It’s okay not to go home again.

abuse, anxiety, personal experiences, relationships

For Thanksgiving, we flew back to my hometown in the Midwest to visit my remaining family–my mother, the aunt who was my legal guardian when I was a child, and another aunt who lives about an hour away from said hometown but visits regularly.

As I told my therapist this afternoon, “I don’t want to say it sucked, but…it sucked.”

I don’t want to get into any of the messy details, but I realized a few things during our brief Thanksgiving trip.

The first is that my grandmother is dead, like, for real-real. My “mom” is dead. Full stop. It’s not that I was pretending otherwise, but being in her house without seeing her there drove the point home in an unexpectedly painful way, and I had to hold it together while I was there because I knew if I lost it, so would everyone else, and then it’d be this whole terrible thing that I was just not equipped to handle.

The second is that it’s not normal to spend the week up to your flight being anxious and trying to brainstorm ways to defuse any potential arguments. It’s not normal to be five minutes from landing in your hometown and freaking out because you have no idea how many fights there will be this time or how bad they’ll get.

The third is that it’s simply not healthy for me to go “home” again. My therapist agreed with this assessment–there really is nothing there for me anymore. I’m 28 and am building my own life, my own family. If anyone wants to visit me, they know where I am. There are several large airports nearby. I never turn my phone off, though I have become more selective about when I answer calls–if I’m emotionally exhausted and have nothing left to give that day, I let the call go to voicemail.

It’s not like I’m unreachable. I just don’t want to make the effort anymore. I’m tired of throwing myself out into the wilds of my family-of-origin and hoping I come back in one piece. I’m tired of having to tell them, “Hey, I flew all the way here, can we all just get along?” I’m tired of having to put a dog into the fight. I’m tired of there even being a fight.

I went back “home,” and all I got was the flu and three days of crippling anxiety and depression.

Readers, it’s okay to set boundaries. If, like me, you’ve finally hit your breaking point, please try not to feel guilty about it. You need to take care of you first. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and life is too short to spend it with people who make you miserable.

3 thoughts on “It’s okay not to go home again.

  1. Hey J – – Sorry this response is so late – – but I DO read your posts…..your feelings about going home mirror my own – – and even though I don’t walk back into that morass of emotional turmoil anymore (no contact with certain family members precludes this), I still have memory impeding my enjoyment of just about any holiday – – I’m ridden with ghosts in the machine. Had I discovered what you have at the same age you are, my recovery by now might be more complete. Glad you came to this decision – – sorry about the particulars of your recent trip.

  2. I could have written this post years ago. Now I just travel over the holidays, and I’m happy with that alternate tradition. It took me some time to be okay with it, but I hope you eventually find your equivalent alternate tradition that makes you happy.

    1. Since writing this post, I spent a decent amount of time discussing the whole family-of-origin situation with both my counselor and my fiance (and even took him to a session with me, where he hit us with some unexpected insights about the situation, including the concepts of manipulation and power). The three of us came to the consensus that going “home” is incredibly unhealthy for me and that communicating with my family should be on MY terms, because they try to suck me into drama and part of me is instantly transported back to when I was very young and felt like I had to defuse the tension to prevent fights.

      Thank you for sharing your experience! It looks like my new tradition will be visiting my soon-to-be-in-laws instead, because the entire family is so warm and accepting. It blew my mind that there was zero drama at Christmas and that everyone was actually interested in my schooling (my family “doesn’t believe in counseling” and is weirdly avoidant while still bragging up that I’m going to a really good school).

      Long story short, it’s so important for us to make choices that are life-giving instead of life-taking. You can’t light yourself on fire to keep someone else warm, and it sounds like you’ve made healthy choices and set good boundaries, which is great to see! 🙂

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