When Self-Care Is Not Going Home For The Holidays

In case someone hasn’t told you this already, you do not have to put yourself in toxic environments.

I always tell people I'm an orphan. They think I'm kidding, but I'm not. My parents are both alive today, but I don't speak to either of them. For the most part, I chose that. I chose to exclude them from my life, but it goes much deeper than that. I won't be spending the holidays with my parents.

"Ally just wants to be lonely."

My mother says that about me. It's not true. It actually couldn't be further from the truth. I don't want to be lonely. I don't want to be alone at all. I want people. I want family. I want loved ones. I want friends. I want a life partner. I want relationships. Beautiful, full, and healthy relationships. I want better relationships. Better relationships with family, friends, and lovers. A better relationship with myself.

But I want all those things in an honest space. In a space where the truth lives, even if it hurts sometimes or makes us uncomfortable. In a space where I am allowed to be who I am, even if who I am isn't the person you want me to be. In a space where I loved … unconditionally.

I want all of those things so badly.

My parents don't give me those things. They never have. I never felt close to my parents as I imagine a child should. My childhood was saturated in chaos, neglect, instability, and anxiety with a game of role reversal where the children had to be the parents. There wasn't space for me to make mistakes, express feelings, or receive comfort and support because my parents were too wrapped up in their own misery. My father is an absent alcoholic who continues to drink despite nearly losing his life this past spring. My mother fits the textbook definition of a narcissist, but true to the stereotype, has never been diagnosed because she doesn't think anything is wrong with her.

All of these things contributed to shame, low self-esteem, and a gross misunderstanding of what a loving and caring relationship looks like. My parents are human. I know that. I trust that. But neither have made the effort to change themselves since I've matured to adulthood. The instability and chaos continues.

There's a lot of pain there. Pain that holds me back from the things I want in my life. Everything changed last year, and finally — I am committed to changing myself and unlearning the damaging lessons I picked up from my parents.

When I was in junior high, my sister gave me Stephen Chobsky's book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. "We accept the love we think we deserve." Fuck. Do we ever. I remember reading that at 12 years old and knowing — feeling it to my core —that was true.

I've spent the last year working to be better for and to myself. Learning to walk in my truth. Learning to embrace the flaws. Learning to love myself through it all, no matter what. It hasn't been easy. It's actually been painful and lonely and I've thought about running away hundreds of times, but it just might be the best thing I could do for myself. Self-love is hard. Especially for someone like me who grew up in an environment without much love. There was love for me there, but it wasn't a priority. I never felt worthy of considering myself and my feelings.

I'm changing that. I deserve more than what my parents give me. I finally feel worthy of love, and I will only accept the love I deserve … the unconditional love that remains despite anything and everything.

I am not at a point in my recovery where I can be around my parents. I don't know if I ever will be. Maybe one day, but not today. I need time away from them to experience what I want and need. I won't see them this holiday season. It's better this way.

In case someone hasn't told you this already, you do not have to put yourself in toxic environments. You deserve to be loved for who you are. Self-care can be choosing to spend the holidays away from your family. It's OK to choose yourself. You are worthy of beautiful, full, and unconditional love. 

This post originally appeared on Ally Niemiec's Medium page. Niemiec writes about healing from physical and mental trauma. She lives in Atlanta with her three cats. 

Cover image via Unsplash


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