.  “My Day”, not "Mothers’ Day".  Take care of yourself.  Do all sorts of things that you love, and practice more self-care than you have in a long time.  Honor yourself.  Take time to consider all the ways in which you are special, respectable, selfless, caring and important.  Treat, love and appreciate yourself.  Sure, it may be a different holiday entirely, and not intended for 'you', but we can pretty much guarantee that you didn’t get NEARLY enough of these kinds of days, nor very many positive, safe holidays growing up.  They proooobably went awry or at least left your feelings hurt somewhere along the line.  You have more than enough special holidays to make up for, so why not make this day one of them?  Take it.  Make it one for YOU.  You deserve it.  And, hey, it sure beats a weekend of pain and dread.  Every time you see an ad or post, you can pause to check in with yourself, remembering "Aw, that's right, this is My Day!" and do something nice for you.  This is YOUR day.  It’s a day for honoring YOU.  It's a day to appreciate all you are, all you've overcome, and all the love in your heart.

    We truly hope that you all make it through this weekend safely and with wellness. Please know that we are thinking of you this day and on each of the many other holidays like it.  You are important to us.  We hope that you consider your needs and feelings equally as important as we do. And, to everyone else, we hope you share the same thoughtfulness and support to a survivor this week.  It may be just the bright, uplifting light they needed to carry them through.

 

Healthy Thoughts to Ring in the New Year

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    So, the year is coming to a close and you may either be celebrating excitedly or feeling a bit indifferent.  We’ve noticed a few things these past two years that are definitely unique, and were compelled to reach out to our already-vulnerable trauma survivors as we witness the social landscape shift.  By now you’ve long heard these years referred to as ‘dumpster fires’, ‘the worst years ever’; 'end-times worthy'.  You’ve heard people willing them to just be over already, with pleas for a better year to come.  These ideas can pose countless toxic pitfalls, and any one of us can fall into them if we aren’t paying attention or don’t know any better.  Trauma survivors, however, are especially vulnerable to some very challenging thought patterns and/or painful experiences around this time of year - even without any added cultural influence - so, we want to help prevent that any way we can.  We also want to boost you up in the New Year, so we’re going to tackle both at the same time!  

    Here are some of the things we’ve noticed and some ways you can avoid falling into a tricky headspace this New Year’s (and many more to come):

 

#1 Black-and-White Thinking:

    It happens every year, and this one's no exception.  Most of us take the last few days and weeks of December to reflect back on alllllll that transpired over the past 12 months -- and then, we make a judgment about it as a whole.  Was it good, was it bad, did it veer a hard left somewhere along the line?  Then we look ahead to the upcoming year and try to decide what kind of year it's going to be -- and even set resolutions to make it so.  Doing this, however, can really encourage strong black-and-white thinking — a thought pattern that is no stranger to trauma survivors.  (Trauma survivors with OCD and/or other comorbid personality disorders may fall prey to this even stronger.)  Deciding that this year was “good” or “bad”, and that the next will be “difficult” or “promising”, is very black-and-white.  Because, no year is any one thing.  Heck, there are 12 whole months! With 365+ individual days!  How can 365+ days be any ONE thing?  They aren’t. They're neither black nor white. They’re blue and green and six and square and magenta and shoe and twelve and circle!   They’re all KINDS of things!  And that’s awesome!  That’s a GREAT thing!

    You don’t have to decide what kind of year you had.  It’s already over.  Defining it with a pretty little label isn’t going to change anything about it - just how you look BACK on it.  And with the current atmosphere, you could fall into calling it ‘black’ when it really might have only been more of a steely grey, or even silver.  You don’t have to decide what next year is going to be either.  Doing so leaves us very little wiggle room. If you decide it's going to be white, at the first sign of trouble you may be far more likely to think it's ruined.  ...because you know who Black-and-White’s cousin is?  All-or-Nothing.  And we don’t need to antagonize her to join the party, too.  Let your years just be what they are.  A year.  One revolution around the sun.  …and if you juuuust can’t help it and feel like you must label them, at least broaden your palette to some other colors, not just black and white. ;)

 

#2 drawing lines in the sand:

    It's all just a part of New Year's Day 101.  It’s the time to make New Year’s Resolutions and decide if we met last year's (if we even remember them — but probably not!).  These can be downright maddening if you’re someone who really wants to set them.  Others couldn't care less and just skip out altogether, and that’s okay, too. We think a happy medium can be great, though.  Setting goals is honestly a GREAT thing.  It’s a huge part of recovery and healing.  We should always have long-term, short-term and daily goals.  And we should have them on a variety of subjects: mental health, work, relationships, physical health, self-care, big life experiences, etc..  It's a great practice to have!  But, your aspirations shouldn’t solely revolve around “The New Year”.  You can set goals any time, any day.  You don’t have to wait for January 1st to get started.  You can literally start the second you’re finished reading this.  Unfortunately, for many there seems to be this massive dividing line in the sand that separates December 31 from January 1.  It's just a flaw in the way human minds work, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

    You can set goals any day, any time.  They don’t have to be resolutions that only pertain to the New Year.  Oftentimes, those are just blanket sentiments anyway and not so much the specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goals we should be setting!  The latter is far more likely to yield results.  You don’t have to decide anything by a certain day, and your year isn’t ruined if you don’t get it right the first time, or even at all.  Setting goals should be a daily or weekly practice, they don’t define your entire year.  It’s also equally as permissible to NOT make resolutions at all.  Nothing bad will happen to you, your upcoming year doesn’t lose focus just because you don’t have an outline, and you aren’t obligated to resolve to something just because other people are.  We do think setting goals is important, but you can do it however and whenever it feels right to you.  There are no lines in the sand when it comes to days on a calendar page, nor between calendars; and you don’t have to wait until midnight to get started.  Start midday, mid-month, mid-year for all anyone should care!  Your life doesn’t have to wait for anyone or follow anyone else’s schedule.  ..including the calendar's.

 

#3 Purity and Perfectionism:

    Another distant cousin of All-or-Nothing - and a concept many trauma survivors can bump into a lot - is the idea of purity, perfection and/or 'cleanliness'.  Lots of people are talking about the new year as if it’s a blank canvas, an untouched masterpiece, a glistening white sheet of purity and possibilities!  And, in a way, sure, it is.  It may even bring you tremendous comfort and excited anticipation to see it that way.  You might feel you can breathe easier considering all that's to come and what you get to do with that fresh start.  There’s nothing wrong with that kind of excitement or sense of “fresh air”.  In fact, it’s great that you’re invigorated by it!  We just want to be sure no one gets too caught up in the idea of an untouched surface that the possibility it could “get stained” by one accident, mistake or misfortune gets mixed in too. 

We see this happen quite often, actually.  Many can believe their year has been sullied, tarnished or has become “bad” after one misfortune or strong hardship.  They may put the whole year into a box and decide that’s all it is going to be until its end -- dirty, awful, terrible.  We don’t want to see that happen with your new year.  A few wrong strokes won’t ruin a painting.  You just have to get a little more creative.  And these accidents very frequently lead to finished products that, while things didn’t go exactly as we planned, are wayyy better than we originally intended. Plus, we are usually significantly more proud of what we were able to create when things didn’t go to plan because we found a way to make it happen anyway!

    Feel the excitement of a new fresh start.  Build yourself up to take on a new year.  But also be mindful to not put it on too high a pedestal or consider it so pure and innocent that the slightest imperfection could “stain” or “tarnish” it.  It’s a new canvas, but it isn’t precious.  You don’t have to be afraid to handle it, touch it or fingerprint it.  Get in there and mess it up and create something remarkable.  ..accidents and mistakes, the whole nine yards! And, don’t forget, if these fresh starts speak to you, each and every new DAY offers the same blank canvas to start something new.  You don’t have to wait until the following year and it doesn’t matter what yesterday’s looked like, today is new.

 

#4 Trivializing:

    Trauma survivors are unfortunately really great at minimizing their own pain and hardship; they definitely don’t need anyone else to help them do it.  Yet, when everywhere we look someone is declaring this was the “worst year ever” (and when asked why, the primary reason is politics, #MeToo, and/or celebrity deaths) - all kinds of other pain and anguish can get invalidated in one fell swoop.  ...both current anguish, ongoing tragedies elsewhere in the world, as well as every catastrophe of years long past.  When this idea was repeatedly so loudly and incessantly in 2016, it put the lives of celebrities above others' as it communicated that “more important people died this year than in any other year before".  And, while we know that celebrities have massive influence in profound, meaningful and enriching ways, no one life is more important than another.  Yet, we’ve again seen their pain prioritized in 2017 and 2018.  When the whole world, especially people of influence, keep repeating how these have been the absolute worst years of all time, particularly when citing deaths or other entertainment-based news as evidence, it successfully invalidates a LOT of other suffering.  It communicated before, and continues to do so again, that - even though you may've personally had painful, traumatic devastating years of your own - these specific people were so much more important that they alone had the power to make an entire year unforgivable to us all.  And, that's wholly untrue.
    
    In 2017, we saw that even though there were many unspeakable tragedies, most were so quick to point out other things that made this year horrid first — only eventually getting to all the innocent lives lost to mass shootings, hurricanes, fires, war and more.  When many included #MeToo in their negative summary of the year, it was the pain of powerful, adult women in Hollywood who were being called to mind and grieved.  Survivors who are not famous, who were hurt as children, who've shared their stories but were not believed, who are still not safe to tell their stories, who are men - they were almost wholly left out of the conversation and minds of those ranking tragedy. Every single year that those survivors were abused, neglected, denied treatment or justice, was their "worst year ever". Having this movement gain traction may have even been a bright spot in their 2017, not a damper.  It's nuanced.  It's complicated.  These stories were most assuredly heartbreaking to hear, but most of the abuses didn't happen in 2017, outing the perpetrators did.  And that in no way made the year bad.  That was a great, great thing.  To suggest otherwise really just says that having to hear about it this year was the issue - which is an extremely damaging message.
   
    In reality, the last couple of years weren't inherently 'worse' than any other years, just hard in different ways.  In some areas we as a collective have even made great strides -- things like decreased infant mortality, increased global literacy, near-eradication of several debilitating diseases, increased charitable giving, more marginalized voices being heard, teen pregnancy at an all-time low, decreased world hunger, dramatic decrease in violent crime since 1990, etc etc etc. Yes, these years have been very hard and we've taken some very large steps backward in some areas. Yes, things may feel chaotic and upside-down.  But, it's also important to acknowledge the gains we've made, too, to not paint things with such a broad brush.  Ultimately, we mustn't deem some events, or individual experiences, any more catastrophic than others' across the world or of those of long ago. It can trivialize so much anguish. That isn't helpful to anyone, and certainly not to those already hurting.

    Your struggle and your fight is important.  Your losses and grief are acknowledged.  Your suffering and trauma as a child or during YOUR worst years ever are not overlooked or ignored by us.  You know some of the deepest depths that pain can reach and there is no way to rank them.  While we wish you never had to know that turmoil, we don’t want you to feel as if it doesn’t matter just because it wasn’t known by the whole world.  Your hardest years ever are thought of and cared about by everyone here.  We are wrapping them up in comfort now since we didn't get to when they were happening.  Your hurt is not trivial.  Not now and not ever.

 

#5 Snowballing:

    The flip-side to trivializing a lot of suffering is that the current atmosphere has a tendency to snowball existing issues with others until they're out of control.  There's an intense fiery energy, filled with so much disdain, toward the last couple of years.  When everyone keeps mentioning it on social media, each headline has a nudge to it — it has a way of projecting a kind of negativity that, once grabbed ahold of, grows legs. Maybe you weren’t thinking that this was such a bad year for you.  Maybe you even accomplished some super impressive things: got a degree, traveled, started therapy, were self-harm free, or made new personal bests in something.  Or, at the very least, even if it was a rough one for you, you may know you surely had worse years than this one.  But when every year-in-review or post online is set out to remind you that “No, this year was, like, the literal worst thing that's ever existed in this universe,” you start looking for more examples of that in your own life.  It’s a really dangerous flame to fan.

Suddenly, you’re no longer just recalling the bad that happened in the world, but seeing your own year through the same morose lenses.  And quickly, the aches and pains you may've forgotten begin to resurface, and they now hold more weight. Yet, at this point, it'd be alien to hear anyone say “This was a GREAT year for me!” — even if it really and truly was.  Everyone's too busy looking for more ways to validate the abomination, and that’s a slippery slope.  Maybe it wasn’t a fabulous year for you.  Maybe you had really tragic things happen, a bad mental health year, or lost someone really important to you.  But we can almost guarantee that if everyone stopped belaboring JUST how bad it was, we’d find fewer and fewer things that take our pain from manageable to unbearable. This negative approach takes fresh wounds and pours salt in them, draws our attention to scars that were just beginning to heal, and occludes our vision from any of the beauty that also existed to comfort us.  That's not healthy.  For anyone.  …but especially not for survivors.

    Let yourself find the good things in the year, no matter how unpopular that makes you.  If you find yourself going through your year with a fine-toothed comb to spot all the bad things, we encourage you to step away or use all that mental energy to focus on all the ways you came THROUGH those really dark and hurtful times.  Your pain is already accounted for, what happened has already happened.  We don’t need the weight of it to crush you again as it comes barreling down the hill, gathering momentum with each heartache you would've forgotten.  It’s time to halt the snowball.  ...or, at the very least, quit looking back and get outta the way! ;)

 

#6 Wrapping Things Up (literally):

    Unlike the first five, this one isn’t so much a “problem to remedy” so much as it is a note for moving forward.  We wanted to end on a positive thought, so the slight tone change is appropriate.  So, perhaps you had a really hard year - wholly and honestly.  Maybe you learned of new memories, couldn't find a new therapist, had a bunch of medical health complications, or lost someone truly important to you.  For you, it might feel like a nice exercise in containment to wrap all of those things up into Year 20XX, seal it tight, and just move forward.  This can actually be a great tool for many people.

    Traumatic material is hard, and anything we can do to keep it from revisiting our present when we don’t want it to should be encouraged (so long as it’s through a safe means of course!).  For many, there really is great comfort in mentally packing the year up in all its borders and keeping that difficult content “in the past” as you turn your head to the future.  The reason this isn’t ill-advised is because when you contain something, you aren’t stuffing it down, forcing it out of sight or trying to ignore it forever - nor are you making a judgment about what it is that you're putting away.  You’re just mentally gathering it all together in some type of organizational manner and temporarily setting aside until you’re ready to revisit it again in therapy.  Key words: temporarily and revisit.  For some, using the end of the year as a bookend is a kind of containment all its own that really appeals to the mind.  And if that works for you, by all means use it.  If you feel that your mind instead puts too much stock in dates and times and years and numbers, this might not be your best method.  For you, you may find that it reemphasizes the dates of traumas/life challenges and that when they come back around in the upcoming year(s), they’ll feel much more loaded.  But, only you know your mind and what’s most/least helpful to you.  If this mental exercise is useful to you, we definitely encourage you to use it as you move forward. (There are other means of containment that don't involve calendars/time if that way's not for you! Don't worry!)

    An added thought: Just know that as much as you may try to put a year away or the symptoms you wrestled with behind you, it may still follow you.  And that’s okay.  It doesn’t mean that the upcoming year is ruined or that it’s going to be as tough as this one.  It just means that the events of this one were sincerely difficult and are finding it hard to be put on pause. You may need to find new ways to address those struggles or break them down into smaller pieces to contain. When done thoughtfully and carefully, putting a troubling season away so that you can look ahead to a new one with fresher eyes and a stronger heart, can still be a very healthy thing to do.  It’s all in the approach and the mindset behind them.  You got this!

 

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    In closing, we know that this year may've been hard.  For others, it may've been a year of victories!  In truth, it was probably a bit of both for most of us.  No matter what yours was like, we still can’t help but wish you a happy, healthy, SAFE and WELL-BALANCED new one.  Hopefully, in picking out some of these little “thought pitfalls”, it will help you navigate the upcoming days a little easier and even catch yourself if you see your mind heading down one of those messy paths.

    This has been a wonderful year for Beauty After Bruises and we want to share that with you.  We met so many of you, heard your stories of strength, had a bunch of absolutely moving fundraisers, and got to interact with you individually online and in person in such a meaningful way. We hope that our future years together are just as bright, and that you feel our unending amount of support with every photo we post, article we write, fundraiser we host, and dollar we put toward your treatment.  Thank you for all that you’ve brought to us individually and to our community.  You are changing the world in such a beautiful way and you need to be proud of yourselves.  Hopefully you can pat yourself on the back knowing you’ve been a part of something great.  May you have the safest of holidays and always know that you’re on our hearts and minds.  


P.S.  While there isn’t a specific “getting through New Year's Day” post as it pertains to the physical act of attending family gatherings, NYE parties and such, you may find our 2 articles on Surviving the Holidays with C-PTSD and Coping with Toxic/Abusive Families still very helpful to you. Andm if you feel like the fireworks and loud bangs going off during New Year's celebrations will be a lot for you, our Grounding 101 article may be just what you need to get through!  We’re here for you!

 

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Surviving the Holidays with C-PTSD / DID

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    The holiday season is stressful for everyone.  But for many with Complex PTSD and dissociative disorders, it can be the absolute worst time of year.  While there are often bright spots, there are unique struggles that trauma survivors undeniably face as the year comes to a close.  Whether out and about, or gathering with family, the holidays can be so loud and busy and overstimulating - in other words, a nightmare for anyone with a posttraumatic condition. But there are countless hidden things survivors can often struggle with that many may not even realize - including survivors with a different history.  Many of you will have to face family or extended family that were the source of your trauma.  Others will have to gather around unsupportive or toxic family/friends who don't value your mental health or personal wellbeing.  For many survivors, the holidays are actual anniversaries of past trauma or violence. The holidays are also an unforgiving battleground to the many who struggle with food, disordered eating, and/or addictions.  To add insult to injury, an upsetting number of trauma survivors are grappling with chronic physical health issues, too - most of which came as a result of their trauma whether they realize it or not.  They're going to be in pain -- wanting to engage but unable. The list goes on and on - and, we know just how hard many of you will be fighting just to stay above the water.  We want to help however we can.

   Because so many of you will have very different holiday plans, different trauma histories that will involve very different triggers, and varying levels of safety or stages in recovery -- when it comes to managing your symptoms, there can be no one-size-fits all guide to getting through. But, there are, however, some universal things that remain true for most everyone.  We care very deeply about your health and wellbeing and don't want you to feel like you're going at it alone.  So, here are some of our suggestions to help get you through the holiday season safely, with your sanity intact, and knowing someone has your back.  Take what applies to you and leave the rest, and please feel free to comment some of YOUR suggestions as well to keep extending support to our community of survivors.

 

Our list to get through the holidays:

Stay grounded.  Remaining grounded is your first and strongest line of defense to any of the things you'll face during the holidays.  If you aren't grounded, none of your coping skills will be as effective.  Keep textured items in your pockets, bags, and/or car.  Carry a notecard on you or in your phone that can remind you of the date, that you're safe and an adult now, as well as any other orienting details that are important to you.  Keep your feet on the floor whenever you can.  Try to refrain from staring off or zoning out when things get too dull (or too heated).  Keep your phone on you to play music or engage in interactive apps whenever you feel yourself drifting.  Look around the room - take note of all the pretty things that catch your eye as you look about.  Talk or engage with someone if you can; vocalize in some way if you're alone.  Step out and wash your hands or face in cool water.  Go outside for a bit to reinvigorate yourself with fresh air or cold temperatures.  Anything you can to stay present in the here and now!  (We have 101 Grounding Techniques right here for ya if you need them!)

Remember: You have a voice. This is your life, your safety, your sanity.  You matter.  You are allowed to set boundaries for yourself, say no, change your mind, make choices that honor you.  If you don't want to visit with someone, or know seeing them will trigger or stress you too greatly - you DO NOT HAVE TO GO.  We understand that for some of you, particularly those who still live with unsafe people, saying no would actually put you in danger.  We understand that necessity and do not want to encourage you to put yourself in harm's way.  But for those of you whom it just feels scary or would make you feel guilty, ask yourself if those temporary feelings are more important than the endless, unpredictable amounts of distress spending time with those people would cause you.  Use your voice.  Set boundaries.  You are an adult and are allowed to say no now and have it be respected.

Plan ahead.  One of the best strategies to prevent an utter disaster is to plan ahead in the most detailed way possible.  List what kinds of things you're going to do before to make sure you go in to any stressful event confidently and steadily.  Describe the things you're going to do for yourself during to make sure you're grounded, level and calm.  Then, be incredibly specific about what you're going to do after to decompress and unwind, and then [most importantly!] what you'll do for self-care.  This is called a "Before/During/After Plan" or BDA.

Don't forget the basics.  It sounds painfully simple, but it's so easy to forget. Take your medications. Eat well. Stay hydrated. Force yourself to rest your body and mind even if you cannot sleep. Don’t neglect your physical health. These things are as much your foundation as being grounded is. Forgetting any of these basic needs can make you more vulnerable to symptoms, which can lead to a full unravelling later.  

Internal communication.  Those of you who have internal parts (DID/OSDD) will need to make sure you're doing a lot of internal communication.  Acknowledge with one another the difficult, painful, scary, or triggering things that you're going to be facing.  Validate those feelings and fears with each other.  Then, together, plan ahead for how you'll work together and arrange yourselves for each event on your calendar.  Also discuss what you might do to honor one another, perhaps even share gifts if that feels right.  (..even if those gifts to one another are as simple as letting a part watch a movie at home later, or color a picture.  It doesn't have to be a material present :)  )  Acknowledging and validating what's so painful about these holidays will make you less likely to be blindsided by traumatic material mid-holiday celebration if someone inside encounters a trigger you never saw coming.

Incentivize.  It's no secret that many survivors struggle with self-harming or other self-destructive behaviors or addictions.  Others are warring with their absolutely devastating depression, OCD, or similarly incapacitating conditions.  Get yourself a gift or other incentive that you aren’t allowed to have until January 2nd (or after each individual holiday).  If you got through the whole holiday season self-harm free or were able to accomplish things you were too depressed or too afraid to do, it's waiting for you to open when you've met your goal!

Let yourself grieve.  It seems counterintuitive to lead yourself into painful emotions, but it makes them far less likely to bubble up just as you're getting comfortable or having a good time.  Let yourself be sad.  Let yourself be angry.  Let yourself grieve lost holidays or entire childhoods of happy memories.  Allow yourself be upset about what your traumatic experiences have robbed you of or made more difficult.  Take a moment to be angry about neglectful and/or dismissive family and friends who won't support you the way you deserve to be supported.  Once you've given yourself a moment to feel these things, your mind will feel freer to enjoy the holidays and less determined to remind you that it was really, really hurt by all that's associated with them.

Take time for you.  You don't have to be "on" from Thanksgiving to January.  You don't have to be "on" morning to night on any holiday either.  Take breaks.  Leave the room.  Take a walk outside.  Sit in peace in a bedroom or unoccupied room for a moment. Those 15 minute breathers will do you and your nervous system wonders before returning to the festivities.

Support system.  If you have friends or family that support you heathily, connect with them.  Make it a point to fill them in on what's going on and what's worrying you.  Plan to connect with them even if for just 5 or 10 minutes before/after holiday gatherings.  We know that many therapists aren't available during holiday weeks, so touching base with friends and family that have your back can help you feel less stranded or as if you've been abandoned in your weakest moments.

Breathe.  Again, it sounds so simple, but you'll be amazed how many times you're completely overwhelmed and are actually holding your breath.  Take several deep cleansing breaths every time you feel your tension meter rising.

Limit alcohol/substances.  The holidays don't make this super easy for those who like to partake, but any level of intoxication can make traumatic material just a trigger away from flooding you.  ...and leaving you quite defenseless against it.  Try to be extra responsible during tough times - even if your whole body is zinging or feels so pressurized you're going to burst.  Going for another drink makes you far more vulnerable for everything to actually come cascading out of you - especially if you were already tense enough to 'need' that drink.

Remember: You do not have to stay.  Just like before, your needs matter.  You are not obligated to do anything you don't want to or for longer than you desire. You do not have to feel guilty.  You don't owe anyone an explanation for why you're leaving, where you're going, or why you want to go so soon. You are allowed to leave early.  You are being a proactive bamf by taking care of you. If you don't think you can count on your voice to be strong enough in the moment, make plans to see someone immediately after a gathering and make it known ahead of time that you can’t stay long.  Don't have anyone free to do that with or are traveling?  There are even apps that can help you get out of a situation you don't want to be in. :)  Even if you have to get clever about it, you are still allowed to go when you've had enough.  Period.

Physical safety. If you MUST visit (or already live) with unsafe people, and things escalate but you don’t feel you can leave the room, step outside, or leave entirely…. If at any moment you feel things are going to erupt into violence, apps like SafeTrek exist that will bring the police to your location without you ever making or answering a call. (This app is valuable for many other scenarios, for trauma survivors especially, and is highly recommended.  It is available for iOS and Android.)  You can also dial 911 yourself if you feel you can and just leave it open for an operator to listen to the chaos.  Many are familiar with this, and they may be willing to send a wellness check.  If you don’t feel either of those are safe options, or that a visit from police would make things less safe for you later, take some time now to brainstorm what WOULD feel safe to you.  Can you make a plan with a friend that would have them call you if you text a certain word?  To interrupt the chaos?  To force them to hush because someone on the phone might hear them, or because you had to get up and go to another room?  Do you have an ally in the family/friend group who could help you?  What feels right to you?  If your answer is “Just take it” (the abuse), I urge you to reconsider.  You are important.  You are valuable.  You are worthy of basic needs: safety.  You do not need to accept this or endure this any longer.  You have a voice and you have a brilliant mind that can find something else.  Anything else.

Conquering loneliness.  Many of these tips revolve around gatherings with others.  But, for some of you, much of the holiday season is actually spent alone (either by choice or circumstance).  Since loneliness can breed all sorts of darkness in the mind, plan your own holiday time for you.  Make the day a day that you treat yourself like you never do.  Watch movies, take a bath, paint your nails, turn your music up, watch new shows on Netflix, read a book, make yourself an elaborate meal, celebrate yourself and how far you’ve come.  Go ahead and make all of those slummin it with the fam jealous that you were at home having the time of your life in your PJs, coloring an adult coloring book, with Christmas cookies and tea. ;) But, more seriously, if you really feel like it's just going to be too hard even if you make it a fun day for you - just like those spending time with others - make a plan for the day.  Outline it.  What will you do before to make sure you're at your strongest? What are you going to do during to keep yourself steady?  And what will you do after to decompress and take care of yourself?  Let's hope your plan has TONS of self-care and self-treating in it.  You deserve it!

Be kind to yourself.  The holidays are hard.  For everyone.  Yes, even those who have it all together.  It's never going to be perfect.  You're likely going to make mistakes, have bad days, be a little short with someone you love, or have a day that you aren't the most patient.  You may stumble, or even completely fall apart.  While we hope that doesn't happen, it's okay if it does.  Life is a process, and every year is different.  None of us get it right every time, or even most of the time.  The best and only thing to do after something goes wrong is to practice some self-kindness.  Cut yourself some slack and remind yourself that now, if any a time, is the time you need comfort the most...especially from yourself.  Be gentle.  If you wouldn't tell one of your friends they were stupid or bad for making the exact same mistake, then you aren't either.  Breathe. It's okay. You're gonna be okay.

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  And we're here.  So, you're going to be more than okay :)  

  We are sending you the best wishes and warmth from all of us at Beauty After Bruises.  You are always in our hearts and we'll be thinking of you tons this holiday season.

 


Don't miss our follow-up article on
Coping with Toxic/Abusive Families During the Holidays!
You can find that here!

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