You’re invited to Thanksgiving dinner. You ask the host/hostess what you can bring and they say “nothing” or “Just yourself”. There might be several reasons for that . Maybe they really have everything covered, maybe enough people have offered that there is really nothing else to divvy out. Or maybe your hostess is an introvert with anxiety issues and feels inadequate if she asks or thinks of a several reason it might inconvenience you if she asks you to bring something.
I’m that Introvert Thanksgiving hostess with anxiety and depression and I want to tell you why I volunteer and why sometimes I don’t really mean “nothing”.
Why do I do it?
First of all I like to host Thanksgiving dinner at my home. It’s my safe place. I don’t have to leave my house. I don’t have to feel like I need to find an excuse to leave because I’m mentally drained or overwhelmed at another place. I know everyone that will come through the door here. I don’t have to worry about being around several people I don’t know.
I’m in a position where I’m going to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family so I may as well do it where I feel comfortable. It helps that we have a big enough house to host everyone. Even at that, it’s not always easy. We usually have a minimum of 16 people here and we’ve had up to 23 for Thanksgiving. I still get drained with all the socializing, requests, work, did I mention socializing? I have to smile when I really just want to run up to my room, be by myself, and close the door to recharge. If I don’t find some time to recharge, you’ll see it on my face. You’ll hear it in my voice. My patience, my socializing energy, will be depleted at some point. Don’t get mad at me if I disappear for 15 minutes. Rather, you should be happy I did because I was refilling that well so I can carry-on and not be a crabby hostess.
I host it at my house because I feel like I have some control of the situation. More so than if I was somewhere else. Because, well, it’s my home, my safe place.
I get overwhelmed fairly easily. Having too much on my to-do list can make me shut down and not want to do any of it. If I host it I can plan ahead and do things on my time until Thanksgiving. Make pies today, tomorrow make deviled eggs, etc. I can set the time. Certain times of the day I function better than others.
But why would I say “nothing” when you ask what to bring? When you ask if you can help why do I say “I got it” if I get overwhelmed so easy?!
I know people like me are complicated. For that you’d have to understand the anxiety and depression part. When my anxiety and depression is bad it can say ugly things to me. Things like:
- “Your house isn’t clean enough, you should have spent more time cleaning”
- “Don’t tell them you need help, they’ll think you can’t handle it”
- “Why did you tell them to bring scalloped potatoes when you’re already making mashed potatoes that was really stupid”.
- “What if I tell them nothing but realize later I needed something? That’s too short of notice for them”
- “I know they’re having a harder time financially I just want them to enjoy and not worry about anything. I can afford to do everything. OH? but wait, what if they think I’m doing that to be a snob?! Like what if they think I don’t like their pies or their mac n’ cheese or what if they think I don’t even want them here?!!!”
I wish I could say I’m exaggerating but there’s probably uglier things than that my mind has said to me because of anxiety. It’s just easier for me to say “nothing” than deal with the negative chatter in my head. The same goes for when people ask what they can do to help. So I just do it all.
So what can a guest do to help?
- Don’t point out negatives. If there’s not enough forks just use a spoon or wash a couple forks to reuse. If you see the sink is overflowing with dishes just start doing them. If you know the hostess forgot the green bean casserole in the kitchen just go get it and bring it in.
- Don’t point out that the hostess forgot something. Chances are your anxiety-ridden, depressed Thanksgiving host is probably already thinking she didn’t make enough, her house isn’t clean enough, she probably forgot something, something probably doesn’t taste right, or it’s not as good as someone else’s. About two years ago I ended up running out of forks. I had people keep asking where the forks were. And it was a running joke, still a joke. While I try to laugh about it it made me feel like I failed. You know what i did? I bought another set of flatware and have a hoarders stash of forks now because I’m worried that will happen again. I still beat myself up about that. About forks! FORKS! Even I know how ridiculous that sounds and how trivial it really is in the grand scheme but this is anxiety.
Another year I made a whole spread for Thanksgiving. Hosted 23 people at my house. I made several pies from scratch, homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, delegated some sides to some people to bring, stocked up on a variety of drinks (because I was worried someone wouldn’t like something or couldn’t have something). I was proud of myself then someone askes “Where are the deviled eggs?” I realized I didn’t make any. Several people agreed we usually have deviled eggs. All the work I did, everything I planned seemed like nothing because that was now the focus. How could I have forgot to make deviled eggs? Why didn’t I think of that!? That’s what people were looking forward to, now they’re disappointed. This is what anxiety sounds like. It’s not usually rational.
- A compliment can go a long way: No your host/hostess with anxiety isn’t mad at your or ignoring you. They’re either recharging or just taking in the conversation. Or they’re lost in a world of worry or feeling overwhelmed. A simple, “thank you for hosting dinner” or a comment like “This is a really nice spread, I know it was a lot of work” Can really change the negative mindset of the anxiety monster.
- Don’t Overstay: Trust me I’m happy you’re here. I enjoyed spending time together on Thanksgiving but I need recharge time otherwise I just become mush and not much of a hostess anymore.
- Don’t say things like “just try to be more positive” or “you’re being ridiculous”: Really there are a number of things like that that don’t help. If a person could just be “happy”. If a person could just shift their mind and “be positive” they wouldn’t need medication, counseling, they wouldn’t be writing posts like this, and there wouldn’t be so many people turning to suicide. Instead help your friend or family member by using the happiness you have to encourage them. Don’t point out negatives, don’t remind them that they are negative. If you have enough light, shine it on those who don’t don’t make their world darker by pointing out their negatives.