1 Month | 3 Days | 15 Hours Till Holiday Season Ends 

Every year I battle depression during the holidays, and every year I judge myself for seeing the world through glass-half-empty lenses. Because let’s be real, no one actually likes the glass-half-empty relative or co-worker!  

 This year is a bit different though. Make no mistake, I’m still depressed! But I have a year of Internal Family Systems therapy under my belt this year. And the cardinal rule in IFS is: all parts are welcome. Even the grouchy ones! 

What’s Internal Family System?

Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a psychotherapy approach that identifies and addresses sub-personalities or families within a person’s mental system.

Every part of my system has an identity, a purpose, and a story. And together, my parts’ varied interests, feelings, and concerns created something beautiful. 

My internal family created: my survival.

 I have an Anxiety part, an Anger part, an Inner-child, and even a Shame part. 

On the good days,  I cope with my CPTSD triggers by letting my parts speak to me. By letting my internal family speak through me. Whether it’s art or poetry or music-  I feel more grounded and grateful after my parts say their piece. Their worldview makes more sense, and I can’t help but feel an influx of radical empathy for them. For their stories. 

So today, I allowed Christmas Graffiti, the fiery, cynical, and sad part of me who hates Christmas, to share her story. I nicked named her after graffiti because, much like the style of art, her views defy societal norms. And Graffiti could care less about anyone’s expectations.  Here’s a bit of her monologue! 

Meet Christmas Graffiti 

Christmases were consistently bad from year 7 of this lifetime forward. 

That was around the time my mother buried her pain in church and was all but consumed by the Prosperity wave of the Pentecostal movement. … If you just thought: “Well, Whereeeeee was Brittany’s Dad?”

I’ll answer your question- with a question: 

WHERE WERE MOST OF OUR DADS?!? Like most of my close friends growing up: 

  1. Church was norm 1 
  2. Poverty was norm 2 
  3. War- level emotional violence was …

Graffiti’s Favorite Christmas

Anyway, my favorite Christmas of this lifetime is year 17! 

It was so simple and sweet! Everyone was happy that day. Dream Girls on a loop. I remember Chinese food and Starbucks and smiles and laughter. I remember WARMTH. 

Still no Fathers ? but … If Adam would have been there, I’d stamp that memory #perfect! 

I think of that memory sometimes when my mind and my heart get really quiet. You know, when I’m lonely.  I try not to let my mind wander there this time of year though. Because, within seconds, my nostalgia settles into the depths of what Abraham Hicks calls: contrast. That’s the part of our existence that teaches us what we don’t like … what we loathe. 

When I sit in my dark room for too long…  I’m reminded of the nuances that make me detest our favorite Christmas. 

Graffiti’s… Not So Favorite Memories From Year 17

You see, in Year 17, we ALSO lived off Avenue K in Arlington. There were up to 8 of us in a 1 bedroom apartment. 

1234567 … EIGHT! 

No beds, no furniture, no abundance, and still no Fathers ?. 

Just sleep pallets! The few friends I had at Lamont High never understood why I refused to invite them into our shabby apartment after school. 

I’m sure they assumed I had a beautiful crib. Because kids with parents who drove Audis and Hummers usually had beautiful cribs! In 2006 anyway! 

Tracy from UTA was the first friend I invited inside that empty, dingy little apartment. I felt safe letting her witness my shame. Tracy grew up middle class, but somehow it felt like her heart held as much sorrow as mine. Somehow I knew she’d be kind. And I was grateful that she never asked why I didn’t have my own room or a bed or even a couch! 

I’m still grateful today! 

Anyway- it bothers me that I’m such a cynic.  Mostly because it bothers Brittany. She’s on the whole: be positive, manifest the life you want, and write a gratitude list wave. 

So, I’m the grinch destroying her Christmas season, so to speak. 

 I’m a bit like a recurring thumbnail that won’t erase no matter how much Brittany tries to bury me. But I can’t help what replays in my head constantly. I can’t help that I remember the worst parts of our favorite Christmas the best. And I can’t help that the worst Christmas in this lifetime is stamped across every holiday season. Undoubtedly, our worst year was year 14! 

Graffiti’s Worst Christmas Memory 

Hand me that little canvas would ya? It was my, I mean her, Brittany’s freshman year of high school: 

  • Haltom City 
  • Park Vista Section 8 Apartments 
  • Filth 
  • Me, mom, and my brother shared a room in Jessie’s house 
  • Jessie had 4 sons 
  • We had no beds 
  • NO fathers (?) 

There were pallets! One for Brittany, one for her baby brother, and one for her Mom. 

And all we got on Year 14 were socks and these off-brand candies. They were these tri-color gummy, round candies! Our gifts along with the Turkey loaf Jessie doctored up for us were from a local charity in Fort Worth. It was cold and lonely and awful at Jessie’s house year-round.  And I cried a lot in year 14. I cried for God. Especially on days, I thought  I was home alone.

 ????: “Our Father who art in heaven” ?

One of Jessie’s sons heard me screaming and crying while praying one day. 

I assured him I was okay. But I wasn’t … And neither was he. Oh, how I’d pray and pray and PRAY… 

“Please! God help me.”Please God help my family!”?? ??: “Our father who art in heaven” ?

In this lifetime, even the divine Father situated in heaven was … ABSENT! ?… Especially during year 14. 

He never came to save me. He never came for us. Brittany’s Dad never came for us. Brandon’s Dad never came for us. The only person who came for us was Brittany, but that was 6 years later!

 It was too late. 

Abandonment dipped in holiness is still abandonment is what I’m saying I guess. I was very depressed and confused during year 14. We all were. 

But technically, Turkey loaf is way better than nothing at all! 

I’m just saying that it bothers me a bit that I remember more about my worst Christmas than my sweetest one. I seem to only remember the bad. But it happened … okay. The bad happened. And closing your eyes and pretending that it didn’t is how bad things continue to happen. 

Graffiti’s Early Memories 

Brittany’s parents told me I was spoiled, from years 0 to 7, of this lifetime anyway. 

Those years are foggy. It’s like trying to write a novel with the details from 3 blurry Polaroid pictures. Luckily I have a literal picture from that era. And there was a huge Christmas tree and lots of shiny gift boxes. My blood relatives are there. Even Brittany’s father.  These are my “normal” family memories. But I don’t think of them for too long because…

Graffiti’s Ethos

There are barely a handful of happy, healthy memories. But for the sake of simplicity and optimism, let’s say I-, I mean Brittany had  2 “good” Christmas memories and 1 awful one. 

And you may ask, 

“But … isn’t 2 good memories better than no good Christmas memories, Brittany- (I meant Graffiti)”? 

“Shouldn’t you just be grateful that things weren’t worse?”

There are the glass half full and the glass half empty folks. And then, there’s me Graffiti, waving my hands and angrily asking who’s being stingy with the [expletive] water pitcher. Everyone deserves overflowing cups. That’s what I read. That’s what I prayed. My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy.

I’m completely convinced I’d be happier if my stupid glass was empty! ~

I’d rather have nothing than not enough, so yeah pour this out right now. Just Empty my cup and leave. 

My Gratitude for Graffiti 

Though it seems intuitive to hold compassion and empathy for the parts of me that stubbornly latch onto righteous anger, most days it’s incredibly hard for me to sit down and do it. There’s a part of me that knows  I suffered enough as a kid. And, now that I’m finally safe, I should focus on happiness and abundance. Some refer to this as spiritual bypassing. 

It’s almost like I will myself into being this healed, whole, beautifully spiritual archetype that doesn’t actually exist. The real world is ruled by duality. 

And, there’s beauty in the nuances of our stories. It’s where our unique stories and our legacies begin. 

I’m excited to continue creating the parent I never had as I continue healing.  But year 14 and year 17 deserve reverence. They deserve space. They deserve to be seen. They deserve safety. They deserve LOVE.  Even if their stories aren’t filled with sunshine, rainbows,  or Santa in a winter wonderland. It’s mine! This is my internal family. 

These are the amazing stories of how I survived Complex Trauma.  A million love stories filled with triumphs and despair and life- lessons. And every part is worthy. 

May I keep striving to never take my parts for granted. 

Feeling inspired? Take a few moments to reflect on your best and worst holiday memories. Jot your thoughts down and share them with your therapist or someone you trust! 

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Brittany Dickey’s a CPTSD warrior making her mark by promoting self-care.  She’s a go-to marketing expert for clients across industries. She has a strong background in strategic and creative planning, social media management, and content strategy. With over 8 years of experience, she’s worked with a diverse set of clients including Fortune 500 Companies, Marketing Agencies, Tech startups, Non-profits, and more!