The Holidays Can Be Hard as a Survivor.
Photo by AJ Kahn
Last year at this time, I found myself struggling to get up each day. I found myself struggling to be happy despite the time of year and the "holiday cheer" that I could see on the faces of my friends and on children all around. I simply was not in a good place. In fact, I was in a very dark place.
It hadn't quite been 5 years since my dad had taken his life with his shotgun, and I was feeling all the feels during the last holiday season, reading his old letters to me and reminiscing on times spent together. Putting up tree ornaments he gave me, wearing earrings he gave me, remembering Thanksgiving with just the two of us about 9 years ago.
So many emotions, so much feeling. To top it off, I was a new Survivor Fellow with Everytown for Gun Safety, so many of the posts I was seeing (and still see) were of my fellow survivors of gun violence feeling the same sense of loss as me.
It was heavy and took a toll on my body and my spirit.
Fast forward to this year, and I am in a much better, healthier state. For the first time since high school, I have a therapist I am comfortable with, and I have finally begun to face my own demons instead of trying to hide them. Becoming sober was one of the best decisions I could have made, both for my mental and physical health, not to mention my family.
Then there is my husband. Today we have officially been together for 10 years. TEN WHOLE YEARS!! They say that after being together for several years, the sparks often disappear. Last year and earlier this year, I would have agreed with that statement. However, by working on myself and focusing on our marriage, and watching as my patient loving husband works alongside me, we have rekindled that spark and now love each other more than ever before. Marriage is so much work and is tough to navigate sometimes. We have good days and bad. But we know now that we have each other no matter what, and we have worked so hard to communicate and understand one another. It means the world to both of us.
By focusing on my mental health, becoming sober, taking medication for my anxiety and depression, and devoting most of my energy to my husband and children, this holiday season is much brighter for me. I am writing this post, however, to document my journey, as well as provide support for others who are struggling. You are not alone.
To anyone who is out there struggling this holiday season, I want to wrap you in my arms and squeeze you. It's OK to not be OK. Just please promise me that you will reach out and get help if you need it. There are always people out there to help you. After seeing recent suicide statistics from Everytown on our website everytownresearch.org/everystat, I want to provide the support line 800-273-8255 for you to call if you need to talk to someone. The text-in number is 741741 - someone is available 24/7. PLEASE utilize these resources. PLEASE don't go it alone.
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, be gentle and kind to yourself. Everyone is on such a different journey. Grief is not a linear experience. We often find ourselves thinking that we are "better" and then suddenly something hits us out of nowhere and we are on our knees. Know that there is a whole community out there to support you. I wouldn't be where I am today without my family and friends' help.
To my family and friends, no matter where you are in your life journeys this holiday season, know that I see you. I feel you. I love you.
May you have a peaceful and loving holiday season, and may you celebrate (or not) in whatever way works for you. I toast you with my gluten free alcohol free beer! <3