Easter and how I survived with PTSD

Easter and how I survived with PTSD

Ah, the holidays. The home where most trauma triggers meet. Easter, this time. Whether you are still in contact with your family or not, they are an annual full blown reminder of abuse. When I met other child abuse survivors, I realised how lucky I am. I was able to go no contact and not see my family. Part of that was easier to do, due to the fact they abandoned me a long time ago. I never realised this and always missed them because I just wanted a family like everybody else. To me, the holidays were never about nice family dinners and spending good time together because the holidays were especially abusive. My mother would be extra tense and critical. We all had to walk on eggshells, just to have it blow up by brunch or dinner. Of course, we were the ones to blame, according to her. Having to hide my faith, the holidays were always secretly about Jesus. And I realise that has always helped me through. I want to share with you how I prepared for Easter and dealt with PTSD during this time.

Now I don’t have to hide my faith anymore, I have been able to grow my relationship with Jesus. The holidays have become less heavy now that I am able to try and keep the focus off of the family gatherings and refocus on what is important to me. It’s not at all easy and requires not only hard work but also more understanding about your own triggers, thoughtprocess and a little self-awareness.

So what are some of these triggers?

  • A lot of people in the same space
  • Facial expressions
  • Unexpectedly being touched
  • The feeling I get ignored
  • Eating with others
  • Sometimes Bible verses
  • Sometimes The talk during service
  • People standing really close to me
  • Not enough rest between activities
  • Being asked for my opinion
  • Wanting to do more than I can handle
  • Toxic behaviour
  • Known (to me) narcissists

It’s not without reason I need to catch my breath between activities. I think most of the time I don’t show the symptoms because I either am able to hide them or able to manage them. It’s also helpful there is a handful of people who know some of the triggers and are able to help me in the moment. However, from Maundy Thursday until Easter I was quite on my own physically to get through all of this. The most difficult days were Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

Thursday I had Easter lunch at my volunteer work and to protect my boundaries and keep my balance I didn’t stay for the music after. I also decided to go home after church and watch “The Passion” at home instead of at church. After some rest, I had a visit from my mentor after which I could rest again until 6.30pm. My bicycle unexpectedly got a flat and I was so focused on fixing it, I forgot and had to rush dinner and rush to church for Holy Supper. Self-awareness moment 1.

Friday I realised Thursday didn’t go exactly as planned and decided to only work on my bicycle in the morning. The rest of the day I tried everything to relax and couldn’t exactly find it. I spent most of my time worrying about my bicycle and the mess I made. When I noticed I did this, I closed the door to my art room (I used it to stall my bicycle). The whole reason for that door is so I can close it without feeling bad about the mess. It’s what the room is for. I was able to relax before I went to church Self-awareness moment 2.

Saturday I tried to stay relaxed and not use up all my energy, so I could go to the Easterwake at church at 10PM. I wasn’t sure if I was able to do so AND go to breakfast at church at 8.30AM. The wake is really important to me so that’s what I focused on. If the next morning happened to be really bad, so be it. I would skip breakfast next year and only go to service at 10 AM. I was able to really relax and not worry too much. With the help of a few friends on Instagram, I was able to draw and paint. This helped me to relax even more. I went to the Easterwake and when we formed a circle around the Easter candle my body started to react. I had no clue what was going on but my body was shaking in fear. The only thing that helped a little at the moment was to remind myself everything is okay and I am safe. The physical and emotional flashback stayed until after service. Recognising my boundaries, self-awareness moment 3.

Sunday I had to wake up early to go to breakfast before service. I had signed up for it so felt like I had to go. Even though I was really tired, it went really well and I was also able to be social. The only real trigger that morning was a covert narcissist who passive-aggressively tried to get a reaction by ignoring me and ask for attention at the same time. Knowing this woman would likely be there, I was prepared and able to not react. At all. Which was a first for me. I felt I was able to look at her behaviour from a distance and not feel like it was because of me. It was quite mesmerising to see what was happening. I did not react to a trigger and was able to distance myself from it without dissociating. Self-awareness moment 4.

Sunday I also asked a friend for a walk. Even though I was really tired from managing my PTSD, I hadn’t really been outside those days. We went for a long walk and she treated me to dinner. It did us both really good. It has become quite a tradition for us to go for a walk with the holidays.

Today I took it really easy, having to repair my bicycle was a blessing in disguise. A week before I had signed up for a 29 km bicycle trip and I learnt a few days ago it would have been a little too much. I ended up fixing the rest of my bike, drawing and writing this blog post. Deserving a day inside, I am really proud of how I managed my PTSD during these days and how I was able to keep going back to what is important to me. I actively worked on refocussing my thoughts. Some of the times I grabbed my bible to refocus on the importance of the last 4 days. I was able to do all this without beating myself up over every little thing. I am in a depressive episode again which goes up and down. The last couple of days helped me get out of it a little again.

How did you spend Easter? Was it care free with family and friends? Or did you have to manage a mental and/or physical illness whilst trying to enjoy yourself?

Love & Light, Sandra

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