When it rains, it pours.
When an Angeleno leaves LA for any subjectively significant time, one’s re-entry is provisional until they’ve seen their therapist.
I don’t make the rules (okay, sometimes I do). But in my case, it’s true. The past few weeks have wrung me dry and I didn’t feel truly centered until I had a therapy appointment.
This whole year has been enormously challenging—multiple job changes, my already-disastrous dating life being turned upside down the moment I trusted it wasn’t going to crash and burn for a change, and all of the fallout from the trauma caused by everything. It’s been too much, way too much for me.
Amongst my friends, I’m known at the present, dependable, resourceful one. I’m the one they call at 3am in a crisis because I always know what to do and who to call. Yet I suddenly found myself freefalling in a space where I couldn’t even grasp a single handhold.
And yet, figuratively, the phone still rang one night at 3am and I picked it up like I always do. It was fairly serious: one of my four siblings was going through a health crisis related to an autoimmune disorder going haywire and needed help. Getting back and forth to appointments, sorting her life out, making sure contingency was in place, assessing her situation—in her own words, she called in the wolf.
So a few weeks ago I dropped everything and boarded a plane to Portland in the middle of an unusual record-breaking heatwave. I spent a week and change cleaning her house top to bottom, sorting through the endless things between her partner and housemate, sitting in on appointments with the state and her medical team.
We still managed to let loose and have fun when the day’s work was done—but in the middle of one of those evenings we found out our brother back in our home state was also going through an emergent situation. It was also related to chronic but unrelated issues and required not one but two urgent surgeries.
In the middle of all that I received news that I had a job offer back in Los Angeles—great! Except I had to decide what to do about my existing part-time but steady job. And I had committed to working a lucrative event the weekend immediately after returning home.
In the end, I decided to keep the part-time job and so now I have a six-day workweek. Between landing late on a weeknight, having to turn around and go to the part-time office the next morning, then work an event all weekend, then start a new job the Monday after, all immediately after taking care of my sick sister for over a week, I did not have a single day off to myself for three weeks.
On one hand, I’m physically exhausted even more than I already have been this year. On the other hand, handling everyone else’s crises and being too busy to think is a great way to turn off my own waterfall of emotions!
Since everything hit the fan this year, my therapist often asks me what I have done and what I plan to do for self-care. I was genuinely stumped when she asked me this time, both before and after our session. “I dunno,” I thought out loud. “Showering and sleeping?” Usually my answers are a mix of things: stretching, journaling, hiking, hitting the gym. It’s not only wild to me that it’s been so long since I did those things but that so much has happened since I did. And I can’t go back.
I’ve had breakneck schedules like this before, ones that were far more taxing on my time and resources for less in return. Both jobs today are daytime, reliable, and not all that difficult or stressful. But the familiarity of workaholism, of filling my time with someone else’s needs and leaving little for myself, is something I understand much better now than I did before.
And I must say that it is nice for a break from the overwhelming emotions that I swam in aimlessly before this all happened, even if I know they’ll swing back sooner or later. I know enough now to know what can happen if I’m not careful and don’t hold to my boundaries and needs. It will be interesting to see how my routine settles and how I find the balance.