When I saw my current therapist Erin for the first time in 2019, I walked into her office with absolutely all of my baggage. I showed up fresh from John F. Kennedy Airport off a day-late delayed flight back from my spring vacation to Nashville, suitcase and all, and said, “So… we’ve got a lot to unpack,” gesturing to my quite literal luggage right beside me. She laughed and nodded, I put my bag in a corner, and I knew it was going to be a good relationship.
Most of the baggage I speak of has to do with my crisis response through a lens of trauma — how I am always trying to save everyone as if it’s my burden to bear. It’s because of my childhood. Growing up, I was forced to become an adult too quickly, responsible for everyone else, and always putting myself last.
To this day I always feel the internal tug-of-war to respond to any difficult thing in my life by minimizing my own needs and, like Atlas, holding the world on my shoulders. It turns out that being plunged into a biblical-esque pandemic situation only brings that tendency out even more than usual.
And while it’s something I’ve been trying to work on with my therapist since the beginning, now feels like the best time possible to truly dig in and do the work, in the midst of being tested like this. Earlier this week, after anxiously writing numerous articles about the coronavirus pandemic because I’m a freelance journalist, I sent my therapist an “accountability email” to tell her that I needed to talk about the unhealthy crisis responses it had reawakened in me. I was on the verge of a breakdown.
The world is not my burden to bear. And I am not Atlas.
She replied telling me that she was proud of me for holding myself accountable. She asked me if it was possible for me to stop looking at the news, or (as I’m a journalist) stop writing the news past a certain time of day. She reminded me that even though my job is to be responsible for giving information to people, and sometimes even hope, that doesn’t negate the need to take care of myself.