The beach is a good place for rethinking your life. We’ve had an intense decade — from pregnancy to small children to friends in crisis to cancer. I have been feeling in desperate need of a vacation for years, but although I am here ‘on vacation’, I am mostly working, because I have so much work to do. And I actually love my work, for the most part — I’m reading subs for an anthology, I’m writing fiction and essays, I’m prepping for classes that start soon.
It’s all good. But it’s very time-consuming, and a lot of my time has been eaten in the last several years, in part by my own cancer treatment, and in part because for whatever reason, several people I’m close to have been in severe crisis for years, and needing a lot of time and support. Many of their problems are serious, and honestly, somewhat beyond me in terms of being able to give them knowledgeable, skilled help. I listen, I try to give advice as I can, I educate myself on their issues as I have time and energy, I spend time with them. Lots of time. I haven’t been talking about this publicly, and am going to be very vague about it now, because their stories are not my story. I feel bad even saying this much, but I can’t think how to talk about my own issues without acknowledging what’s causing them.
There are literally not enough hours in the day, and when I think about that, when I actually count the hours and try to fit it all in, I get panicky. I’ve been coping, and I suppose I could continue to just cope — but I’d like to do better than panicked coping.
Something has to give, and mostly, I think I’m going to be pulling back from people in crisis, aside from immediate family. It feels really horrible to say that. I wonder whether it feels as horrible to men, to say that kind of thing, to prioritize one’s self (and one’s work) over the health of others. Emotional labor is *labor* — it consumes time, and energy, sometimes at a fierce rate. My well is feeling bone-dry at the moment, and while I don’t want to abandon anyone in despair, I also am running on empty myself. Time to move some boundaries. If you’re a friend of mine in crisis, I’d like you to consider me a last resort, rather than a first stop. I’m so sorry.
I’m planning to find a therapist when I get back to Chicago. I don’t live with mental illness, thankfully, unlike many people I know and love. But the last few years have taken a toll on me, and I am exhausted and in need of help. Help drawing boundaries, help refilling the well. Maybe meditation, maybe something else. I have good friends, and I could call them, try to talk this all out. But they’re generally fiercely busy themselves — we’re in that time of life, mid-40s, when time is in incredibly short supply.
They would make time for me, but I have health insurance, and can afford a professional. Just as it’s sometimes useful to hire a personal trainer to help you get over the hump of starting to exercise regularly, or learn how to exercise more effectively, I’d like to talk to someone trained in the ways of the mind, to help me learn how to manage my self, my time, my peace of mind more effectively.
A friend with experience in all this suggested that I go to psychologytoday.com — they have a find a therapist function that many people use. They also suggested that I ask around and get referrals from friends and coworkers in the area I’m willing to travel to. Their best therapists came on referral for the most part. So that’s the plan. It may take a few tries to find a good fit; that’s okay. Time to invest in my mental health, just as I’ve been prioritizing exercise as an investment in my physical health.
And hey, if you know a great therapist in Chicagoland who takes Blue Cross / Blue Shield HMO health insurance, drop me a line.
(Posting all this mostly in hopes of contributing to destigmatizing mental illness / health.)