Time passes and even as I work hard to heal and grow I feel stuck between two minds that battle each other endlessly and the battle rages harder from the moment every media outlet starts telling us it’s time to eat turkey, it’s time to see friends and family, it’s time to make wishes and be thankful and cheerful and joyful and on and on.
We submit our individual soul to consumerism and a collective idea that homes are safe, that the familiar and nostalgia is sacred, that sanctuary from being soulless and lost is in “warm and cozy gatherings.” While I hear many complain about their parents and other humans they grew up with I remember there are many who like myself have no one. I see countless people who year round are starving and lack safety and shelter. I imagine children being placted with elaborate gifts and experiences while emotionally being manipulated or neglected. I see my disabled and chronically ill friends isolated and forgotten, brushed aside. I see those of us with trauma also being brushed aside like we’re dust to be swept under a rug. I see seeds of future pain and abuse.
This year I got fed up. Daily I struggle with my self worth as I naively accept people around me who I shouldn’t. I learned recently that we as trauma survivors can project our goodness unto others. So while I expected loyalty, compassion, sensitivity and empathy the reality is that they were people only looking to expand their own entity in one way or another. Consider me being used for content, used to stroke an ego, used to line a pocket, used to boost numbers while imaging these were friends… the list could go on.
As I strive to let myself accept love I am still scared to even expect anything. The feelings I deal with from late October to mid January are so convoluted and contrived that I can’t even begin to untangle them and explain when I am at rest and get a moments peace from the overwhelming catastrophes that are my trauma responses in this time. Because I am so tired of all of this I can’t even bring myself to call it “this time of year.” Our calendar was constructed by people stealing cultures of others to control them for power and influence, yet here even my most “proactive” friends seem to “drink the koolaid,” a saying I hate because of it’s monstrous origins.
I feel as if I have said this a million times before, how troubling my birthday is for me. I never feel like I can fully explain why it is so taxing. As a little girl I got excited to see what others around me had, a cake, balloons, parties, gifts anything and everything for anyone, anywhere to express their love and thankfulness that I exist. I saw my brother be special on his day and get special gifts and cakes made and taken to his favorite places.
If something was bought for me on my birthday my brother had to get something too. I felt shameful and selfish for thinking it was my birthday not his as I felt my gift get turned into just another shopping trip. I don’t remember if we went out for my birthday to be honest it could have easily been for my dad’s birthday because we were four days apart. I was never asked what I wanted to eat or where I would like to go.
The one year I remember that Mom was told to buy me a cake and somewhat of a big deal was made for me was the same year my father left us. I realized later, he was feeling guilty because he had stopped paying the mortgage, the phone, the light bill and I forget what else, that Christmas before because he had planned it all.
After that Mom got me gifts but she struggled for everything as a single mom and I felt awful. I felt more like a burden than I had ever felt. Even telling this story makes me feel guilty and shameful when my goal isn’t really to get pity or sympathy. I just want to express that countless little messages are given to us over the course of our lives like this and for trauma survivors they form a huge ravine of fear and shame and guilt that is hard to cross.
It never fails that I hope for surprises, that I dream of thoughtful gestures or any sort of celebration or message that I might matter to someone to be remembered or dare I say cherished for existing. It’s hard enough for me year round to think I even deserve to exist. As I told my therapist years ago, I stopped even speaking of my birthday at some point, probably more so after Mom stopped remembering, because it just hurts too much. I had a “friend” tell me it was my fault I am forgotten because I don’t “give people a chance” by not telling them. He knew my birthday and he hurt me more than anyone by ignoring me on that day but that’s a story for another time. I fight my mind day and night to even believe I deserve to eat or have shelter, it seems like an act of pure violence and evil to wish to feel special ever at all for anyone, anywhere.
Thanksgiving too is hard as Mom and I struggle to find food, Christmas is much the same, forget the traditions that seem more and more frivolous to me like gifts. Those days rub my insignificance in my face even harder, even when more and more nontraditional gatherings and families are represented on media. I see how much I have no community, no where to call home, except my mother who now doesn’t even remember who I am.
December got harder after the one year (2006), when I got to be with Mom’s family, my family, for Christmas. I tried my usual disappearing in a crowd but they saw me. There was a day that I was bed ridden with a migraine and woke up alone and got scared and my aunt immediately reassured me that she left her most trusted family member (her dog) to watch over me undisturbed. It all seemed alien to me. A huge group of people who were somewhat like me, separated because of political BS from years ago, all eager to make me feel welcomed, loved and learn about me. Honestly, I think if scared me because I couldn’t trust it. To taste true familial warmth and connection that I knew would never happen again hurt as well.
I truly believe I felt that if they saw the “real me” they would “know the truth” and reject me. These were deep feelings I didn’t understand at the time. They were buried deep in my soul. Today, as I remember that year I can still feel my inner mind, my inner child saying to me “they didn’t know how evil you are.” This morning my aunt sent me a message saying “I know it’s your birthday this month coming soon, so please let me wish you a happy birthday before I forget.” She messages me to make sure to talk to Mom on Mom’s birthday, every year since she is finally able to contact us with Facebook.
Every bit of me wishes that we would have had the internet when I was young. Until this moment I had forgotten that my aunt would send me a birthday card along with the family Christmas card when she had the means. Mom’s family wasn’t perfect, Mom did suffer some pain from them too but the love they showed me just because I was Mom’s little girl blew me away. My other aunt had photos of my brother and I that Mom had sent them years ago, protected and cherished in a photo album with the rest of my family.
I guess today I want to press into those feelings because the more I try to advocate for myself knowing I won’t have anything special waiting for me next week aside from whatever plans I make for myself… bracing myself for a lonely music stream and a possible breakdown or several next week… bracing myself for something to happen with my friend Meghan who is doing everything in her power to have dinner with me that day… as my heart is desperately trying to protect me from more pain and anguish by wanting to self destruct… I’m leaning into the tiny bits of evidence of what love feels like, the tiny bits of memories when people like my mom and my aunt truly did cherish me.
I’m still scared but maybe someday I can at least love myself.