Blech

I meant to write a Christmas message, and now need a venting type post. Sorry to be discouraging.

Year after year, Christmas has been a difficult and depressing time for me. I start feeling blue at the start of December and get worse from there. This year was different though. I was very triggered by therapy, which took me two weeks to get over, so that took me to mid-December. Luckily there’s a therapy break of a few weeks. I do not really miss it. I especially do not miss the massive triggers and lengthy recovery periods.

I went back to some depression books I’d found helpful in the past – one called Unstuck, and the Mindful Way through Depression. Stuff in those books really helps, and none of it involves looking back to the past. I’ve been going to the gym every other day for the last week and a half. This can trigger me, but it also helps a lot with the depression. Then, I spend some time calming down after exercise, just taking the time to try and feel whatever I feel, and that seems to help.

I also went for acupuncture at a community acupuncture clinic, which is half the price of regular, so I feel I can afford to go. It seemed very low key, but it brought up a lot of sadness for me again, and it took some days to feel better. But then, I felt as if I may have let some old feelings surface and dissipate.

So by today, Christmas day, I’m physiologically not that depressed. A miracle. I’m not super cheerful, but I feel like I can cope.

The parts of Christmas that were nice:

  • my tree – a real pretty one
  • Christmas service last night – I enjoyed belting out the traditional carols, and the candle ceremony where we each held a candle appealed to the kid
  • Christmas lunch with my ex and my son at my house. My ex cooked and brought food, while I provided a tidy space and cleaned up.

The crappy part:

  • dinner with my family today, which I walked out of.

And here I am at home alone at eight o’clock. My family is awful. You might think they’re fine. They don’t yell. Everyone is ‘polite’. But they don’t give a shit about me. It’s just so hurtful. I have known this. But I have been hoping I’m ‘too sensitive’ and ‘too depressed’ and really, I just need to be more self-confident and look at it differently. And now, I no longer think that. I don’t think it’s me.

My siblings and my mother are very focused on cooking the perfect meal. There are five different kinds of veg, plus three salads. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry, many kinds of wine, two kinds of homemade pie.

So I go late afternoon to try and help out. I feel guilty – I bring a veg, but I know they’ve been cooking for hours. Turns out my sibs were down the day before cooking also. I chop things as directed. No one ever talks to me. There is discussion about the food. I ask some questions, but no one responds much, so I give up. I try talking, but no one responds to that either. I wonder – am I boring, or is something I said really embarrassing, or what? I feel uneasy. I feel jumpy. I decide everyone is just tense from the pressure of cooking the perfect meal.

My father’s friends come – all university people. My sister’s friends come – ditto. My father as always refers to my brother’s job, the university professor. The only people who don’t have academic pretensions are my mother, who is almost completely silent, and my uncle and cousin, who both leave early, before dinner, having waited hours for this perfect meal. I know my uncle is also uncomfortable with the focus on university and nothing else.

At dinner, I feel so depressed. No one talks to me. I sit there silently, no longer up to making any effort. Yes, all the dishes are delicious. I couldn’t care less. I finish my plate quickly and leave the table to read my phone in another room. And then, I leave before dessert.

I feel so furious. Maybe I should have said something, but it gets difficult to know at what point to do so. My father is such an asshole. Maybe it’s awful to say it. He must continually control, to show in every way that you must be an academic to be worthwhile. He really does do that. He has never said a word to me on these occasions. I’m never worthy of a comment or any concern.

I’m still seeing red. I hope I get it together to never go back to one of these big family type holidays. They’re all about perfectionism and my father’s controlling ways. I start to feel smaller and smaller until I’m incapable of speaking.

It would maybe have been better to have the fight instead of leaving without a word. I tell you, it’s hard to deal with passive aggression, with mean spirited childish behaviour that goes back many decades. When everything is an omission. My T has pointed out I can still say something, but I find it difficult. Especially maybe with so many relative strangers at the dinner, who are all fitting in with my father’s agenda, and really, just trying to have a Christmas dinner they don’t have to cook.

They have gotten worse these last two years. I understand they are very stressed out by having my disabled son live with them. I cannot help that and would if I could. I know that’s why these rejecting behaviours have escalated, back to the scale they where when I was younger. My siblings just play along for different reasons. I don’t care. I will not keep doing this to myself.

I hope I never see my family again. They can go to hell.

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22 comments
  1. That has to be the definition of hell: being among many people (family no less) who won’t even take the time to see, hear, or even acknowledge you. You have done some a lot of healing to be able to see that this is their problem, not yours.

  2. You matter, and their behaviour reinforces a message that you don’t. Of course it is difficult – I think you did really well. It is hard to stand up after years of being told something and to do the opposite. I agree with BYC in the fact that you have done a lot of work to get to where you are where you can see the dysfunction – and that isn’t easy.

  3. Ashana M said:

    My own opinion is that you can’t really interrupt the dynamic, but you can help yourself get through it. I am sure no matter what you say, they will go on doing what they do and you won’t feel better. But you can respond more kindly to yourself internally and help yourself cope with what they are doing. Acknowledge that what is happening is real, that it is hurtful, talk nicely to yourself about it. I think what you did was positive–go in the other room for a while, leave early. It’s really hard to face this, that this was the dynamic of your whole life. Nothing mattered but your dad’s need for control.

    • Ellen said:

      Exactly – as a child, nothing was as important as my father’s need for control. And today that persists. I think I forgot about speaking to myself kindly in the stress of this situation, great reminder. Thanks Ash

      • Ashana M said:

        I think it’s quite significant that at this point your experience is real at least for you: you can see now what you are responding to in your family and how you feel about it. That’s huge.

  4. Im so sorry the day was so painful for you, but you did really well and saw the reality which is real progress. I know how you feel about therapy sometimes I think going into the past doesn’t help at all after a certain point. I feel much better on the days I bring myself into the present and try to do something nourishing and comforting that I like. If you are raised in that kind of family its not something you are ever taught because you aren’t valued. But you can choose to treat yourself differently now. Wishing you peace for 2017.

    • Ellen said:

      I think learning proper self-care is so crucial, and I’m really focusing on that at the moment. I wish therapy taught me that, but as it didn’t, I can find out how to do that from other sources. I wish you peace also EFDK. Thank you for being here.

      • Yes, I am noticing therapy is so limited on the side of trying to build up good stuff, we seem to have to focus on the past full of all the pain and maybe that needs to be addressed fully but without self care we don’t really fully recover. Its what I struggle with most. Love to you. ❤

  5. Laura said:

    Merry Christmas, E!
    this reminds me of a Christmas dinner diorama in a shop window. Your mistake is not being a mannequin. It’s quite a miracle that you’ve escaped the family “system”! It’s NOT you, it’s really, really not – but, if you didn’t need validation from them, you would simply be bored. Their silence couldn’t diminish you.
    Have you seen this book? Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents. I just came across it, from your links. wish you’d send a picture of your tree…

    • Ellen said:

      Merry Christmas Laura.
      lol. An interesting perspective. I should have been a mannequin. 🙂 It is true and I hadn’t thought of it – if I didn’t long for their validation, I would have just been bored. It’s a very boring situation – everyone is afraid of being judged, and so are too busy toeing the line to say anything real or interesting. I will look for that book, thanks. Maybe I’ll post a photo.

  6. chainbreakercorporation said:

    You are not alone. My family is a bunch of townclowns with my malignant narcissistic mother as a leader. Thanks for sharing with honesty.
    乁( • ω •乁) (「• ω •)「 ⁽⁽◝( • ω • )◜⁾⁾ ✺◟( • ω • )◞✺

    • Ellen said:

      Sorry to hear that, and great to meet you chain breaker. Thank you.

  7. Grainne said:

    Yikes. Your family dinners remind me of the ‘work’ dinners I hate so much. It doesn’t happen as much in my current department but when I worked for a more “academic” department, where politics and prestige are the only things that carry any importance at all, those events were terrible to get through. All bullshit, handshake agreements, political nonsense where most of the attendees were doctors or scientists and everyone else was just part of the backdrop. The hosting family was all about the perfect meal, place setting, home, location, and display of wealth and influence and while they all rambled on about work, the rest of us would sit in silence, knowing that nothing we had to contribute would have any impact on the conversation, whether we were heard or not. But then, that’s what a lot of work functions are like….family should be so different, in my head.

    I wish your family was more supportive for you. Even just a touch of receptiveness would be nice. It must feel so isolating to be the only one at the table who seems to be experiencing reality while the rest all zone out into denial. Reminds me, hauntingly, of the Stepford Wives.

    I hope you’re feeling better today. I think it was wise to leave early. I don’t think I’d have made it through dinner were it me having to deal with that. xx

    • Ellen said:

      Hi Grainne – your comment really struck me. The way you describe your work dinner is very similar to these family dinners. I think maybe my father’s self image was so based on his work, he’s imported how he would act there, where he felt at home and successful, to the family setting. Since he’s the unquestioned boss, even in his eighties, he gets to continue this behaviour. I think this is really really true. It’s all based on low self-esteem, being passed on forever.

      It is isolating and crazy-making to be honest. I end up not knowing what is real. Thank you for the support.

      • Grainne said:

        I can feel it…how frustrating and cyclic that feeling must be….spinning in circles trying to get someone, anyone to connect with you on a level less shallow than image, role, presentation and work. *hugs* You can make yourself feel better in the moment by reminding yourself that you’re the only one there who is genuine and is in their own skin, comfortable or otherwise….but I’m sure that just feels more lonely in the end. Glad your blog friends can be there to help sort things out after these disastrous dinners.

        Is there even one person in your family who might be willing to speak from the heart and not the image they want to present? I wish you had at least one to turn to. 😦 Much love from me. xo

        • Ellen said:

          No, there really isn’t anyone in my family like that. The closest would be my brother I suppose, but he’s no where close to speaking from the heart – just sometimes, he does say something that seems a bit sympathetic. Thanks xox

  8. so sorry the day was rough for you ellen. I hope new years will be better. merry Christmas, too, late!

  9. Hi Ellen, I’m late in catching up but very moved by your description of this cold Christmas dinner, where everything is for show and there’s no genuine connection. They arrange everything to seem “perfect” but in fact it is all empty, like a photo shoot for a magazine or something.

    I feel invisible to my parents, and I know that hurts, even after years of the same thing. Maybe it’s worse at the holidays because everything in our culture screams out “Joy” and “Love” and “Good Cheer.” The contrast sucks.

    May this new year bring us both continued growth and healing; may we learn to find peace and love in places and people that are capable of honestly caring.

    • Ellen said:

      I am sorry you have similar struggles with your FOO Q. It’s really hard at Christmas especially.

      May we both learn to find peace and love and people who can care. Happy New year.

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