Lifestyle

Not Everyone Missed Their Family During The Shutdown

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The change is palpable. The days are getting longer, the vaccines and stimulus checks are coming. People have real hope for the first time in a year. My friends have been posting about how much they miss their relatives, how the first thing they will do when they are vaccinated is hug their mom and dad, and how much their children miss their grandparents. At times during shutdown, people risked their own and other people’s safety to be with their family, because they couldn’t bear to be without them. I observe all of this as though watching a movie scene: I understand the sentiments, but I do not experience them. For some of us, COVID has been the perfect excuse to distance from toxic or abusive relationships.

My parents live far away, and I haven’t seen them since before quarantine began. I usually see them a few times a year, and I have had enough therapy to learn how to keep the visits civil. But that doesn’t mean that our relationship feels warm or enjoyable. I have come to rely on a pattern of small talk and low expectations, plus boundaries around things I won’t discuss learned over years of experience. The current situation keeps the peace but is exhausting for me to maintain. It requires that I filter my needs, and makes my parents’ needs the center of the conversation.

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Having known no other type of parental interaction, I assumed this is the way I should feel. Holidays are supposed to be a guilt-laden stress-marathon where I focus my anxiety and OCD on the perfect meal, so that I don’t have to think about how uncomfortable I am, right? But then, when the CDC asked us to not gather indoors for holidays this year, we all dutifully obeyed. And I had the best time ever! I never realized just how draining these visits were until I wasn’t forced to endure them. In this way, my sheltering in place has been a refuge from that storm.

However, quarantine was far worse for many victims, as people were trapped inside with their abuser. Globally, domestic violence and rape reports increased up to 20-30%. According to the National Institute of Health, “[Q]uarantine conditions are associated with alcohol abuse, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms,” not to mention the economic pain that prolonged shutdown has caused, creating a perfect storm for abuse and violence in many families and relationships.

I am glad that my parents are safe and have not gotten the coronavirus this year. In spite of my traumatic childhood, I do not wish them harm. I wasn’t even aware that I had these feelings until I didn’t miss them all year and started dreading what it will be like to see them again. They are vaccinated now, and soon we all will be. So, I’m steeling myself to see them this summer and go back to those types of visits and holidays again.

I will continue to be really happy for people to be reunited over the coming months as they get vaccinated. And I’m really excited to hug my friends again. I just don’t feel that way about my parents, and that’s OK.

If someone has been hurting you or someone in your family, please call the National Domestic hotline 800.799.SAFE (7233).