Tuesday, December 09, 2008

PTSD and the holidays revisited...

Holidays have always been rough for me. A lot of trauma anniversary (pdf) stuff comes between Thanksgiving and New Years for me. I didn't even realize it but my partner pointed out that I always have a hard time with holidays and depression and PTSD symptoms. This year seems better so far. I am in a place I like. I won't be alone. People who traumatized me are far away and not in contact. So maybe things will be ok this year.

Another set of holidays has started, and I need to be aware of anniversary reactions. Awareness and talking about it to the people around me (I wouldn't recommend this unless they understand PTSD and are supportive) have helped reduce the worst of the reactions, as has staying away from my abusers, and unfortunately in my case, my family of origin, who are all mightily invested in not understanding my PTSD, which several of them find pretty threatening.

Why are holidays tough for people with PTSD? Well for one thing, getting in touch with positive feelings can be really difficult, and during the holidays there is a lot of pressure to do just that...be jolly in other words. For another, some holidays a reminders of anniversaries of traumatic events. Anniverseries are proven triggers for PTSD, and they sure were for me. I finally realized I needed to cut off contact with my family of origin -- a drastic step, not for everyone, BTW -- after calling on Thanksgiving and getting off the phone and having a severe flashback. I would have never put the two together because the content of the flashback was not my family, but my partner noticed that this happened regularly with contact with them and around holidays in particular. The "joke" in our family was "OK, we're going to have a good holiday or else, godammit" which was usually followed by some drunken craziness that turned ugly.

For me, controlling whom I am around, and scaling back expectations of jolliness both help a lot.
There is a bit more on how someone with PTSD can cope with the hiolidays in About.com's PTSD section.

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