Having CPTSD/PTSD is challenging!  You experience things differently because you are already reading body language and facial expressions while usually feeling the electricity from the storm that’s brewing!   As your anxiety level rises your speech quickens and your heart starts that familiar thumpity thump that tells you to strap in because here we go!

The holidays are right around the corner and for some of us it is a very difficult time.  Memories flood in as our minds replay scenes of past incidents that we would rather forget.  I remember preparing myself days before the holiday, gaining strength as I played out every possible scenario telling myself this year is going to be different, left only to acknowledge the utter failure when it was all said and done.  

You arrive at your destination and enter the threshold and almost immediately someone throws you that glance, you know the one.  The stink eye has been unleashed!  You look around making sure no one is standing behind you just in case you were mistaken but the space is empty so there’s no doubt it was hurled at you. 

Now you feel like you’re surrounded by the enemy!  There are those who just cannot or will not communicate in a healthy manner.  Their abusive banter is done underhandedly! You better not say anything out loud or you will be gang mobbed like the first customer on a car lot.  I’m sure you are acquainted with the bandwagon effect.  If one jumps on the others must chime in and soon a fearless leader arises standing on a soapbox rallying the crowd as you think to yourself how in the hell did I ever talk myself into this!

For me it usually started with my mother picking on me about my hair and lack of makeup.  Why I didn’t wear lipstick, or why I didn’t wear my hair down so everyone could see how long it has gotten?  Why did I wear jeans?  “You look so good when you dress up”!  So now I am dealing with an inferiority complex while the rebel inside me says “for shit sake, I should have just worn my pajamas, at least I would be more comfortable facing my aggressor”!

CPTSD has also left me smell sensitive so being greeted with numerous hugs crushes me with a perfume array that only makes me want to puke!  All the fake smiles and how do you do’s after you heard your family members viciously gossiping about the relatives the week before leaves you baffled! Now they seem to be committed by guilt, love bombing them into oblivion!

Sitting at the table shoulder to shoulder makes things even worse as I struggle not to bump granddads arm because he has a hard-enough time keeping food on his fork. If you cross your legs under the table, you end up accidentally kicking someone in the shins and you’re left startled because you made contact with something unfamiliar!  The turkey is roasted in the same stand up roaster that I got stuck in as a kid playing hide and go seek!  It was such a great spot no one could find me which also meant no one could help me get out!  The thought makes me giggle out loud as I become the centerpiece of crazy!   

Dad starts in with religion, “Jesus Christ what the hell did you do to the turkey, it’s as dry as a raisin”!  Mom’s face gets all twisted up telling him it isn’t that bad, and we all thank heavens for the gravy!  So, I end up tucking myself in trying to be invisible, while on the inside I’m wound up so tight I feel like I’m simulating a rubber band that is ready to launch at any given moment.  Brother’s eyes meet mine and he rolls them, yep, he’s feeling it too! 

Families are a crazy array of personalities that have little to no personal boundaries.  They talk over one another, while trying to gain the spotlight of attention.  Its like a classroom full of kindergartner’s who haven’t yet learned how to raise their hand showing respect for one another.  The worse part is knowing your own mother has run a narrative about you for years to family members and they believe her because she recites the gospel of truth!  If she had her way you would be hog tied and hidden in a darkened corner in the basement to be forgotten for generations to come!

Someone spills a glass of milk!  An excited frenzy breaks out as your aunt tries to sop up the river before it hits the edge of the table and ends up in someone’s lap.  I look at my cousin thinking how lucky he is not to be sitting within arm’s length of dad or he would end up getting the reactionary smack in the back of the head for his blunder!

I want to quietly remove myself and hide but that isn’t happening anytime soon because there is a line to use the facilities!  I finally find refuge in the bedroom where mom has laid everyone’s coat neatly across the bed.  I scan the room aimlessly trying to gain a bit of composure while attempting to stop the swell of thoughts from gaining momentum as they begin their decent down the steep slope in my head.  Soon I find that I am not alone as the family dog has sought shelter under the bed.  She peeks her head out long enough for a quick pet then smartly retreats.

By this time, I am exhausted from all the emotional turmoil, hyper-vigilance and the big holiday dinner.  I can barely keep my eyes open and could really go for a nap about now.  Mom sees my eyelids getting heavy and asks me why I am tired as she tells my aunts “Sarah Lou is tired” in a pitiful condescending way making a spectacle out of me!

The women are in the kitchen trying to clean up the aftereffects of what is equal to a bomb going off while all eight of them are tripping over one another putting things away.  I go to the living room where the men are gathered, it’s a bit calmer but now I must deal with the guilt for not helping the rest of the hens in the hen house!

The echoes of glass breaking grabs everyone’s attention!  Someone runs to get a dish towel from the linen closet as dad yells, “who cut themselves”?  Mom answers, “I did”!  Dad gets religious again yelling “Jesus Christ can’t you be more careful”?  You then hear the faint word asshole departing from the kitchen as dad screams “what did you say”?  In a quiet voice mom replies, “nothing honey”.

When everything is cleaned up the women start piling into the living room. The men become silent as if they were having a top-secret meeting of sorts.  I’m ready to leave as mom says, “you can’t go yet you have to stay for pumpkin pie”, and who in the world would want to miss that delicacy!

I believe holidays should come with a warning label stating, “Beware, could be detrimental to your self-esteem, can cause undo duress and you are going to need a week of rest just to heal from the overload! 

Brace yourself because we are a little over two weeks away from the total insanity of it all to begin!