Surviving Toxic Family Members During the Holidays

While the wintertime is my favorite part of the year, I can’t help but feel a surge of anxiety as the clock ticks closer to the holidays, i.e. time for my yearly trip home. Spending the holidays at home brings about negative feelings because I don’t get along with every single one of my family members. I’m sure many can relate, and I’m a firm believer in cutting off toxic people from our lives, but when that person is a relative, it can be a bit more complicated.

When I’m in Chicago, which is 9 hours away from my hometown, I truly feel like I can be myself. Having distance between myself and my family has allowed me to excel in my academics, something I was unable to do during high school. This was primarily due to fighting at home, and other familial conflicts. I’ve also learned more about myself and where my interests lay. Taking the time and space to focus on my personal growth has allowed me to reach my peak mental health, something that I’m sure would’ve taken longer had I stayed home. Ultimately, I feel like I am thriving for the first time in my life.

The holiday season is inevitable, so as much as I’d like to, I can’t avoid my family forever. Breaking off ties with my entire family would make me even more sad, because I don’t have issues with all of them, just a select few. It sucks feeling like I have to walk on eggshells when I’m in my parents home, and if I dare speak my true feelings, I feel like I’m being shut down. It makes me feel 15 again. 

While I’m unsure how exactly to deal with the frank unpleasantness of such a situation, there are a few things that work for me. For one, I remind myself that my feelings are valid and they are justified, despite what anyone may say. Second, it’s ok to separate myself from the situation, and take some much needed alone time if I feel it’s necessary. Lastly, having a person to confide in such as another family member, friend, or therapist is essential, because I know I can’t get through this alone.

My biggest takeaway from my strained relationship with certain family is to stay true to myself. I know my truth, and I won’t feel guilty for doing what’s in my own best interest. As I continue to grow, and become financially independent, I hope to one day permanently cut ties with the people who negatively impacted my life. While I feel this way now, I know it’s possible my feelings may change in the future. For the time being, I’m doing my best to enjoy the holiday season given the circumstances. Anyone who has a difficult relationship with loved ones may be able to relate. And if you do relate, just know it’s a lot more common than you think, that you aren’t alone, and in the end, we will get through this.