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When ‘Not Going Home’ to a Toxic Family During the Holidays Isn’t an Option

I’ve been learning a lot in therapy lately. After almost a decade dedicated to self-destruction, I am finally starting to learn self-love. I have finally stopped cutting. I am actively working on myself for the first time in so long. And while it is incredibly difficult, I am so thankful for amazing roommates and friends, and a wonderful therapist who finally helps more than hurts.

This should be a good thing. All of these epiphanies I’ve had in therapy aligning with the joy of the holidays should be beautiful.

Except they’re not.

Because the most insightful things I’ve come to realize and learn over the last few weeks have to do with how toxic my house is and how triggering certain family members are for me. Being home has always ended badly for me, but I’ve always blamed myself. Because I was always made to feel so guilty for everything. And worse, guilty when I tried to do the things that were actually supposed to help me. So, I stopped trying altogether. But it didn’t matter as much to me then. I was so self-destructive and so deeply spiraling that one more fight and one more screaming match about how I wasn’t good enough was just adding to the fire that was already burning fiercely.

But that’s not me anymore. I’m coming out of that and searching and striving for the healing and light I know exist. And because of that, I am so fragile right now. So, having to go home for the holidays is a terrifying prospect. I fear everything will be lost. All the progress will be washed away. I’ll be right back where I started and I’ll spiral all over again. The last time I was home and working on myself, my mother and I got in a fight that ended with me writing a suicide note to her. I can’t do that. I can’t go back to that place. I’m scared if I do, I won’t make it out.

And yes, I know people’s answer to me is, “Just don’t go home. No one’s making you. It’s not worth your mental health.”

And they’re right. It is not worth my mental health. But it is worth everything else. I am still unfortunately very dependent on my parents until I graduate in the spring. They’re still helping me pay for my last semester of college, I’m still on their insurance (through which I’m able to do therapy), though my car is technically mine, my name isn’t on the registration — there’s too much there to lose. So just “not going” isn’t an option. I do have to go. And worse, they can make me stay because they have so much over me still. Staying and sitting somewhere so unhealthy and feeling so trapped and guilty has got to be one of the worst feelings during what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.

So, I will go. And there will more likely than not be a fight. But I’m praying I can be resilient enough and reach out to the people around me to rise up and move forward instead of spiral back down. I’m praying I can set the boundaries I need to and not cave into guilt. And if you can at all relate, I’m praying you can, too.

Getty image via Tutye