Every year leading up to Halloween, I secretly hope that it will be different this time. That maybe, this year, I’ve done enough work in therapy or been sober long enough to finally make my demons disappear, because I am an optimist.
And every year, despite my best efforts, the darkness creeps in.
The holidays are a huge trigger for me. For the past 20 years, my sadness and anxiety begins around Halloween and slowly ramps up until after New Year’s.
Every. Fucking. Year.
It’s like clockwork, which is something I don’t understand and likely never will.
It starts with the dreams. Then there’s the inexplicable lack of energy and isolation that I always assume is due to an oncoming cold, or maybe an overindulgence of Halloween candy. And then, out of nowhere, the heaviness, a profound sadness that I can’t explain, and when I try to, I get angry.
I’m angry for being sad. Who wants to be sad during the most joyful time of the year? NOT THIS BITCH.
I’m angry that this weight is still there, after so much work! So many books and journals and countless hours with my therapist, EMDR and letters I was told to write but not actually send, inner child mumbo jumbo and group therapy and service work.
It is still there.
The sadness persists.
I’m angry because every year, I have to admit to myself that what happened to me not only blew up my life, but also rewired my brain because trauma does that. I’m angry that no one told me that trauma never goes away; you can’t work it off like stubborn fat. You can’t pay someone to freeze it off like a wart. You can’t ignore it. All you can do is learn how to live with it.
I drank for years to blot it out, and despite years of refusing to acknowledge the elephant in the room, the effects have bled into every single part of my life. My trauma affects how I parent, my reactions to the people around me, and my marriage. It deeply affects my marriage, actually, because it turns out that it’s really difficult to be a partner when one has no self-worth. For the record, I have self-worth now, but during the holidays it takes a nose dive: all day long, I battle irrational thoughts. It’s the worst.
This entire post is me acknowledging my feelings instead of ignoring them and expecting them to go away, and when they don’t, reaching for a package of cookies since I’m sober now and I don’t have vodka in the house.
Instead of drinking vodka or eating cookies, I’m telling the world that what we do and say to other people matters. Our choices have a ripple effect. I obviously can’t change what happened to me, but I do have the power to change how I cope with the aftermath for the rest of my life.
I drank to numb the pain of being a victim. I DID NOT WANT TO BE A VICTIM. Shudder, gross, ew, no. That sounded, and still sounds, like the weakest shit ever. I’m not a victim, but I do have ongoing issues with post traumatic stress disorder that I’ll likely battle for the rest of my life.
My demons don’t have to define me, and they don’t have to ruin my entire holiday season. While I may never be completely normal during this time of year, I don’t have to drink because of it. What I’m supposed to do, I’m told, is be kind to myself. I am terrible at this.
Yesterday, that looked like buying a 7.5 foot tall Sunkist orange, pre-lit Christmas tree and paying extra to get it here ASAP.
Today, instead of drinking a Monster Zero to power through my day, I took a nap.
I let my 7-year-old fix my hair.
I’m putting my experience out there so that other people can see that recovery is possible. It’s not easy–God, it’s not easy–but it’s the reason why I’m able to be a mom and a friend and a human being who can make a positive impact on the world instead of being a vapid black hole of unhappiness.
If you, like me, are struggling and just sort of treading water to make it to the end of this brutal year, I just want to tell you that it’s going to be okay. We’re going to make it, and these difficult feelings will pass, and the sun will come out again.