The run up to Christmas is not an easy time for many people. There can be all sorts of reasons for this, and some of them can be related to issues around having experienced sexual abuse. Many people who have experienced abuse have to deal with long standing anxiety, depression and a sense of being out of step with what might seem ordinary for everyone else. These feelings can all make Christmas, and the way Christmas is hyped up, a struggle to manage.
Feelings of not being happy and secure can be made worse by the pressure and expectation at this time of year to be seen to be celebrating and enjoying Christmas in certain ways. This is the season when we all get bombarded by images generated by the advertising and the entertainment industries offering scenes of families/partners/friends all joyfully sharing traditional Christmas fun, with never a hint of anything like tension, upset, disagreements, stress, struggles with money, or lifestyles that are far from the sterotypical ‘Mum, Dad, two kids and a labrador’
Some people find Christmas difficult because they experienced sexual abuse when they were younger in a family setting. This means that being presented with endless images of close, happy family members celebrating together is in painful contrast to their own experience of family, especially if there is still a lack of acknowledgement of and support around the abuse within their current family circumstances.
Others users find the hype and ballyhoo around Christmas difficult because there is a particular pressure to spend money at this time of year, highlighting the gap between those who are in a position to do this comfortably and those who are not.
It also a time of year when the increased consumption of food and alcohol is particularly encouraged, normalised and promoted. For those survivors of abuse who have been left with addictions, as part of the symptoms of trauma and difficulty related to their abuse, and who may be struggling to contain their urge to drink alcohol and/or eat too much, there is little escape from the powerful invitations to give in and have that boozy drink or that sweet treat.
It can be helpful for those who recognise that feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation and shame tend to get exacerbated at this time of the year, to be reminded of the ‘reality check’ (which we all need from time to time) as to the artificial nature of many images presented to us as the norm by advertising and entertainment. It can be good to be reminded that there are many people who can feel out of step at this time of year, for all sorts of reasons. And that there are plenty of people, from all sort of back grounds and circumstances, who choose not to buy into the myth of the happily consuming ‘normal’ family, who ecstatically shop and munch their way through Christmas.
If you are a survivor who finds that you can feel more depressed, more anxious, or more isolated in the run up to Christmas, then please remember that you are not alone in finding it a stressful time of year and that help is there, if you reach out for it, in services like SurvivorsUK.
Sarah, Counsellor, SurvivorsUK
If you have been impacted by sexual violation and want to access support over the Christmas period from SurvivorsUK please get in touch through our online helpline.
If you’re having a difficult time, perhaps you’re dealing with flashbacks, depression or any of the other common feelings and effects survivors experience, but you don’t feel like talking about it then hopefully one of these links will be able to offer you some help.