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Monday, November 7, 2011

Trying to Scrape the Barnacles Off My Mayflower....

I've been reading everyone's lists of what they're thankful for.  It reminds me of all the great things we have in this world, of all the things to be thankful for myself.  Unfortunately, my mind is currently in a place where every good memory, everything I'm thankful for, brings up something I'm NOT thankful for, something I'm angry about, aggravated by, or just want to forget.  This just makes me feel SO ungrateful...which I'm not!  It also makes me feel like a brooding misfit for not being able to move past those negatives that come to mind and focus on the good things.

Holidays are never a good time for me.  They bring on so much anxiety.  We used to have family holidays at my house.  I would cook and clean for days, and spend more money than I had trying to make sure everything was perfect.  I wanted everyone to have their holiday favorites.  I wanted the kids to enjoy themselves and the family to play games together, but I also wanted a formal table.  I wanted the best of both worlds.  I wanted tradition and casual fun.

The trouble would start with the scheduling of holiday gatherings.  Between my sister's ex-husband and my sister-in-laws family, we never got to have a Christmas on a Christmas Day or even a Christmas Eve.  Thanksgiving was always done late in the afternoon or early in the evening.  Everyone was already stuffed on food.  They would show up long enough to put me down, scarf the food, put me down a little more, then take off leaving me to clean everything up.  Most of the time, I would have to take care of getting the kids' plates filled and getting them settled as well as cleaning them up when they were finished.  Usually, everyone else was almost done with their dinners before I even got a chance to sit down.  I don't know how many holiday meals I finished sitting by myself.

Of course, there were also those holidays when my sister would have a major fight with her ex and take it out on her children, me, or my mom.  I seriously don't remember a truly happy holiday in my household.  Sure, I still tried each year to make them perfect and make everyone happy.  I still slaved for days trying to make the house and the menu perfect.  I always struggled to ignore the passive aggressive, belittling comments my family throughout.  Still, none of this can make up for an unhappy, dysfunctional family.

The death blow for holidays came a few years ago when, after our traditionally terrible Christmas actually celebrated on Christmas Eve for the first time EVER, scheduled by my sister and sister-in-law, my sister got into a fight with her ex-husband on her cell phone.  It had to do with the time he thought he was supposed to get the kids that night.  She got angry and ended up throwing her cell phone across the living room, filled with family members, shattering the phone against our bookshelves.  She then proceeded to storm out of the house, ending the not so festive festivities.  Oh....but she wasn't done yet.  My sister proceeded to call my mom the next morning, on Christmas Day, and yell at her about how her Christmas was terrible because of her fight with her ex and how it was all my mom's fault for having our Christmas celebration the night before.  (I guess she had forgotten that she and my sister-in-law had scheduled it.  My mom had had nothing to do with that.  She was NEVER given a choice on when we celebrated.)  My mom ended up breaking down in tears when she hung up the phone.

That was it for me.  I ended up sending out a not so friendly e-mail later that day, telling my brother and sister that I was DONE with holidays with them.  I was no longer spending my time trying to make them all happy when they constantly put me down and then ended up making my mom miserable as well.  (Rachel says that I may not realize it, but this was a HUGE deal for me.  A very positive step.)

I haven't celebrated with them since.  In recent years, my brother and sister-in-law have begun to have celebrations at their house.  My sister and nieces and nephews are all there.  My father is there as well.  I don't go.  My mom and I celebrate our holidays at home, then my mom spends the afternoon or evening at my brother's with the rest of the family.  I still refuse to go.  I just don't want to deal with all that crap again.  I know that I would be miserable.  I know that they would pick up on that and just make things worse.  I really don't want to have to deal with all that.  Still, it's hard to say no.  I feel guilty doing so.  This battle of emotions starts weeks in advance.

I've been talking to Rachel about this for weeks.  She always reminds me that I'm an adult and get to make my own choices.  If I don't want to go, I don't have to go, and I don't owe them an explanation.  They're adults and can just deal with it.  I shouldn't have to make myself feel like crap in order to make them happy.  I can love my family and still not like them, and if I don't like them, I shouldn't have to spend my holidays with them.  Still, I feel this mix of anxiety, guilt, anger, annoyance, sadness, etc., and it gets worse and worse as the holidays approach.


  1. Goodness, I am so sorry the holidays are so horrible for you.

    They can be stressful for me, but in different and much less intense ways than they are for you.

    I think you made the best decision about not doing holidays given how your family treat you. I am just sorry you haven't had a good experience with the holidays.


  2. Thanks, Elizabeth. I usually DREAD them, but I am going to TRY to do my best this year to enjoy and appreciate them just for me. It's time I refuse to let my family ruin them for me.

  3. Wow, I really understand this. You are doing a very positive, proactive thing by putting your mental health first. I also miss the big gatherings, but in recent years have been looking for other ways to celebrate holidays. Like making a reservation for Christmas dinner at a hotel, and letting someone else clean up for a change :) We've also gotten together with friends and *their* families to enjoy the family thing without the buttons being pushed.
    Adventures in Anxiety Land

  4. I'm sorry to hear that the holiday season is horrible for you but I certainly believe that you are right in putting your own happiness first.

    Focus your energy on enjoying your time with your mum in a pleasant atmosphere and maybe carry a little satisfaction that the tensions and dramas are being carried out elsewhere and are somebody else's responsibility.


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