By Sarah Fader

As a child, I was terrified of social gatherings, particularly if they were family ones. We would all sit around the table and have to talk to each other and it freaked me out. Not my immediate family, but if there were extended relatives and friends and friends of friends and pie. Enter Thanksgiving. This is the holiday of all holidays. I had to psych myself up to be able to survive this day. First of all my mom was busy cooking the turkey all day, and that’s like babysitting a small child.

I wanted to talk to her about my anxiety, but she was busy being anxious about burning the turkey. So I would sit in my room telling myself that I was going to eat soon and stuffing makes everything better right? Right.


I sat at the table and waited for the stuffing to come in my direction.


As the people began to show up, my anxiety got worse. But I had a plan. I was going to sit in the corner, get as much stuffing as possible and maybe a little bit of turkey and then go into the room where all the coats were on the bed and hide under them. It was an excellent plan and I was satisfied with it. I sat at the table and waited for the stuffing to come in my direction. I loaded up my plate with stuffing and a number of adults pressured me to eat turkey, even though I don’t really care about it.

There was sparkling apple cider too. I made sure I drank a lot of that. As soon as I finished the turkey I started to feel the effects of the tryptophan and I was ready to crash. I excused myself from the table and went into my parent’s bedroom where the pile of coats was on the bed. If you are feeling sadness during Thanksgiving the best thing to do is find where all the coats are piled and climb underneath them. I guarantee all of your sadness and fear will completely disappear for that moment in time…until someone finds you, which is what happened to me.

My cousin walked into the room where I was hiding under the coats and asked what I was doing. I didn’t answer her, but I did have to abandon my coat fort. I thought I was safe, but sadly I was mistaken.


I just don’t hide under coats anymore.


I still think of this anecdote whenever I have Thanksgiving. You see, that social anxiety never actually went away. I just don’t hide under coats anymore. Instead, I go excuse myself to use the bathroom but don’t actually use it. I sit on top of the toilet with the lid closed and collect my thoughts. The thing about social anxiety is that you often feel alone, even if you’re in a giant room of people. This happened to me as a child and it continues to happen to me as an adult.

If I’m at Thanksgiving at someone else’s house and there’s someone I like talking to, I’ll focus on them and tune the rest of the room out. If there are kids there, I’ll play with them. Better yet, if there are animals there, I’ll pet them; especially cats. The fun thing about cats is they inadvertently play hide and seek. You have to find out where the cats are hiding and it’s a distracting game from feeling socially awkward.

If you’re feeling socially anxious this Thanksgiving, find a pile of coats to hide under or a bathroom to hide in and let me know how it goes!

Social Anxiety on Thanksgiving
Sarah FaderCEO of
Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Quartz, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York.