I think, for a lot of people, that the time after Christmas is a time of blagh. Just, blagh. Not necessarily depression, or fatigue, but that grey, mist-like combination of the two: blagh.
For me, it’s a combination of the fact that my choir is now in recess (choir famine), as well as the fact that this Christmas was so much harder than last. This Christmas involved panic attacks, and mindless flight from the choir stalls, and the terrible solidity of the knowledge that I wouldn’t get through the service of Nine Lessons and Carols, one of the musical highlights of the whole of the Advent and Christmas period. This Christmas involved tears, despairing of the fact that it’s hard at the moment, and the knowledge that I had to face my choir family in my post-panic-attack shame. This Christmas involved the memories and emotions of ten years’ worth of abuse and fear and humiliation and captivity, and the knowledge that I don’t want to remember them.
I was set the task by a counsellor of writing out all of the memories I can remember about Christmas. Not the Christmas times of a blessed childhood and a simple, happy adolescence – those memories flow, gently and peacefully, and make me smile. The memories I need to write are the memories of those Christmas times spent with my ex; and, to my concern (and to my counsellor’s concern: “That’s not a good sign”, she said), there are painfully few. No matter how I try, no matter what narrative or mnemonic techniques I use, I remember almost nothing. If the memories of Christmas as a child and adolescent are flowing and pure, the memories of Christmas as an adult are stagnated and weed-choked.
And I’d be fine with this but for the knowledge that there must be something to remember, that Christmas is a time where abusive alcoholics drink more and was therefore a time fraught with danger for me. And then there’s the knowledge that I probably don’t want to remember. Because even those few recollections that I can get hold of are painful, cause me to feel ill with shame. And I don’t want to remember, but I’m going to have to. Because it’s the act of remembering that disarms the sheer awfulness of these events, these feelings. And that’s only recollections centred around Christmas.
At the moment I can’t sing, and Christmas was hard because I have post-traumatic stress disorder and ten years’ worth of horror to wade through. I trust that next Christmas will be easier than last. I trust that I won’t be dealing with this shit in a year’s time, because I’ve got the courage to face it now. I trust that if I can just persevere, I’ll get through this, and I’ll get through stronger and brighter. I just have to keep going.
And screw you, universe. Screw you, PTSD; screw you, fear. Next Christmas will be damn good. I’ve got a whole year between now and then to make sure of it.