What is Holiday PTSD? If you have it you know it… but if one of your relatives or a love interest has is, you might not intellectually realize it that they do.
Understanding Holiday PTSD in the context of social trauma exposure is crucial to socially supporting self as well as triggered others.
Holiday PTSD forms situationally dependent in the mind.
The holiday is the situational trigger. Tension builds in the person’s body who has CPTSD related to the annual event concept and as situations arise for that person to interact with others who are not suffering, their resentment at feeling mistreated and invalidated by not having their pain or subjective opinion about how to make plans counted as something that matters tends to escalate and result in their blurting hateful or socially insensitive things.
Just like happy people who are not paying attention to the signs that their dangling information about the holiday coming up is being perceived like a taunt put themselves in the line of holiday sabotage fire, the codependent hospitality abuser — by refusing to exercise proper self-care or manners — places themselves in harms way by spending time in places or with people who they know will more than likely trigger them into experiencing a PTSD meltdown related to holiday events and or social celebration themed conversations.
A person exposed to trauma on a holiday may be forced to time travel every time the season they experienced and unpleasant social memory arrives.
Imagine walking into your local grocery store, Target, or Walgreens and hearing the same song wafting through the air that you remember as a PTSD trigger.
Who on earth is rude and mean-spirited enough to mock someone with PTSD about a holiday event? People who are grossly egocentric and unwilling to consider that the Grinch has a legitimate beef with the Whos about how they chose to treat him when he was little.
Holiday PTSD is most often overlooked in individuals with trauma-induced C-PTSD.
If it sounds like we are defending Scrooge — we are. But not in a codependent manner.
There’s no excuse for ruining other people’s holidays on purpose, passively or actively, because you have PTSD or are not pleased with how someone else is choosing to celebrate community and tradition that makes them feel connected to others (rather than feeling estranged like the person groomed by life and their most toxic elders and family members to fear, dislike, and or to loathe things like community events that occur annually that were created with the intention of strengthening community… not to brutalize people socially and emotionally in such a way that it’s annual).
Life is not the like the Hunger Games. Unless that is, you are raised by a family of social predatory people.
Those people — the children born with emotional intelligence capacity neurologically — who are told that the way the real world operates is in harmony and league with Cluster B people while replicating their ethics in civic patterns is, “… the way the real world works.”
And anyone who tries telling you social competition among humans is natural is gaslighting. Whether they believe their own misstatement or false assertion is technically for the purposes of this conversation irrelevant.
A person who brutalizes a family member on a holiday is a particular type of anti-social and socially predatory person.
They are to be feared and avoided, not invited back to the next celebration.
Kids who are emotionally sensitive to word choice and energy of a home environment that is chaotic tend to develop flatline emotional response to social horrors and trauma on most days. But when it’s a holiday and their PTSD related memories are up controlling things like their emotions, their behavior, and their mouths gets harder and harder as the memory of multiple holiday trauma exposures and social anxiety related to the holiday begin in a body and mind to stack up.
A person who has Holiday PTSD might be fine all year long but the moment they see triggering holiday decorations show up in stores or the music soundtrack that provokes their most wistful or angst-riddled memories, they tend to escalate toxic behaviors towards others while they are technically likely to be melting down like a spring thaw socially and emotionally.
For those of us who are the steadfast support system who looks after the emotional and social needs of such people, if we understand that’s what is happening we can rapidly depersonalize when and if the “holiday poo-pooer” starts to do and say things designed to socially sabotage our otherwise community-centric and physically positive celebratory emotions.
If you need a reminder about why people celebrate holidays, read here –> Why do people celebrate holidays?
If you need permission to let Bad Grandpa or Mommy Dearest unpleasable Grandma know that you will spend the day with him on a day just a few days before or a few days after that party you are throwing at your house — letting them off the hook for attendance while making sure he still knows he is in your thoughts and that he or she is special — this is your permission statement.
Think things through.
All these years you spent hosting parties for people who did not want to be there because they have Holiday PTSD they are trying to hide… feeling insulted or personally hurt by the fact that when they arrived they failed to act in ways that show appreciation for your time, your heart, your enthusiasm, or your efforts? Yeah — you did that one to them as well as to yourself by making them feel obligated to spend time over the holidays with you on days they were likely to be unable physically to hide their emotional upset effectively.
Now that you know the reason someone grimaces when they hear the holiday music playing on the radio or as background musak in a store or an elevator is because they have PTSD related to the memory of the holiday or because they are reminded about things like past trauma or fear of aging in the present, let yourself and them off the hook for moral accountability for their crappy mood or for your own PTSD memory of being socially butt-hurt.
Take control of your holiday time and emotions by seeking out people who are excited to celebrate. Let those who don’t get a feeling of pleasure from sharing a sense of community stay home on holidays… but without feeling ashamed or like they are dropping the ball for engaging in self-care.
Would you want to go to a party and to pretend everything is okay on the anniversary of the day when the joy in your heart and the light on your insides died when you were a child or on a day when someone important to you betrayed your trust? No.
Understand when the Grinch badmouths the holiday what they are really trying to tell you is there is a reason for their behavior and that they are likely to be socially withholding or self-repressing their own memories of a trauma exposure, abuse, or neglect based wholly subjective and personality forming story.
Use the knowledge they are having PTSD issues they may or may not be educated about medically (or aware they are even experiencing) in order to aide yourself in depersonalizing situational abuse that tends to happen to kind people targeted for holiday abuse. But use it to help inform them — and that person’s doctors — if you are someone like with an adult child or parent who is otherwise safe to spend time with and around… unless an activity like celebrating a birthday, Christmas, or some other annual holiday celebration is involved.
Take in the information. Think about how you prefer to be treated is and when you are struggling emotionally and physically due to PTSD flashbacks.
Then, and only then make your decision whether to personalize whatever hateful or implied spiteful criticism of you as a person who happens to love and enjoy the feeling holidays — when healthy — are designed to inspire. If you are holding onto hurt caused by what people who you tired to please who acted unpleasable related towards your efforts said… understand you let their PTSD coping method of attacking other people while pretending that there was nothing up with the hospitality abuser go to your head.
This year, be busy or unable to attend holiday parties and events that make you feel stressed out or sad. And give your cantankerous loved ones the same opportunity to spend time alone or with non-triggering people during whatever day, week, or month happens to have their PTSD tweaked to highly reactive.
Let them know you are thinking about them but make plans to have a second Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday. Open presents the next time you get together without needing to make a big deal about forcing the PTSD impacted person to try to celebrate your joy with you and the rest of the world on a day that in their own mind they are prone to time traveling through PTSD memories and re-experiencing the physical sensation of whatever made that person sad, socially anxious, civically dysfunctional, and more than likely miserable.
Give yourself permission to celebrate holidays alone or strictly with happy people.
And by all means whatever you choose to do in life, stay Frosty.
People who love holidays and who create warm and inviting social environments are the marshmallows in the hot cocoa of life. Consider yourself hugged and cosmically appreciated for doing things like believing in Santa Claus and for helping create magical memories of social inclusion and support for everyone else.