This story may contain descriptions of PTSD symptoms and the effects of trauma.
I originally posted this story below on June 13, 2018 about my strategies for getting through Father’s Day. It’s always been such a painful holiday. It is one day that reminds me of how it felt watching my chosen father die 11 years ago and being left with my biological father who harmed me so deeply. I wanted to offer a 2019 Father’s Day update:
2019 Father’s Day:
Okay so listen. Last year, I thought I could power through working and that work would actually be a really healthy distraction for me. What I hadn’t anticipated is where I was working at the time would be filled with people celebrating Father’s Day together. Not once, but TWICE was I asked to take a photo of a family whereupon the daughter said, “Take a picture of us with the best dad in the world!” They weren’t doing anything wrong at all, but I pretty quickly realized being in that space was an act of masochism on my part.
Which leads me to my 2019 Father’s Day strategy: I’M NOT WORKING, THAT’S FOR DAMN SURE. Charlie, the puppy and I are going to hang out on the river with my mom, who, in my circumstance, provides me with a lot of comfort and support, and hopefully I’ll get to see the pup swim for the first time.
I also think this year I have a lot of “opportunity for growth” around my commitment to stay off social media Father’s Day weekend, as it was harder than I thought last year, and I think I can do better for myself this year.
As always, I’m sending you all so much support and validation if this day is challenging for you. I honor any way you think is best to get through the day, and as always, you are not alone. Below my updated strategies:
Father’s Day happens every damn year and I’m still not numb to it’s triggers
Father’s Day is a big struggle for me. And I know from your emails that it is for many of you too. For many of you, Mother’s Day is really triggering for you as well, and I want you to know I see you too. Father’s Day was painful for me for the two decades my abusive father was in my life, as I would have to go through the motions each year of showering him with praise for being the father he could never be and expressing gratitude to him while he took all he could from me. In the past six years since I’ve cut him out of my life, Father’s Day has continued to be a day that requires me to vigorously monitor my PTSD, waiting for what feels like the inevitable trigger that sends me back into the depths of my trauma and pain.
Each year, I try to ignore the pain of the day until it finally catches up to me, but this year, I’m going to try something different. I’m going to try to actually strategize for the day and help myself to feel more in control and safer this Sunday. What will I do, you ask? Well, let me tell ya!
1.Tell the people we love that Father’s Day is a difficult day for us
I am lucky to have many people in my life who provide me with support and love through my healing journey, but I think I can do a better job of sharing with them when I know something is going to be triggering or challenging for me. And while Father’s Day may be an obvious trigger to me, it may not be to them, and that’s okay. This year, I am going tell my people that I’m afraid of how difficult the day will be and that I need them to check in on me, or help me to stay busy during the day. It seems like as good a time as any to enlist the support of my team.
2. Have a plan for Father’s Day
In the past, I’ve let the day sort of just unfold, but this year, I am implementing having a plan for Sunday. With my plan I hope to feel more in control of the day, and less like I’m waiting for a trigger to hit. I will be spending the morning with my bestie who will be in town (yay!) eating delicious food and playing with my puppy, and then in the afternoon, I’ll be working in a very busy fast-paced environment that should sufficiently occupy my mind.
I recommend coming up with a plan for yourself that includes very good and comforting food, being around someone that makes you feel safe, and doing things that feel kind and nourishing for yourself, whatever that looks like.
You can also see the suggestion bellow from the brilliant survivor and activist Amita Swadhin, on how she spends the day:
3. Establish boundaries / GET THE HELL OFF INSTAGRAM FOR THE LOVE OF GOD
Establishing boundaries can help us to manage our trauma during such a difficult day. Every damn year I say I’m going to going to go on instagram or Facebook and thus avoid the influx of people posting about their great dads (which, no shade to them, is just not what is good for me), and every year I do not take my own advice. This year, I’m telling all of you, thus I will be forced to keep my promise to myself.
For other people, establishing boundaries for the day could include not talking with anyone who feels draining or unsafe, or turning off the TV if it’s going to be filled with Father’s Day content. You do what you need to do to feel safest.
4. Being kinder and more patient with ourselves
Okay, so you accidently ended up on instagram. You opened your phone and muscle memory kicked in, and now you’re staring at a feed full of ‘The best dad ever!!!’ And by “you”, I mean “me”, I did it, it me. In the past, I’d feel really crappy and then give myself hell for opening the app in the first place and then be upset with myself for being so upset.
This year, I’m going to practice being kinder and more patient with myself. If I feel like shit, I’m not going to try to force myself to perk up or feel better, it’s okay to feel however I feel on this day. Do I need to cry in the bathroom at work to get through the day? Maybe. And that’s okay. Do I need to eat my bodyweight in gummy bears? Probably. And that’s alright too. As people much wiser than me have said before, let’s treat ourselves with the same kindness and understanding as we would if it were a friend of ours who was hurting badly.
5. Remember the most important fact about Father’s Day: It will end
This is my MOST FAVORITE PART of Father’s Day: it’s one day, and good lord, it must, by definition, end after 24 hours. When we are triggered, our PTSD can have us time traveling back to moments that are terrifying and so painful, and it, by design, makes us feel like it’s going to last forever. This year, I’m going to practice remembering that this is one of the hardest days, and that no matter how much it hurts, at midnight, it will, without fail, be over. The trigger will pass, like we know it does, and we will come back into moments much more bearable. Until then, I’m here for you and with you, as always.