11.20.2006

I can't escape the horror

I just can't get away from it. Thanksgiving. The Holiday from Hell.

In my entire life, I can think of only 2 Thanksgivings that I didn't have full-blown, feel-like-I'm-having-a-heart-attack, sneaking off to furtively sob in a darkened room, hands-shaking, relatives asking if I've recently developled a drug problem, emotionally debilitating panic attacks. Even when I was a small kid I used to freak out on Thanksgiving.

The only two peaceful Thanksgivings were when for some reason my mother would have a tiff with her siblings and opt our family out of the festivities. Those two years (one when I was 12 and one when I was 19) Thanksgiving was small, just our immediate family, and we invited my father's mother over. Using those two peaceful times as a diagnostic tool, I decided that the problem wasn't me, it was the gathering of the extended family (never mind that the extended family gathers quite frequently through the year and I don't have nearly as hard a time with them on any other occasion). So, when I got with Kristin, I took that opportunity to opt out of the big Thanksgiving and spend it with her family.

And still, panic attacks. Horrible one. Horrible ones mixed with guilt for having abandoned my own family. So, after a few years of that, I convinced Kristin that my problem wasn't with my own family, but with family AT ALL. So, we decided to do our own Thanksgiving feast and only invite friends. And still, surrounded only by people that I LIKE, STILL I have terrible, panic-ridden Turkey-Days. Not fun. Not fun in the least little bit. And at this point the day itself has become like a gigantic boogey man. I know I'm going to freak out on Thanksgiving, and the dread of the inevitable freak-out very likely actually contributes to said freak out. It's a vicious cycle.

So. THIS YEAR I told Kristin that all I wanted to do on Thanksgiving was tell everyone that we were out of town, tell our out of towners that we were holeing up here, and then HIDE in our home with the phone disconnected and the lights off and the cars parked a couple streets away and just let Thanksgiving glide by overhead like a bloated B-52. Maybe get Tibetan Take-out. If I can't see Thanksgiving, then Thanksgiving can't see me...

But see, we have a friend. A friend who didn't have anywhere to go. And we really like this friend. And we try to be generous people. So we mentioned to this friend that we were going to be home and hiding on Thanksgiving, and we casually mentioned that she could come and hide with us... and before I knew it we were offering to cook her a tofurkey (she's vegetarian and we don't really like meat, either) and she was planning on bringing wine and Thanksgiving had its claws hooked deep around my collarbone.

Meanwhile... my mom came to me and asked me honestly if she stopped hosting the entire extended family, would I come back to her Thanksgiving table? And I hesitated, because to answer a question like that from my mom is tantamount to signing an agreement in blood. But I started talking to her about how much I hate Thanksgiving, but I don't know why, and though I did end up telling her that yes, if it was just my immediate family (and their spouses) I would probably return to Thanksgiving, other than that the conversation was a good one and took enough of the Thanksgiving pressure off that I was able to come to a realization:

Remember all those months ago when I mentioned how I was sexually abused? It's in my archives, but I'm too lazy to link right now... I think I was talking about it in June or July... anway, remember how I said that I don't really remember any of the details, and how often or how extreme it was? How it wouldn't have been reported if there hadn't been a witness the last time? And how I'm now convinced that the abuse was more frequent and of a more severe type than was witnessed? Well, I begin to think that my hatred of Thanksgiving is a clue. I think that the abuse either started on a Thanksgiving, or that there was a particularly bad episode of abuse that occurred on a Thanksgiving.

It makes sense. My known abuser (and I do wonder if there was more than one, but that's a story for another time) is a member of that side of the family. Thanksgivings are/were chaotic, with the mothers all in the kitchen and the fathers all watching TV, and us kids shooed out of everyone's way. There was opportunity. There was availability. And, given how many times I was able to find hiding places to freak out, my abuser certainly wouldn't have had a hard time finding a secluded spot to take me away from watchful eyes for a few minutes.

I, of course, still remember nothing. But it makes sense. It all makes a very horrible, chilling sense.

And things with the tofurkey friend got very weird and strained over this past weekend. And I'm already getting Thankgiving Terror Tremors. So I called her up last night and uninvited her. I am an asshole. And now that I don't have a friend-with-nowhere-to-go to hide behind, what do you want to bet we end up at my mom's house? Thanksgiving is all powerful. That turkey is like a gigantic black hole... sucking everyone into its maw.

I hate Thanksgiving.

Posted by Trista @ 9:56 AM

Read or Post a Comment

Trista, you have my wholehearted sympathies. Is there any way that you and Kristin and Julia can just pack up and go camping for the horrible weekend? Sometimes the best way to get away from those horrible family memories and things is to get away with your new family and start new memories.

As a survivor of sexual abuse, I know about those feelings. I was 40 before I could take a shower without having panic attacks, and even now immensely prefer to take baths.

Posted by Blogger Faith @ 12:18 PM #
 

fuck that...you deserve sanity, have your quiet little turkey day and enjoy!

Posted by Anonymous kt @ 6:08 PM #
 

Oh Trista. I hope you get some help about this. And you are brave. And I am so sorry that you we abused. Fucking asshole. I know that someday, after some healing around this (go to therapy!) you will reclaim this day. I love you.

Posted by Blogger charlotte @ 10:18 AM #
 

Oh sweetie, I know you don't know me, I came by way of Zilla, but I can feel the tension and anxiety ripping through this post.

Family dinners at my mom's house create this anxiety in me too, so badly that usually before any holiday I cringe every time the phone rings for fear that it's my mom trying to guilt me into coming to her house.

It wasn't so bad before I got the second phone line. No body, and I mean no body could get through on our line then. I'd just connect the internet and go about my business.

One word, Zanex. Oh, wait, you know what you could do, volunteer at a shelter for turkey day. "Mom, we just can't make it, so many people are depending on us to dish out their food this turkey day."

Be well sweetie and do what's right for you and your family!

Posted by Blogger fineartist @ 4:10 PM #
 
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