How I Spent My Xmas Vacation

I was going to title this “Why I Hate Xmas”, but I don’t hate it, really. It’s just an extremely difficult time for me. Let’s look at that:

Emotional State

Xmas Emotion Meter

The above is a graphic representation of my emotional state on Xmas day. It didn’t really matter what the trigger was, I kept getting emotionally triggered—angry, sad, afraid. I was aware that my emotions were seriously out of whack. Deep breath, let it go, relax, move on. Don’t hang on to “I don’t want to feel this way” or “This isn’t fair” or “I’m ruining my family’s christmas”. Come back to the moment.

Some moments were wonderful. A child’s face on Christmas morning, full of wonder at the magic that is Santa Claus. And funny too:

  • “You are just so PRECIOUS!” — Brianna to me on opening her Queen Amidala keychain
  • Booting up her computer for the first time “Who’s that ‘Admin’?—he must be Santa’s elf who set up my computer”

I managed not to miss this in spite of the rollercoaster of emotions going on inside. Yay me!

It was really good that we stayed home. This was the first xmas since my mother’s death without Seroquel, the atypical anti-psychotic that I had been taking for years. I can safely report that Seroquel does suppress emotions effectively, albeit with a host of side-effects.

In spite of my emotional free-fall, Bryan reported that this was the best Xmas in years, in terms of living with me and my moods. At least this year I was aware. Not, not “at least”—this was the year I really saw my emotional rollercoaster without jumping on and going for a ride. In terms of steps forward, this is good. Really really good. Yay me!


So, am I just über hung up on the fact that my mother died on Xmas day? Not so much. Yeah, that sucked, and of course the memories of that day arise with the holiday, but I was not a fan of the holiday for many many years. Why?

  1. My first suicide attempt was when I was 15 years old. About two weeks before Christmas, I took two full bottles of my mother’s prescription Valium then lay down behind the couch in the living room. I didn’t know that Valium alone is extremely unlike to kill a person. I ended up an inmate–er–patient on the Child Psych Ward of Mt. Caramel Mercy Hospital in Detroit, Michigan for six weeks. Through the metal mesh over the window, I could see the smokestack from my high school, only two blocks away. The room I was assigned shared a wall with the padded room. I remember watching two grown men (orderlies) hold down a 6-year-old boy, strap him into a strait-jacket, and put him in the padded room. He screamed and threw himself against the wall for hours. I was allowed to visit my family for Christmas, but Christmas Eve was spent on the ward and Christmas Day ended with my return to the hospital. I was released to go live with my dad in late January.
  2. My dad died of a massive heart-attack at the age of 42. I was 21. It was December 12.
  3. I’m not a Christian, I don’t like Christianity—all my family claimed to be true Christians:
    1. Grandpa George, the sexual molester
    2. Grandpa Margaret, the single-most hate-filled person I’ve ever met. Seriously.
    3. Mommy, the child-beater

    Why would I celebrate this Christ-guy’s birthday? I watched my mother attend church week after week, chatting with the ladies, being all pious, then come home and beat the shit out of me, or berate and belittle me to the point of tears.

    I don’t trust Christianity and don’t wish to celebrate it, although I can say that I don’t hate it the way I used to.

And now here it is New Year’s Eve. The season makes me think about family, and in my extended family everyone is dead or gone. Except for my brother, who phoned me to wish us a merry one (though I noted that he did not call on xmas day, but a day later). Of course, Ron being Ron had to make a comment about how Barack Obama is just like Hitler and he’s not a real black man anyway, you can’t be a real brother growing up in Hawaii. I told him that I wasn’t having this conversation. So, like I said, my family is all dead or gone.

My mother used to tell me that I’m too sensitive. She usually said it in a disparaging way, telling me to shut up and get over whatever hurt I was feeling, often caused by her. Perhaps I am. But when my emotions are peaking, this is what it feels like inside:

Kim Phúc photographed by Nick Ut

No, I’m not exaggerating. Welcome to BPD (borderline personality disorder, a.k.a. emotional regulation disorder). When your emotions feel like that, you scream, you cry, you beg for help. But if anyone tries to touch you, you pull away. It’s painful to be raw and open. It fucking hurts like hell.

Xmas day pretty much guarantees that I’m going to be “too sensitive” and that just how it is. I need to feel safe, secure, and loved as I deal with things. Hey, shouldn’t everyone feel safe, secure, and loved on xmas day? Isn’t that the point?

In any case, obligatory dinners with less-than-sensitive relatives are not on my xmas wish list and won’t be for the forseeable future. One of these relatives actually complained about our absence, whining that she wouldn’t get to see Bri until “next Christmas.” Please note that said relative has not invited us to her Toronto home once in the seven years that I’ve known her. If you were me, is this a person you’d choose to be around when you’re at your most vulnerable? Me neither.

So from now on, we’re staying home for Christmas. Me and my family are reserving this day for ourselves. Everyone will be visited and gifted on other days of the xmas week. And that’s the way it is.

Going Forward

This New Year’s Eve is an opportunity to reaffirm my life. One of my bestest friends is coming for the night and I can think of no other folks I’d rather be with this evening than her and my family. Although it was difficult, this was a good xmas. Our little family is stronger and happier than ever before. For that, and all the other blessings we enjoy, I am deeply grateful.

May you and all beings have peace, health, and happiness in the coming year.

P.S. Kim Phúc, the girl in the photo, now lives in Toronto. It seems that Toronto is a good place for survivors. Blessings to her and her family.