When going home hurts

Stress Management

The holiday season is in full swing.

In the United States, Thanksgiving through the New Year is a magical time of year for family, love, friends, and celebrating life. Hanukkah started last night and Christmas is tomorrow. Everywhere I look, I see holiday lights, candy canes, Santas, and other festive decorations.

For those of us who were raised in abusive or neglectful homes, this time of year can be very stressful and confusing. We feel nostalgic for a childhood we never had (but saw in all of those Christmas movies). We have a hope that this year will be different. This phone call home will go smoothly. This time so and so will be nice to us.

To make it more confusing, many people who were raised in abusive homes would not identify themselves as survivors of abuse. This is mainly because there are different types of abuse.

Physical abuse includes:

  • punching, shaking, kicking, pinching, hair pulling and many other terrible examples.

Sexual abuse includes:

  • unwanted touching anywhere that is typically covered by a swim suit or underwear. Sexual abuse also includes being forced to watch others engage in sexual acts against our will.

Emotional abuse is:

  • when people try to break our spirits by calling us names like “stupid”, “worthless”, a “mistake”, “fatty”, and even worse. Emotional abuse leads to feelings of shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, and anger. Emotional abuse is often not recognized as often as it should.

Physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse can all cause life-long problems, but especially when they are inflicted on us by the very people who are supposed to love us and keep us safe. Some of us continue to live and interact with our families on a regular basis and some of us have to make the decision each year whether or not we want to go home for the holidays.

Part of us really wants to go home. Part of us wants that love and validation that we have never been given. The other part of us already knows it will, in all likelihood, not happen that way yet we go home anyway, out of duty. Because during the holidays, that’s what you do, the holidays are all about family after all.

How do I fix myself?

I recommend developing coping skills first and foremost. You cannot dig into all of the deep pain of a broken childhood without having coping skills already in place. A mental health professional can help you learn, practice, and use these skills correctly.

Coping skills include (but are not limited to):

  • Yoga
  • Using music effectively
  • Exercise
  • Hiking
  • Reading particular books
  • Meditation
  • Learning to use and guide your thoughts and imagination
  • Guided Imagery
  • Support groups

 

 

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