This time of year frightens me and my efforts to behave as normally and unphased as I can do have exhausted me. I can’t ask the world to never say the ‘C’ word. I wouldn’t want to anyway. I recognise that this time of year is, for some, a time for celebration and family, love and laughter. Sadly too many people will be alone this christmas, and I saw a shocking stat that 80,000 children will be homeless over Christmas. For some people, like me, Christmas is just a painful period filled with ritual abuse dates, programming, trauma and horrific anniversary memories.
I don’t know how I’m going to get through it this year. Normally I’m at ‘home’, with my family. I’m normally being abused. I’m normally going through the ritual stuff, and experiencing the worst ever kind of physical and emotional pain. It’s horrible but it does at least mean I’m dissociating a lot, and not having time to properly think about what’s happening – I go back into survival mode. This year will be my first safe Christmas. And it terrifies me, because I know my head will, for once, have time to think and process. To remember. To actually notice when the programming kicks in, when the dates send me hysterical. It’s making me more hyper-sensitive to triggers. It means I can feel the emotional toll from everything that’s ever happened to me and others at Christmas, where I wouldn’t normally be able to. I am so scared that being safe will actually somehow be more painful.
Everything’s triggering me. But I know I need to be exposed to the triggers and gradually become desensitised to them if I’m ever going to manage properly in this world. But everytime someone says ‘Christmas’ I can taste bile. The flashing lights just send me into a trance. The images of people being dressed up terrifies me. Christmas ornaments make my abdomen ripple with remembered pain; in pain of how pretty pointy ornaments should not be used. I hear the carols and think of the children. I look at the date and want to throw up. Flashes – half second flashes – of horrific memories (recent and old) keep spitting at me. I know I haven’t remembered most of my christmases. I’m also fairly sure I don’t want to. I’m not completely sure, however, that I’ll have any choice. I’m having weird dreams of strange rituals , men in robes, cats being bound up, children with blank eyes and pale faces staring into space as they silently awaited whatever horror was coming. I keep waking up gasping for breath and drenched with nervous sweat, convinced I’ve actually just been buried alive. I wish there was away I could press an ‘off’ switch and just shut down completely until this christmas period is over.
Thinking of all other ritual abuse survivors, and victims, in particular at this massively difficult time. But also thinking of those who will find Christmas difficult or lonely, for different reasons. I know what Christmas is meant to be about. The reality of what it can actually be like is heartbreaking.
I have vivid memories of sitting in a room full of men and trying to hide how scared I was. Tied to a chair. They were whispering in a language I didn’t recognise. I could feel myself trembling and I was staring at the floor. I could see them getting out ornate objects – knives with some very fancy handle, glass bottles filled with some odd coloured liquid. Chains. Rope. Long lighters. The small statue of something I could never understand, but which they always put on a table or shelf, in my view. Whips. They playfully slashed the whip across the air and smirked at each other. Scalpels. One man looked at me and said “merry christmas.” They all smiled. I shook violently. I knew what was coming, really.
But all I could think was, all my silent pleas were – please just rape me. Please just rape me. Please just rape me.