Going home shouldn't hurt

For many, going home for the holidays is a happy time including laughter, intimate discussions, fond memories and the warmth of being together. Unfortunately, for some this is not their experience. Instead, they recall fights, caustic words yelled carelessly and rough touches. They dread the holidays, they dread leaving work and they dread the conversations forced upon them.

When the people who are supposed to love you, don’t, or the ones you share your last name with humiliate you, the feelings of loneliness and abandonment seem insurmountable. Anger and resentment fester, and you become depressed, anxious, and cynical. Nothing matters more than being loved by the people you call family, and every human being needs to be loved by their family. I have counseled and worked with people trying to fit into a family that is so mentally unhealthy that they medicate with alcohol, drugs, food, or a whole cocktail of anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications. Sometimes the key is to find a healthy group of friends and selective family members that make you feel loved and accepted for who you are. Here are 3 tips that will make “going home” feel good again and will help you leave feeling inspired rather than devastated by the holidays.

  1. Limit your time with family members who shame or humiliate you. No one should be around people who make them feel badly about themselves. Being related by blood or name does not imply permission to beat someone up emotionally or physically.
  2. Bullies aren’t only on the playground; they can be in your family. If you have been bullied all your life, standing up and pointing out that you will no longer allow yourself or your children to be bullied can free you from a mentally ill family member.
  3. Never stay in the home with people who are supposed to love you but don’t. When you do this, you become vulnerable to their schedule and control. It is better if you have a safe place to retreat to after the get together. A hotel, a good friend’s home, or even making the long trip back home are healthier options.

In this unpredictable world, we all need a strong, loving family to go home to. If you find yourself feeling anxious or depressed being around your family, that is a sign that something needs to change. Look inside first but also look around. Listen to the conversation. Your family is supposed to support, guide, and believe in you. Life is precious; when going home feels shameful or miserable, it is time to make new place settings at the table.

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