PTSD and Trauma: Taking Back Christmas
December 16, 2022
It has been four years since my repressed trauma surfaced. And since my worst memory was from Christmas Eve, it has also been four years since I’ve celebrated Christmas. But this year, I’m taking Christmas back.
For four years, I’ve done everything possible to pretend Christmas wasn’t happening. I stopped decorating my house with lights and ornaments and took to assembling winter decorations instead. I no longer put up a tree.
I didn’t partake in making my grandma’s Christmas cookies with my mom and my sisters. A tradition we’ve had since my grandma passed 30 years ago.
I started spelling Christmas with an X (Xmas) and even though I found out that the X stood for Christ, so it was the same thing, I still did it out of spite.
If I was out and Xmas music started playing, I’d ignore it. I avoided malls this time of the year and places that focused on Santa. For four years, I shut out Christmas altogether. I even stopped seeing family—I thought it best not to recreate the crime scene.
But in lieu of old traditions, my husband and I established new traditions. Traditions I hope we keep. We started baking apple pies from scratch. And going for nature walks. Doing puzzles and watching movies that had nothing to do with Xmas.
I kept things as simple as possible on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I planned my meals in advance and ate nutritious, comforting foods. I left myself notes for self-care around the house. Reminding myself to do things like stretch and breathe and journal.
But now, as Xmas approaches and I’m the strongest I’ve ever been, I’ve decided to reclaim it. To take it back. And to make it something new.
To make it my own. Our own. Not the memories of what it used to be.
For I haven’t known a Christmas as my present self. As a centered, trauma-free adult. And I deserve to enjoy Christmas this way. My former selves deserve it too.
So this year, I’m celebrating. I’m humming along to Christmas songs. I went to the display of lights festival and Kris Kringle market in our town. We’re watching Christmas episodes of shows like The Office that we haven’t seen in years. I made my grandma’s Christmas cookies with my mom and my sisters. I’m even contemplating being with my family again on Christmas Eve.
And after all those years of ignoring Christmas, of pretending it wasn’t happening—of holding time and space to heal from my repressed trauma—it feels good to celebrate once again. To bring back some old traditions and to combine them with new ones. To embrace the joy—to embrace the magic—and to enjoy Christmas once again.
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Photo by Brigitte Tohm