COVID's Catch 22 This Thanksgiving Holiday
For many survivors of abuse like myself, the holidays are triggering because of family dynamics. With so many interactions with family members, it is quite easy to have uncomfortable moments and even panic attacks after everyone already knows someone in the family sexually or physically abused you. A few weeks ago, I wrote that the pandemic created new opportunities to share your secret to family and the forced lockdown/isolation could make that confession easier on you, and I offered tips to do so. If you missed that one, you can read it here.
I often dreaded the togetherness during the holidays and now I know why. I'm a fixer. I want to make everyone else happy while I put my needs on the back burner. Too many complicated relationships, secrets, high expectations of having the "perfect" holiday and navigating all of those complex layers was exhausting for me as a child up until adulthood.
This season, I became guilty about using COVID as an excuse to not see my parents, even though deep down that is what I wanted to do. Do I love them? Yes. Do I need a break from anxiety-filled days that take all of my energy? YES. That is why I felt guilty about it. My husband and I tried to come up with so many ways to make it a safe Thanksgiving and finally settled on this: an outdoor bonfire gathering where everyone has their separate eating areas to take masks off, post-lunch when it is the warmest outside and just simple snacks and hot chocolate.
Guess what? Ironically, my parents can't come--they might have been exposed to COVID at a medical center and now must quarantine. They didn't think there would be time to get tested and get results by the holiday as rapid tests are only 50% accurate. The news infuriated me. It was like being that little girl again who tried so hard to make her parents proud of her, but was now abandoned and unloved. It took me a few days to calm down and see the big picture and realize I was ultimately getting what I wanted, I just hadn't planned for it that way (and I'm a control freak, ha!). I also didn't want my parents to get COVID.
So...the holidays are still "a thing" for me. I have to remember that it isn't about pleasing everyone, it is okay to create boundaries and celebrate it the way I want to as an adult and if things don't go as planned, that is okay. Sometimes last-minute changes are small blessings. To all of you, I hope you have a safe and stress-free Thanksgiving holiday!