An Adult Child Abuse Survivor's Guide to the Holidays
Sit by a window for a view of the outdoors. When you look to the outside world as you sit in the presence of your dysfunctional family, gazing out to the outdoors know there's light out there, beyond the dark cave of the abuser's house.
Go beyond looking out the window and get out there in that bigger world.Expand your universe. The abuser's house or the house with the abusers in it is not the core of the world. The world is beyond that house. In this world there are people who believe in you and love you unconditionally. That world contains your working life where you are valued or perhaps your university studies where you excel. So, go outside for a few minutes and take a walk in the bigger world.
Put your therapist's number on fast dial. Call anytime. Even if you reach their voice mail, leave a message. Don't fret if they don't call back right away. Instead, revel in the knowledge that you were wise enough to reach out. You pursued help and that action alone is therapeutic.
Keeping your therapist in mind, remember techniques they have suggested to help you through these tough times. For example, I like to use what all of my therapists have taught me - the classic self-hypnosis exercise of sitting comfortably and mentally going to my inner place of refuge. FYI - it's a beach on the Big Island of Hawaii where I snorkel to my heart's delight.
Minimize conversation with the perpetrator and anyone who has been abusive to you. Say you're not feeling well, you have a headache, thus you need to be quiet. Again, you are not lying here. That person makes you feel unwell and your head probably hurts when you're around them.
If you cannot avoid conversations with those people, keep something in your pocket to hold and remind yourself of the strong adult you are today. I use a little plastic monkey from the Barrel of Monkeys toy game. Small and with a defined shape, the monkey reminds me of the humor and light heartedness of my life away from the abusers. Also, a monkey is not to be messed with and you can pretend the monkey is throwing feces all around the abuser's home.
Keep your cell phone on to Twitter, Facebook or whatever you use for social media interactions. Set it to buzz everytime you get an update. Another reminder of the bigger world out there and that you're part of it.
Okay, get ready for this big one, survivors:
Remembering you are an adult of legal age, Walk out the door the second things get gnarly. Just go.
Everyone, no matter how badaas and brave they seem to be, is scared shitless to do this. I was scared to do this. But, I've done it and I'll do it again.
If you find yourself in an escalating conflict or charged moment, and you've been fighting and yelling, leave. Get out. But don't drive away. Take a walk, cry, yell some more or laugh maniacally at the absurdity of it all in order to release what is an emotional atomic bomb. Do not drive home in an intense emotional state as you are not centered. Respect your anger and anguish and give it time to release and subside.
Once you're back home, take a long, hot shower or bath. Put on clean sweats or pajamas, pour yourself a glass of juice, rev up the laptop and watch the best new thing on Netflix. You are treating your inner abandoned child like royality. She/he richly deserves the coziest, safest place on the planet