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Why I’m Glad to Spend the Holidays Alone

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced domestic violence or emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233. You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I spent Thanksgiving this year watching reruns of old sitcoms and eating takeout food, alone by myself on the couch. My plans for Christmas Day will probably be similar. To an outsider looking in, this scene would probably look sad. To me, it was the most peaceful holiday I’ve ever experienced.

Growing up in an emotional war zone with constant verbal, physical, and emotional abuse, the holidays were often a time where that toxicity was escalated due to the stress of the season. On holidays, I specifically remember people crying or yelling, threats of food or presents being revoked, and having plates full of potatoes and turkey being violently smashed into my face as punishment for some “wrong” I must have committed.

As I grew older and realized how other families on TV or in real life celebrated the holidays, I began to resent the obligations that came with being a part of my family. It was tradition to pose with fake smiles for social media even after I had just been insulted and I was usually judged for how much food I was eating, which only exacerbated my self-image issues.

I was 18 years old when I left home. My last Christmas spent with my family was worse than ever before. Even as an official adult, it was clear nobody was able to fulfill my need of being respected. In the years since, I have spent the holiday season traveling the country, seeing friends, and even volunteering, but I could never quite fill the childish longing left in my heart for something loving and magical I never received.

No matter where I was or what my plans were, I could always count on guilt tripping and passive aggressive comments from family when they realized, no, I wouldn’t be coming back that year.

Ultimately, I decided to implement boundaries with my family members, one by one. With each difficult decision made, the peace in my life increased. Unfortunately, there came a time where the best course of action was to completely cut off my immediate family. It was a heartbreaking choice, but it was not mine alone to make. I knew if my boundaries weren’t respected and any form of abuse continued, I would never be able to live a healthy life.

This year was the first Thanksgiving I ever spent totally alone. It was the first Thanksgiving in my entire life I did not have to speak with a toxic family member. It was calm.

I think I will always have a feeling of loss this time of year. I can’t look at happy families in matching pajamas or children opening presents or even bake sugar cookies without thinking about what I never had. But I do my best to turn those thoughts around.

I mean it when I say I’m glad for the people who do have a feast to enjoy with their family, and presents to open and loved ones to hug. One day, I’d like to have the same.

Getty image by Deagreez

Originally published: December 18, 2021
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