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This weekend marks Canadian Thanksgiving. While our province is under continued restrictions my family has opted to remain in our homes for the weekend. Typically we get together at my parents’ home with cousins and grandparents. We eat turkey and fixings. Dessert is enjoyed as is the conversation. The conversation is typically commentary on our jobs, politics and farming. But on Thanksgiving there’s a special air to the buzz. A special sense of appreciation and joy that is not felt on average days.

It took me a while to appreciate these family holidays. In high school I worked through most of the family dinners, university I began to enjoy seeing faces I did not have the ability to see often, but my time was always split between two families + whomever I was dating at the time and their families. It was rushed, it was an obligation. Post-university I was able to enjoy family dinners more. Perhaps I became more confident in myself and could partake in the conversation better with the wisdom of my life experiences. During this time it was obvious to me, one family was a better “fit” to my new self than the other. Now, now... calm down. I don’t hate them for being different. Actually I don’t have ill feelings towards them at all, I hope they are well. But it made family holidays… unpleasant and stressful for me.

And then something happened. I broke. I broke off my relationship with my mother and her family. I won’t go into the personal details too much about what happened between us. But it was inevitable. It is only in the past couple years of on and off therapy, my own personal knowledge in therapy and advice from others that I have come to understand what finally happened.

Childhood trauma.

I went through a lot of transitions as a kid. My parents divorcing, moving upwards of 10 times in 10 years, boyfriends and girlfriends that came and went. I built up a lot of trust issues. I was so used to change that my soul expects it. Which according to psych, may have led me to being a rather anxious adult. I never knew stability. So when it came into my life, how could I trust it? How could I believe when a good thing happened it would stay?

Not even friends stayed. I moved in grade 5 to a new school and was plopped into new peers, city life, living in two homes, meeting my parents dates, my brother hopped between the two homes over the years. The friends I made in public school were then sent to a new school in grade 8, but by grade 9 when we met again in high school, we were all becoming different people. During this time I was victim to bullying from both males and females in my school. I don’t know why, but either way, stable relationships were a thing I had little exposure to.

I never thought this impacted me. I went through high school living with my mother and sometimes my brother, sometimes with a boyfriend of hers, at one point there was a step-sibling in the home too. Some weekends I went to my dad's. Eventually I picked up two part time jobs and threw myself into the predicted and highly structured routines of work. I can’t help but believe this is because that’s what I was craving.

My relationship with my mother also reinforced and fed this life I was living, isolated, working towards a goal she had for herself. She modeled a lot of the behaviour and personality traits in me that always felt hard to be. A challenge perhaps? Or a well-intended influence? Who I am today is a major mirror of my mother. Again, I’m a little off topic, but I don’t blame her. She did what she knew to do. But it created some issues in myself that I had to identify in order to fix.

My childhood traumas are not near as painful as some have gone through, events that I cannot even remotely relate to. Everyone has their own story and this is mine. This is how I became who I am. My anxiety was fed for years by inappropriate coping strategies and life choices. I’d fight to keep people at a distance, so that way I could have some control over the outcome. I can remember the one break up that finally tipped me to anxiety in dating. That’s a story for another day.

I went through a lot of transitions as a kid. I always thought that I was dealing with my emotions. I was strong, survived, smiling and all the better for it. But now as an adult I realized I was faking it and trying to make it. But I never made it. I was living a life full of unknowns and uncertainties, which has prevailed as anxiety in many forms. The point I’m trying to get across is to know your traumas; no matter how big or small. Know your history. Know where you are coming from and you can begin to identify what actions you’re taking to keep your life “safe”.

You can break down the walls that you’ve been waiting on someone else to take down. Allow yourself to enjoy life in a healthy way. You can learn how to be present and content. The first step is to look into yourself. Are you ready?

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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