My Therapist Says

My Therapist Says to Write Notes to My Future Self

Here’s how I learned to transform present pain into future growth

Emillio Mesa
Elemental
Published in
4 min readMar 3, 2021

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Illustration of a person making a voice recording while overlooking an aurora borealis of sound bites.
Xinmei Liu for Elemental

At 13, I told my grandmother that one day everyone would know that I was único, Spanish for unique. That was my code for being queer.

“You already are, my son. The past and the future can never meet. That’s why God placed the present in the middle,” she told me.

My grandmother’s words came back to me in an unexpected way, thanks to the chaos that the Covid-19 pandemic wrought in both the world and my life. Before the pandemic, I had a thriving special events business in San Francisco. I planned elegant galas for startups and cooked and hosted dinner parties in my home for international guests. I received a lot of press and won awards. And then, suddenly, I went from having to decline business to all of my clients canceling on me. In one day, I saw the next 10 months of my life disappear faster than free shots at a Gay Pride fiesta. That night, I woke up in a swamp, my sweat mixed with half a bag of kale chips that I had left under my bedcovers. At least I didn’t wet the bed, like I used to when I got nervous as a child.

I was left in my grandparents’ care after my mother divorced and decided to go to the United States to make a better life for us. I was one year old. When I was six, my mother returned for me, with a new family. I was torn from my grandmother’s arms in the Dominican Republic and taken to an airplane headed to New York. After my arrival, I started to have insomnia, as well as nocturnal panic attacks when I could fall asleep. After I fully assimilated, they eventually stopped. However, they returned after being triggered by 9/11, my grandmother’s death, and a boyfriend’s betrayal.

Still, I was largely able to keep them under control through therapy sessions and the occasional prescription sleeping pill, until the coronavirus struck. I lost not only my business but also my health insurance. A medical necessity became a luxury I could not afford. Meanwhile, my mother went through cancer surgery, and my grandfather died in hospice care, and I couldn’t be there for any of it. I was distraught under the first shutdown.

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Emillio Mesa
Elemental

Experience Planner| Dinner Parties/Events. Byline: Medium, The NY Times, Huffpost, NY Magazine, SF Weekly, Quartz, Interview magazine-among others.