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    • #95281

      Hi everyone,

      I’ve just had this painful trigger and it’s so strange and specific I thought it might help to share it and see if other people can relate.

      I was choosing my outfit for an event and decided to wear this particular top, a nice christmassy top. I got the top out and put it on the bed and that was when the trigger happened. The trigger was memories of past Christmasses at country pubs with my extended family, the kinds of events I used to really look forward to until I started to piece together the puzzles and notice a lot of my family are quite emotionally abusive towards me. I spent this Christmas alone by choice after having a very bad time with my immediate family at Christmas a few years ago and a not great time with my extended family at Christmas a few years before that. If I see my extended family at Christmas I have to see my immediate family too so decided to just stop going. I was expecting that my cousins would message me, ask how I was, say they miss me etc but no, nothing. I expected the same last year and the year before. It still really confuses me. I used to adore my cousins growing up. They always kind of looked down on me and patronised me but I thought it was just because I was the youngest and I still adored them for years, and kept hoping they’d finally respect me. I thought I was friends with one of them, but the last time I spoke to her she just kept cancelling arranging to meet up. What’s really odd is they still follow me on social media. I feel like maybe I should just block them now? But that also feels so disorientating and final. Like my life, as a family member, which was a massive part of my identity is over.

      Anyway, I saw this top and it just hits me that I’m estranged from them and I feel so disorientated, shocked, confused, sad and in disbelief. I realise that I’ll never wear this top in a country pub with my family again unless I suddenly block out everything that has happened with my immediate family, go into denial or go silent about it and pretend everything is fine. In the past I used to love these events as I would just block out when family members were mocking me, being cruel etc and focus on the nice parts of the day. But it wasn’t all bad either, there were really nice family members too, and I liked catching up with them. One of them is very ill now which makes me sad. The narcissistic family members weren’t always abusive all the time. I liked the animals, and I liked their houses with all of the lovely Christmas decorations. I loved how clean their houses were, cosy, warm, luxurious, comfortable. We ate lovely food. I even loved the smell in the garage and seeing their cars. I loved being part of all of that, part of our family Christmasses. I felt so lucky. I felt like I belonged and now I feel lost and so so confused.

      So the top triggers cognitive dissonance of both wonderful of Christmasses where I felt part of a family and full of hope that we’d have a good Christmas, and really bad memories where they were horrible to me, and felt like a shocking realisation that I face a future without a family for the most part. I feel so disorientated at the thought of going to a country pub alone in this top with no family, despite the way my family behave. It’s like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. I have nobody to go to country pubs with and feel warm and cosy and loved and like I belong.

    • #95358

      It’s a lot to deal with, when your entire file us involved, isn’t it? I don’t really have any advice about dealing with the family Christmas dynamic. I think they are always hard, even with normal families. Mine aren’t abusive, but this year I wasn’t staying in the house with them for Christmas, because I only live a few miles down the road. I spent most of the day with them still, but took a break at mid afternoon to take the dog home before my cousin’s came round, and those few hours of calm, away from the family were just such a relief. I had no idea, until I had some time away from it, how stress the atmosphere created by my parents and siblings was. I guess that focusing on the peace and tranquility of your Christmases now might help a bit?

      It might help just to get rid of the top? Some things were a wrench, but I have got rid of everything that triggers me, even items I previously loved. It was just easier for me that way.

      I would also highly recommend setting out on a mission this year to find a place to go out and eat where you feel welcome and warm when eating by yourself. I usually take a book, but weirdly the best place I ever found was not a quiet pub with cosy corners, but a busy burger joint, which was Uber modern with lots of glass and chrome! Not my normal vibe at all, but the staff were excellent, chatting a bit more to me than they would to a couple, but not enough that it felt awkward being alone. And as a bonus the food was excellent. I don’t live near it any more, but go back when I am in town. You can definitely have a feeling of belonging in a restaurant without going with other people. You just need to find somewhere with a good ethos about people eating alone, and well trained staff.

    • #95396

      Hi Tiffany,

      Thanks for your reply and I’m glad you got some peace and quiet at Christmas. I’ll have a think about donating the top, although I think it’s the style of the top rather than the top itself, because it’s a pattern I associate with cosy winters and Christmasses. I don’t think I’ve worn this particular top in a pub with my family, but in the past I wore similar ones.

      Last year I did this decluttering method and got rid of loads of things I thought I never would, and it has helped me a lot. I confused an item triggering painful memories with the item being important/sentimental/needing to keep the item/loving the item. I’ve felt a bit guilty but basically I’ve replaced a lot of things because I realised it was weighing me down and making me feel sad and depressed, although I got rid of loads of clothes and strangely have found that I feel I need to buy even less now. I realised I was only wearing my core favourites. It was such a helpful method, decluttering and replacing triggering things is such a great help for probably all of us on this site.

      I like your idea about the restaurant. I did find a country pub last year where the staff were nice. I used to bring one of my hobbies and do it there with a drink and they’d always come over and ask about it and watch. I didn’t feel weird, I almost felt like a local celebrity lol, they treated me so nicely! I think I’ll go back there again, but just be more selective of the day and time because I once went and it was Saturday late afternoon and it turned into the evening and I suddenly felt really weird being surrounded by these families having dinner. It helps if I go out for lunch on say a Tuesday afternoon. Maybe I could test out wearing the top at these locations and see how that goes.

      I will try more places too, because like your example, you never know when you’ll find somewhere really nice with friendly staff. It’s still seen as a bit weird to go out alone I think (I don’t usually see many others alone, and virtually no women alone at these places) but I think it’s probably getting more normalised as more people work freelance and choose to be single, not have kids etc. I would like some friends to go out with but despite various efforts have just not been able to connect with new people. I have some nice colleagues at my volunteer job and like my craft group but I’ve not made any friends. I have a feeling that at this stage in my life, being solitary most of the time is probably necessary, as I process and review everything and make changes. On the one hand becoming mostly estranged from my family is traumatic, shocking and distressing, but on the other hand I keep feeling increasing hope, joy even, a feeling of freedom and relief.

    • #97696

      I still get triggered by other abuses. I totally understand you. I get panic attacks daily. I had no choice but to manage my negative feelings. I wrote in a journal once. I even tried meditation.

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