The seasons are changing, and the outdoors is transformed into an extravaganza of colors. The trees are serenading us with a beautiful bounty of vibrant colors for a few amazing weeks. Then those same leaves start to fall on the ground and transform back into the mud in a short time. I’ve always loved the fall season but as the days get shorter here in the northern hemisphere, the lack of sunlight does affect me. It might be because I am a survivor of CSA, and I am not a fan of the dark. A lot of people struggle with the darkness, and I am not alone in feeling this way. It can affect anyone. It is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or “winter depression”. It happens due to a disturbance in the circadian rhythm of the body. The circadian rhythm is our body’s internal 24-hour clock of cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. Some people are extra sensitive to the lack of sunlight and become more prone to depression. When I am feeling affected by the dark, I try and keep myself busy and not focus on it. I take my attention away from the darkness and put my focus on activities. I like to have the lights on and read a good book with my kids. Nothing beats a good story and giggling toddlers! I enjoy cooking and playing music. I also like writing for pleasure. It’s incredible how the mind can take the focus off something you don’t like and turn it around into something else. Whilst I am occupied, I forget about the darkness, and I feel better. Are you affected by the seasons changing, the adverse weather and the darker days? How do you cope with it? Do you have a hobby or interest that you can fall on to get you through a “mercurial” afternoon?
It is not just the darkness that affects our bodies as we change into the winter season. This is often the time when some countries get snow or constant rain. The temperature drops and we naturally turn to our homes instead of the park and the beach. We put the heating on, or make log fires, watching them crackling in the hath as we gather around it. We naturally spend more time inside due to the weather, wherever we live. If I can’t get outdoors due to the weather, I start to feel trapped. I need to be outdoors to feel better and I find myself doing just that, despite the weather.
The end of the year is the season for parties, the Thanksgiving holiday, and Christmas. It is a time when people get together and socialize. A time when families enjoy being together. Most people who are from loving families and perhaps work far away or live in different countries look forward to seeing their loved ones and enjoying a longer break. However, not everyone likes parties and socializing. I am sure there are a lot of you out there who do not enjoy the obligatory office/work Christmas or New Year’s Eve parties. I mean, who actually enjoys partying and drinking with their boss? Not many of you, I’m sure but of course, we go anyway because we “have to”. Partying with colleagues can build better teamwork as you get to know people better. It is also a time when some people see an opportunity to act out and become drunk. However, at the end of the party, you leave and go home to your life.
Thanksgiving and Christmas
Thanksgiving is a special time for most families and friends to gather around and share a big meal and feel thankful. As a CSA survivor my own family was not good with traditions when I grew up, but I heard from my friends what their holiday had been like. I used to pretend mine was the same when in fact it was often a time of great pain. How I wanted to be like my friends! I know now that the holidays are an amazing time for families and friends to get together and enjoy each other’s company. Spending precious time that we normally do not get due to work and life getting in the way. As a child, I tried my best to be silent and stay out of the way of my abusers during the holidays. A drunken “uncle” was not someone I wanted to be near. I often got hurt more, so much so that I had trouble sitting down from the pain afterward. I was the strange child not sitting down in class. Christmas was the same kind of experience and then New Year’s celebrations came with more inebriated adults and behavior to go with it.
As I grew older and left my family and everyone I knew, I became free. Free to make my own way in life and that included traditions like Thanksgiving. I was determined to one day, make the best Thanksgiving dinner ever. It took a few years to realise what it was that I wanted. I had up until this point in my life, been living on the outside. I was the one in the shadows looking in at families and people enjoying the parties and holidays. I remember listening to them laugh and have fun while I was pacing the streets trying to be invisible. I craved a new life, like the air in my lungs. I wanted a life like everyone else. Through sheer determination and grit, I slowly began living my life and I got plenty of friends on the way. My holiday hopes and dreams did become true. I was often invited to Thanksgiving dinners, as my friends took pity on me for being alone during the holidays. I got to try out lots of different variations of recipes, some of which I still hold on to today. Now, I have my own family and I enjoy Thanksgiving every year to the max! I feel truly thankful to be sitting at the table with my loved ones, knowing that I made it. Here, at this moment.
I did the same with Christmas and immersed myself in the tradition. I joined in with my friends singing carols and I even played music when I joined them. When you get together there is always someone who can string a few chords together or play a few tunes. Someone can always play the piano. It’s not about being a good musician, it is about letting loose, relaxing with friends and enjoying the moment. I have learned to open myself up to these moments and choose to join in rather than stay in the shadows. Christmas is very special to me and my family. We celebrate it together, making new memories each year as the kids reach new milestones. We laugh at each other’s stories and share gifts under the tree and enjoy a turkey dinner with all the trimmings!
For me, the holidays were a big source of pain during my childhood but my determination to turn my life around made me a completely different person. As an adult, I am looking forward to spending time with my family and friends. I am almost giddy with excitement when the holidays are coming, and my kids are the same. It is a special time full of fun and laughter and I make sure everyone, young and old, enjoys themselves. We catch up on life’s “ups and downs” and reconnect with those who live and work away from our city. We play board games and charades with the kids and relax together in front of a family movie. Where are you spending the holidays this year? Do you have family that will celebrate with you in a safe and happy environment? If not, do you have a special person? Do you have someone you can be yourself and relax with?
The holidays are not just about socializing with friends and family but also a time to relax and take stock of what you have. Some people come up with their best, most creative ideas when they are relaxing with their families. Some people make New Year’s resolutions to change something in their lives during the following year. Whatever the holidays bring for you, make sure that you spend them with people who you enjoy being with. If the answer is not your family, then speak up and say you’re busy. Always put your happiness first, because you matter. Remember to raise a glass and toast yourself. You made it this far, to this moment and you are feeling. Well, how are you feeling? Let that thought sink in for a moment. Take a beat and listen, really listen. How do you feel? Is something bothering you? Is someone bothering you? Could you change something to make your life better? What is it you want for yourself in the next few months? Look around you and notice the people in the room. What do you think they would answer to those questions? I ask myself these questions during the holidays. Am I happy or do I need to change something? Does someone I care about need my help and support? Where do I see myself in the next few months? How can I be the best me for myself and for my loved ones?
Try and enjoy the holidays, wherever you are and with whomever you choose to spend it with. Take care of yourself.
Elizabeth Woods grew up unwanted, in a world of brutal sex offenders, murderers, and inconceivably neglectful adults. She got caught up in a secret sex ring where her so-called father was in charge and loaned her out to vicious sexual predators for their enjoyment. She suffered sexual abuse throughout her entire childhood and desperately tried to seek help from the adults around her, who chose to sit by and watch her suffer. She was let down by doctors and psychiatrists who knew she was being abused but was sent back repeatedly to be harmed again. She was forced to witness several brutal murders right in front of her eyes. Memories that will forever be ingrained in her mind.
Elizabeth survived in an environment where most people would not and she is now able to help other survivors heal from trauma. Elizabeth now lives in a happy home with her husband and children. She has friends all around her and is working a job she loves. She lives far away from where she grew up and although she will never completely heal from her past, she at least has a bright future surrounded by love and support.
Elizabeth has written a book, telling her childhood story: The Sex-Offender’s Daughter: A True Story of Survival Against All Odds, available on Amazon Kindle. https://www.amazon.com/Sex-Offenders-Daughter-Story-Survival-Against-ebook/dp/B0BBSV97VF/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1W93IR8PLCYOH&keywords=the+sexoffenders+daughter&qid=1668277897&sprefix=the+sexoffenders+daughter%2Caps%2C151&sr=8-1