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If you ask most people if they like Thanksgiving, the chances are they will say they love it. I feel like I am kind of an oddball out. Most people would argue, what’s not to like? You have a giant feast and you get to spend time with your family and reflect on what you’re thankful for. For me though, it’s not a fun holiday.
For many years, I struggled with disordering eating. As you can imagine, a holiday that is basically focused around food was not fun for me. One reason is because due to not really eating much, it didn’t take much for me to get full and feeling sick. Another thing I have never really talked about openly is that while I struggled with disordered eating, there were so many times where I was literally disgusted by the thought of eating. Even though our bodies need food for fuel, there was something in me that was absolutely repulsed by the thought of food and eating it. Forcing yourself to eat is not fun, especially surrounded by a bunch of people.
Growing up, my family would always make comments about how I needed to eat more and how I was too skinny, so going to any family event was uncomfortable because of that. That was always the comment. Nobody ever asked me “hey is everything okay?”
Aside from my disordered eating, Thanksgiving and other holidays have always been tough for me because of my anxiety. I have a big family, so all family events are very loud. I get so overstimulated to the point where I get extremely uncomfortable. Everyone talks over each other because there are like 5 conversations going on at once. It was always too much for me. From a young age, loud places always made me anxious.
When I get overstimulated like that, I shutdown and kind of revert into myself. Many times, I would cling to my mom. It wasn’t even just when I was a kid either, there have been a lot of times in my teens and adult life where I vividly remember physically clinging to my mom and basically hiding my face in her shoulder during family events.
Eventually, I just started hiding in places at the family event where there were no people. I would go outside by myself if it was the right season, but I also started to hide in the basement of my aunt’s house where most of the family parties were held. I remember one time going outside and finding one of my cousins who also has anxiety sitting outside because being inside was overstimulating for him as well.
When I started to drive, I always tried to drive separately from my parents if they would allow it so I could leave when things got to be too much. They never understood why because obviously we were all leaving from our house to go to the same place. I remember all of the times I felt literally trapped at family events feeling paralyzed with anxiety. This was the reason being able to drive myself was so necessary to me. I would always try and park in a spot where nobody could block me in because the last thing I would want to do is have to ask someone to move their car while I was trying to make a quick escape.
People on the outside probably just think I’m some miserable bitch who hates her family. I love my family, but honestly because I have such a big family, it doesn’t take much to have too much going on for me. I do well in small groups and one on one with people, but I have never been good in crowds and situations where a lot is going on. It makes going to family holidays hard for me. Believe me, I wish I was able to enjoy time with all of my family without getting overwhelmed. Thankfully, most of my family understands now and they don’t get upset or mad at me when I let them know I’m heading out.
If you’re someone who struggles with holidays, whether it is because of disordered eating, anxiety, depression, issues with your family, etc, I see you. You are not a bad person for getting overwhelmed by something that others enjoy. We’re built differently and we thrive in different environments, and that’s okay.
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