This year, I'm dreaming of a world without violence. One where we don't live with the understanding that at any moment, any person, could potentially choose to hurt us for their gain.
Sometimes, family members or close family friends choose to hurt us. Holidays can increase anxiety especially for survivors of family violence. We may have to sit at a dinner table with an individual who causes conflict in our souls since we wanted them to love and protect us but instead they chose to abuse and violate us.
We each react in different ways. We may sit there in silence, be avoidant, or feel like we are on auto-pilot simply so we can get through the day. For some unknown reason, we may get upset or lash out. We may feel sick, unable to sleep, or that our insides are building up to a panic attack just thinking about being in the same room. These are all normal reactions to the abnormal experience. Once we understand what's going on, we can be more aware of our physical and emotional responses and how to work with them rather against.
3 tips on surviving the holidays:
1. Know yourself- try to be in tune with how you are feeling physically and emotionally. Possibly write down when you have strong, or lack, emotions. Write down what was happening right before and see if there is a pattern. Understand what makes you feel safe and loved. Understand what makes you feel like there is the possibility that someone will endanger or hurt you.
2. Set boundaries- once you know how certain interactions may impact you, think of healthy ways to deal with them. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. You do not owe it to anyone to make them happy especially if this means sacrificing your own safety, betraying your intuition. As awkward or anxiety filled it may feel, saying no to certain activities is your right. Are people talking inappropriately about something? Maybe say something simple like "not cool" and suggest a different topic of conversation. Maybe their response will be one of confusion since they aren't used to you standing up for yourself. Setting boundaries may be difficult when we are used to letting people walk all over us. Time to take the first step of setting expectations of how you will let others interact with you.
3. Reach out- some days are rougher than others. A simple comment may trigger a deep hollowness and the watering of eyes. If possible, talk to someone you trust beforehand and ask them to take note of simple ways to support you. Identify a word or a touch on the elbow that means you need a moment out of the room. Take a break and breathe. Your trusted person will also need to practice self-care as they support you. Asking for support is not selfish. If you feel more comfortable talking to someone anonymously, check out the hotline on Rainn.org - the people on the other end are trained to give you support, information, or a referral.
Maybe someday our dream of a world without violence will become a reality. For those of us who have experienced violence, we can hold on to the comfort that we are not alone in our struggles. We choose to love and support each other along the way- especially this holiday season.