December as a whole is a difficult month for me, filled with plenty of challenges and mixed emotions, made even more difficult as it’s my girls’ favourite time of year. If I were being honest I would much prefer to close my eyes on the evening of 30th November and wake up in January, having skipped December altogether.
One of my biggest struggles is the expectation that this is a joyous time of year, a time for friends and families to unite and celebrate their love and friendship. For me in particular, it serves to remind me of how alone and isolated we are.
December doesn’t particularly carry many happy memories for me either. It was a time of year for me when my abuse was heightened. I was trafficked more readily at this time of year as a child and my husband’s violence was more pronounced during the Christmas season. Whilst all around me celebrated the season of goodwill, my abuse intensified. I grew to both fear and dread December.
Now that I no longer find myself in the abusive situation anymore, I feel the burden of expectation of having to be joyous – the responsibility of creating Christmas for my children falls solely and squarely on my shoulders. I don’t want my children to see my pain or to realise how much I dread this time of year, the time of year when my risk of suicide is at its highest. I do all that I can to hide my pain from them.
Christmas time is the time for the giving and receiving of gifts – another aspect I struggle with, the receiving of gifts. As I was trafficked as both a child and an adult, my ‘gift’ involved being presented to another individual to be raped or sexually assaulted. If, on the rare occasion, I was given a gift I really wanted I was expected to ‘pay’ for it in return. A condition always attached to the receiving of a gift. I still struggle with receiving gifts from others, even my own children, as I never know what condition is attached to the gift. If asked what I would like as a gift, I often request no gift, simply because I fear the expectation attached to the gift. My eldest daughter does not like me to go without and so will make me a gift, whilst my youngest chooses to respect my request of no gift. Conversely, I love to give gifts simply because I give unconditionally. It provides me with great joy to give a gift knowing it is given freely and without expectation. I love the simple pleasure of giving.
So at this time of year, whilst my thoughts are naturally with my children and with the friends I have made, my thoughts too go to those who find this time of year a struggle, particularly those who are dealing with the consequences of abuse.
May we all find a little kindness in our hearts for those whom we love and for those who struggle during this season.