You hear and read a lot about how, if you do the same action you will always get the same outcome, so this week I have started to try and change that. I have always started my Christmas preparations early. I start off with really good intentions, that this year will be different and I won’t get the pre-Christmas sadness that hits me every year.
As a small child I can remember loving Christmas. Granted we never had much money when my mum was a single parent, but I loved the buildup to it, all the sparkly lights on the tree, being in the Nativity at school and carols, how I love carols. But my memories seem to be marred by bad memories that trigger panic attack’s and emotions in me that I have never been able to overcome.
My worst memory of Christmas is when I was about six or seven. My mum was married to my abuser at the time. He loved a drink at the best of times and Christmas only made his alcohol consumption increase. This particular Christmas we had been woken to a stash of lovely presents left by Santa. Since my mum married him, our money situation had increased but only if he was in the mood to hand it over. It was only as an adult I found out how hard my mother had had to beg for money.
That particular year I had desperately wanted a swinging crib for my Tiny Tears doll and Santa had bought me one complete with drapes and matching bed linen. With the turkey in the oven, my mum and stepfather had gone over the pub leaving my brother and I behind playing with our Christmas presents. I don’t remember how long they were gone but I sure as hell remember them coming home. They were both intoxicated. He had gone on a bender and my mum had tried to match him drink for drink.
Then it started. First the shouting, then the sounds of smashing, crashing, bumps, screaming, it went on and on. My mum told us to go into the dining room for safety so we did as we were told and took refuge under the table. The shouting and smashing continued. Some time later she came in again and joined us in our hiding place.
The door opened and my stepfather appeared. Something was glinting in his hand, it was the carving knife. ‘I’m leaving’ he said, ‘ and if any of you try to stop me, I will f***ing kill you!’ As he walked out my mum ran after him begging him to stay. I can remember my brother and I screaming for her to come back, remembering what he had said would happen if we tried to stop him leaving. He left.
We were left surveying the damage. The house had been smashed to pieces. Every present broken. My beautiful swinging crib lay in pieces in the lounge. My mum realised we hadn’t eaten so went into the kitchen to make us something. Not content with wrecking the house he had taken the plug off every appliance in the kitchen. ‘Turkey and chips it is,’ she said.
A few hours later the door opened and he walked back in. ‘No trains today,’ he said, ‘I’ll go tomorrow.’ He never went. He obviously wheedled his way back into my mum’s good books because they were soon acting as if nothing had never happened.
The damage stayed with me though. It doesn’t take much to trip my mood at Christmas. I don’t mean I get angry. When my mood changes I go into the pits of despair and there I stay until after New Year and I cry, I cry a lot.
So this Christmas I have decided to try and change things. Even though my eldest has now moved out and he and his younger brother and sister are spending it with their dad this year, I am putting the same amount of effort into it as I used to when they were small. Like then, I have made my own Christmas cakes and pickles. I have spend ages designing how I will wrap everyone’s gifts and what we will eat. I have almost finished my gift shopping already and know exactly what theme my decorations will be.
This year Christmas will be different. My mother and her third husband are no longer in my life having disowned me; my closest ‘best’ friend may have ghosted me without telling me why, but I have MY family, my husband, my two sons, my daughter , my stepson and my two loyal Shih tzus. And as hard as it is, I am doing really well with my EMDR therapy. I know I have already banished some old demons. Maybe this year it will be a Merry Christmas after all.