Life can be Therapy

The goal of starting this blog for me is to create an open area for me to think through what is going on in my life and how this year of travel has changed it (good and bad). In essence, it is meant to be a form of therapy for me. So in the spirit of the idea of therapy, I have decided to explain my history with therapy and therapeutic outlets I have found on Remote Year.

I was introduced to Therapy at the age of 13. My intro was anything but wanted. Let me set the stage.

The fall of my 8th grade year of school, my older sister had been feeling sick for a while. We did not think much of it but her lymph-nodes in her chest had stayed swollen for months and she was having a lot of trouble breathing. My mom had started asking family friends who were doctors at dinners to check her neck and feel the nodes. Most told my mom there was nothing to worry about as they seemed innocent enough until Thanksgiving when my grandfather’s girlfriend’s grandson-in-law, a doctor who was in his residency, felt them and told my mom to get my sister more thoroughly checked out.

As an 8th grader, I was hopelessly unaware of how much time had been spent asking people and worrying about my sister’s breathing and while I do not remember, I am sure I felt at the time it was an overreaction. Angsty as I was, I did not think too much of what was going on until we were on our way to Sun Valley Idaho for Winter/Christmas vacation. In the airport, my whole family is asked to sit down together and my little sister and I are told the news.

My sister has cancer.

The prognosis was actually really good. Stage 2a bulky Hodgkins Lymphoma. For a 16-year-old pediatric patient, which is what my sister was, it was seen to have a 90+% survival rate. Spoiler alert: June in June, my sister will be 12 years cancer-free. 10 years is a huge milestone where you are officially seen to be cured, so luckily now she is healthy! But at the time, while we got those statistics, it was still extremely scary.

I am almost 3 years younger than my sister and have been trying to act her age all my life. She is my role model in life and will never cease to be someone I strive to be. This was the first time I had ever not wanted to be just like my sister. While I was in 8th grade, I had started going to the same high-school (7th-12th) as her the year before. She had her license and at the time was driving me to school everyday.

After winter break, her friend started to drive me instead and my daily life changed. Naturally, my mom forced me to go to a therapist shortly after I returned to school from break. I did not want to go. I spent exactly 1 session with this therapist. During it, I cried for an hour straight and when I left I refused to go back.

What I learned from this experience is that in order for therapy to work, you need to want to make a change and want to get better. For me, as a 13 year old, I was able to admit that I did need help but I was not ready to actually take that help and for that the experience was extremely negative for me.

About six years later, when I was 19 and in the summer after my freshman year of college, I went to therapy for the second time.

Everyone wants to think their parent’s have the perfect marriage. For me, that illusion was shattered when I was a senior in high school. I will not go into the full specifics of it but my mom confided in me that their relationship had changed and started to use me as someone to talk to, mostly because she was unsure about talking with a lot of other people about this, when I was a senior in high school.

Let me back up. At the start of my senior year of high school, I stopped talking to my father. I had started to feel like he only talked to me out of habit and so I started to play with not responding. His actions did not change based on mine and for me, I think I took it as a challenge to see how far I could go (side note: I am an extremely competitive person). In this process, on my own, I found that my father was not really trying to get to know me and more just completing his checklist of what he thought it was to be a father. From that point on, I started to distance myself. This sounds extremely harsh but a lot of other factors are at play in my relationship with my father. I could probably write a novel on it but for the sake of this post, it is important for you to understand that on my own prior to my mom confiding in me, I was in the process of giving myself space from my father because I did not feel like the relationship was healthy. (For the record: I hope to have a relationship with him at some point in the future but at this point in time, I know that I still expect things from him that he is unable to provide me and for that I have chosen on my own to keep my distance).

Family is really important to my mom and she has instilled this in my sisters and I. This was a big deal for her to potentially split her family. At the time, it was only her problem and she decided to try to make things work with him. By the time I came back from college after my freshman year, my house was a battle zone. My parents were fighting a lot and my father had grown increasingly hard to deal with. My little sister had been left at home to be in the middle of it by herself for the whole year my sister and I were off at college.

I last a few weeks in the house before I asked my mom to get me a therapist. Every week I would go and talk to her and try to sort out what was going on with my family. For that summer, it was the perfect thing to get me through and I found therapy to be an escape for me.

By the time I left for school in the fall, I knew something had to change, while my little sister was now going to have my new college graduate sister at home, I did not wish for either one of them to live in that house as it was. Luckily, they did not have to and by the time I came home for Thanksgiving, my dad had moved out (I may have helped push the situation along a little for the sake of my mom).

While at home for Thanksgiving, I had a therapy session, this time with my dad there. While my therapist and I had prepped for this session, I ultimately felt that she was his advocate rather than mine in that room and so closes my second chapter of therapy.

At the age of 23, I began therapy again. This time, I was living in NYC and working at my dream job. I am a very emotional person and I had been finding that at work, sometimes my emotions would show themselves in ways that I did not want like me crying when trying to make a point. In search for a way to mitigate this, I sought out therapy. I started Skype therapy with a therapist from LA because I could talk with them after my work day and it was not after hours for them. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had with therapy. I was able to talk about what was going on in my life and start to create solutions for what was not going right. Ultimately, with her help, I found Remote Year as what we really realized was that I had gotten into a destructive routine where my work overtook the rest of my life and I was putting too much pressure on myself to ensure work went well because it was the main thing going on in my life. Unfortunately, Remote Year made having weekly calls close to impossible and we stopped talking for now.

Which brings me to Remote Year and where I find therapeutic outlets. First, traveling is an outlet for me overall. I love to travel and explore new areas and Remote Year provides me with the means to do that at scale. But daily, there are some things I do:

  1. Nature/Exploring — when I can get out in the morning and be outside in nature, it just brightens me up. I do not do this enough especially now that I am in South America but when I do I see a change. Exploring and going out into nature has been my most consistent form of working out out. Working out has always been a great escape for me but is very hard on Remote Year. Every month I work on being a little better but ultimately, there is not enough of a consistent schedule for me to do this. More about this in another post.
  2. Taking time to myself — sometimes you need to get out on your own and just take a morning on your own and for you. I start needlepointing when I was younger and when I was home in February, I got supplies to do it on the road. It allows me to relax and destress, especially while watching some good Netflix.
  3. Audiobooks — I am a notorious over-thinker. This is a new habit for me but I can already see the change. One thing about Remote Year is that your surroundings change every month. One month you can be living above the workspace and the next month you can be a 30 minute walk. I had been noticing that my walks were leading me to stress about my day before it even started and have started to listen to Audiobooks on my walks to work. This allows me to feel productive and get out of my own head, which is part of what therapy does as well.
  4. Talking — while I may not be talking to a therapist, sometimes venting to friends is needed. I think we all do it and it is because it works!

These are just a few of the things that work for me, I can go on but I won’t. Ultimately it is about finding things that work for you in your life, identifying those and making the time to do them, whether it is talking to a therapist or going for a long hike.

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