2020: The Year of Staying In

Hi all. I’m here. Alive. Still sober. Currently surrounded by blankets and pillows, trying to warm myself up from the bones out as Minneapolis braces against this surprising cold snap.

There is a lot that could be said about the past seven months since I last wrote on here in July.

I’ll start with this: 2019 was rough.

Like, holy shit rough.

Like… “I’m a new full-time therapist trying to build several new — and extremely challenging — therapeutic relationships while also trying to build a non-monogamous relationship with a new partner and also my long-term, long-distance partner who is developing deep, gnarly depression, and I’m also trying to find a place to live in a city that is quickly becoming unaffordable while navigating life post-graduation with no helping hand or roadmap to professional licensure, while also pursuing yoga teacher training” kind of rough.

It was a really, really rough year. By mid-August, I could barely function. My long-distance relationship (LDR) was quickly unraveling under the pressure of our new non-mongamous structure, and I was in a state of being very selfish and stubborn when it came to navigating that new landscape, which caused my LDR partner to become even more frustrated, hurt, and demanding of me. His depression spiraled out of control and I felt at a loss to make it stop. We kept spiraling with each other. Every conversation left me feeling completely zapped. I was angry, hurt, sad, frustrated, alone. I wanted so badly for it to work. I didn’t know how to make it OK, and neither did he.

While all of that was going on, I was trying to adjust to being a new grad and navigating the world of being in social services after having worked at a desk on a computer for the past 7 years straight. My new job as a full-time therapist had a huge learning curve, and some of my very earliest client cases were with incredibly difficult folks who would push back at every chance they could get. I was emotionally drained. Tired all the time. Trying to accommodate for other peoples’ feelings more than my own. Crying a lot. Frequently sick. Fried nerves. The whole nine yards.

At the end of September, I ended my LDR. It was awful. October was a painful, eye-opening month for me. Despite having a local partner who was open and willing to help me process that pain, it felt like the most major loss since my divorce five years prior. I was devastated, and spent a lot of time crying still. I took some time off work — my local partner and I took a random Wednesday to go hiking down south of the cities for the day, and while that was nice, it felt almost like a lie. What this really it? I tried to wrap my head around the loss as something that needed to happen, because of how terribly unhappy we were making each other toward the end. But it didn’t ever sit quite right.

At the end of October, my local partner took off for what was supposed to be a 1.5-month trip to India. He’s currently still overseas, 2.5 months later. Just a few days after he left, my ex and I started talking again. We were both really hesitant to talk about moving forward together at first. The hurt was still very fresh and very real for both of us — for him, because I had broken up with him and left him at a time when he felt he needed me most, and for me, because I felt as though he had been using his emotional pain and turmoil against me for months, inducing guilt and trying to use his emotions to get me to change course. We both felt resentment, defensiveness, and fear.

But, we kept talking. And talking. And finding new ways to talk about old hurts. And opening ourselves to really hear the other person when they spoke. One night, early on, he offered to read a book to me over the phone before bed. As he read, I slowly dozed off, and missed the second half of the chapter. I woke up to a text from him about an hour later, saying that he knew I fell asleep but he wanted to keep reading anyways, and that after he was done, he talked to me a little bit about his hopes and dreams for us as I quietly snoozed on the other end of the line.

It’s been getting better and better. Not perfect, but so much closer than it has ever been. In fact, where we are right now feels better and more secure than it did even before he moved away in April. I’m more in love. More invested. More determined to make this last. One of the bigger developments is that he and I have been talking about the possibility of me moving down to Indiana to be with him — to move to Fort Wayne or Indianapolis so that he and I can live together and keep developing what we have, while he can still maintain a close relationship with his son. I wouldn’t be able to move until August, so we have some time, but the idea is exhilarating and scary and so wonderful. I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

So, yes. 2019 was a beautifully awful and graciously demanding year. Personally, I nearly burnt myself out completely. Professionally, I almost did the same. I’ve spent much of the past month or so, since early December, really withdrawing into myself and rebuilding much of the emotional, mental, and physical energy I spilled out into the world over the past year. Rather, the past several years. It feels as though, since the beginning of grad school in early 2016 (4 years ago this month!), I had been running full-steam until I eventually ran straight into a wall in late 2019. I just couldn’t go any further. I tried to wrap my arms around the whole world and ended up stretching so far my arms nearly popped out of their sockets. Painful. No more, please. I’m done.

I am still tired, but it feels more like the normal kind of tired now. I’ve spent the last 5 weeks really turning inward, focusing on regenerating myself and focusing the appropriate amount of energy into rebuilding what I have with my LDR partner. I’ve been focusing on rebuilding routine into my days — tea in the morning, gym during the workday between client sessions, and a home-cooked meal at night before cuddling with my (new!) cat in bed or in front of the TV. I’ve been turning down invitations to go out. Frequently. The thought of joining most social events sounds incredibly draining and even anxiety-inducing at this point, and so I’ve opted for nights in watching trash TV on the living room couch while snuggled under a big fuzzy blanket instead.

At times I catch myself feeling weird or guilty for not going out and joining in on more things. But only for a moment, before I start thinking to myself about whether those things would bring me the kind of joy, regeneration, or fulfillment that I’d need to make it worth spending the energy. Usually, the answer is a firm no. I spent so many years running myself so hard and doing so much, socializing every week and high-performing at work and earning my degree and running a writing group, that I nearly ran myself straight into a hole in the ground…

So I feel okay just being at home, cuddling under blankets and drinking tea and allowing myself and my mind a break from whatever it is I think I “should” be doing. That is to say, I am embracing my natural introverted tendencies and really starting to prioritize my obligations in a way that feels healthier and more manageable for me. It feels like a really good way to start off the new decade, the decade of my 30s. I think I could get used to this.

❤ Em, day 1282

One thought on “2020: The Year of Staying In

  1. Untipsyteacher says:

    Hi Em!
    I am so sorry to read about your tough year. You are such a gifted young woman!
    (I’m writing this is bed at 10:00 am on Sunday! Lol So I understand snuggling in bed in Minneapolis!)

    I am glad you took some self care time. Anyone in the helping community, teachers, doctors, therapists, etc, can burn out so fast because they care so much!


    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s