How a Family Thanksgiving Fight About Depression Crushed Me
Oh, the holidays. Every year they come and go and yet we always drive ourselves silly with stress hoping we’re prepared enough for what’s right around the corner. This year hasn’t been kind to me. Between my polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) diagnosis and trying to manage the symptoms that come from that, as well as my mental health I’m always trying to stay on top of, I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
Unfortunately, my anxiety and depression were setting in during the summer instead of my usual late fall/winter blues. My family and my in-laws have been people I’m not all that close with, but during recent years with my parents, we’ve drifted further apart. I’ve tried my best to mend what was left of our relationships, but that grew increasingly harder this past year.
To my surprise, the relationship between my parents and my husband’s sister started to grow, which left me feeling abandoned and hurt, and less hopeful for the family I wanted. This brings me to Thanksgiving, which just happened this past Thursday. I typically dread days where people get together because it feels like we should, and this was definitely one of those days. My husband and I had originally planned to sit out the holidays this year, but I was sucked back in (mostly due to my optimism of building a relationship with my dad).
The day started innocent enough, but I didn’t feel comfortable in the home I once grew up in. The conversations were “normal,” but I always felt a slight tension in the air. When my in-laws arrived, I could feel a shift. My sister-in-law and my dad have many inside jokes, and I got a front row seat to a comedy show I didn’t want to be a part of. They had a carefree attitude about them when speaking to each other, something that wasn’t present in my conversations with my dad. I started to feel uncomfortable, and was already dreading the decision to come.
My sister-in-law and I had a slight argument a few months ago, which wasn’t discussed prior to the holiday. So after dinner, I decided we should chat which kind of cleared the air between us, only to be overshadowed by a secret I wasn’t aware of: my parents were inviting her over and making plans to do things with her while doing nothing to fix our broken relationship. I was crushed, and decided to talk to my mom about it. It felt like some huge secret that was finally in the open, but according to my mom, it never was a secret and it wasn’t something I should be upset about. We talked for a while about ways to try to bond, but I had doubts. I also found out how my mom and my sister-in-law were going to be attending a concert, which I didn’t have an interest in, but I was invited as a courtesy that day (although this had been planned prior to that night). My husband eventually came back and we continued talking about things — my concerns, feelings, ways to get closer, etc.
It all came crashing down when my dad came back. My mom immediately brought up doing things together as a family and my dad shut that down. He doesn’t like going out often, but I discovered that isn’t entirely true. He just doesn’t want to go out with me. He made sure to mention how he isn’t proud of me due to the fact I don’t work and he believes I just sit around doing nothing all day (which I tried to dispute and it didn’t matter). I was trapped in a room I couldn’t leave, listening to my dad tell me how I’m the problem and he doesn’t want to be around me. It hurt. Especially since I already felt replaced by my sister-in-law. I see how they treat her and it felt like seeing what my life could have been like if my parents had a do-over.
I left — angry, yelling about how I just want a family and I’m going through hell and crying from the pain I’ve been in. My husband made sure to grab our things, but not before they tried to talk to him more about their side. Maybe to them I’m still just a kid unaware of my feelings and being “dramatic,” but I would never wish anyone to experience the feeling of being replaced. If this sounds like a bunch of drama, it is. That night was the final straw in what has been developing over years. I decided I would cut contact because I can’t handle feeling like a burden to people who can’t even try to love their own daughter. Effort goes both ways, and my energy pool has officially been drained.
These past 48 hours have been really hard. I’ve debated the many methods of suicide I could go through with. I don’t have any siblings, no close relatives and no friends. I have a husband and two dogs, and finally hearing how my dad truly feels about me really messed me up (even though I already expected what I felt was true). It made me feel more alone than I’ve ever felt. For my own parents to be the reason I end my life just seemed so unfair. I can’t let them be the reason I go away permanently, I can’t let them win.
Despite what my dad thinks, I do a lot. I take care of our home, our finances, our dogs and I do my best to spread awareness about mental health. I may not blog as often as I used to, but knowing people have read my blog means at least someone out there might feel a little less alone. And that matters. I decided to take time away from work because my mental health deteriorated so much I had panic attacks in the bathroom every day. My husband was able to step up and it was one of the best decisions we made as a couple. I’m not perfect, no one is, but I’ve worked so damn hard on myself over these last few years. I still struggle, more than I’d like to admit, but I still try to persevere. To me, these things matter more than some meaningless job I could be suffering through instead.
We may not be able to choose the family we are given, but we are able to start fresh and make a new family. My husband is that for me. I started this by saying this year has been hard, and it certainly isn’t getting easier, but I’m hopeful better days are ahead.
Getty image by ASIFE