The Person I Miss Most In America Is My Therapist


Something I’ve always been passionate about is mental health. For all of my life, I’ve had friends and family struggle with emotional and mental stability due to a spectrum of external stimuli and/or cognitive chemical imbalances. And after one of my residents at Boston College committed suicide in the building my junior year, I made the conscious decision to stop hiding; because I struggle too.

People would probably be frightened, intrigued, excited, turned off, turned on, concerned, dumbfounded, and confused if they could really see what was going on in my head. My brain is just one big cluster-fuck of emotions, fantasies, and a bazillion different ideas of how I can take over the world, or at the very least, a small island.

But there’s no real way I can express myself completely with ZERO emotional or social repercussions.

That’s why I loved my therapist. A therapist is legally responsible to keep their mouth shut about whatever is discussed behind closed doors. However, there are two main exemptions from this rule:

– confidentiality can be broken if the client is believed to be a danger to him or herself or someone else.
– suspected child abuse

As a result, the secrets come spilling out like vomit after my first round of Chinese food poisoning. And at the end of our session, I knew that no matter what I said about my friends, my family, or even myself-none of it was going to leave that room. It just felt nice to really be heard without judgement.

I loved my therapist deeply and profoundly. She was a beautiful and brilliant Indian woman who understood how I ticked and why I respond to external stimuli the way I do. She was there for my family drama, when I got my heart shattered, and when one of my best friends committed suicide… all in the same month.

That woman is a saint.

The reason I choose to write on mental health this week is because, recently, China’s been sending me through the ringer. My teaching company is basically scamming me, my VISA isn’t processed correctly, my roommate is trapped in Hong Kong (week 3), an issue with the rent caused me to dump out my savings account, and I still can’t speak enough Chinese to fix any of my problems. There is also a laundry list of other small problems, but I only allot myself a certain amount of bitching every article (that’s not true).


So here’s what I would tell my therapist if she were here:

I want to give up. I am down, I am out, and I want to stay down more than I ever have before in my life.

I want to go home. I want to get a boring corporate job in a boring town just outside of a boring city. I want to find a boring boyfriend so we eventually have a boring wedding and then some boring children, whom will only speak one language and never apply for a passport.


But my fucking friends in China won’t let me give up. Even when I tell them to let me go; to let me drown.

“You can do it” has been replaced by “there’s always a way in China” because we all recognize that it doesn’t matter how strong or talented or brilliant you are, China will always smack you down and win. But it’s not about “winning,” it’s about playing the game well and efficiently. It’s about teamwork. How can we possibly keep as many people afloat as we possibly can? How can we find VISAs? How can we find stable jobs? How can we find proper western healthcare? How can we protect each other from a system that is designed for us to fail?

And how can we reassess efficiently when it inevitably doesn’t work?

A China friend explained, “If you want stability, you came to the wrong country. In exchange for all of the exciting things and people we have here, we recieve an equal amount of frustration, failure, and uncertainty.”

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. I’m not trying to discourage people from coming to teaching English in China for a year. Instead, I’m trying to provide an accurate description of what it means to create a life here for those who want to stay longer. If you’re trying to run away from something, don’t come to China. Live on a beautiful beach in Bali or Thailand. If you’re trying to “find yourself,” maybe you should backpack around America or Europe for a while.

Because China is where champions fall. Legacies end. Empires dissolve.

And this is the place I call my home.


Mental health isn’t something that you can fake or buy. At the end of the day, you have to lay in bed alone with your thoughts and maybe that’s why I, along with so many other foreigners in Beijing, struggle with sleeping so much.

Which is a shame; because we’re a community of dreamers.

If you need to be heard, take the opportunity. Seek someone out and let it out. Your feelings are legitimate, they are important, and they don’t have to take over your life.

Trust me. I live in China.


18 thoughts on “The Person I Miss Most In America Is My Therapist

  1. i don’t ever read blogs, but after i read your things to do instead of get married article i started browsing over your site. i’m 23 and i love the way i can relate to you! everything you say is so true, and it takes guts to say some of them i’m sure. i see all the hater comments and just laugh because they pretty much have negativity engraved in their brains. all i gotta say is you go girl! you have fans

  2. Hey sweet girl. First I want to congratulate you on your success of the most recent post you wrote. I chose to do some browsing in order to get to know you aside from that post — and also get away from all the chaos in those comments! I think you are on the right path and I love that you’re so open. Enjoy your ups and downs, they are clearly shaping you into an amazing person. Happy new year!

  3. This is such an honest post and it is really very admirable that you are dealing with so many environmental pressures but still have a great sense of perspective. Definitely following your work!

  4. Everytime, i sit in office, i make sure of going through your notes. Because, i wanted to be a traveler and now i can’t becauseo f a lot of things, i enjoy living your blog. you write beautifully. your site is like my other newspaper. i wish you all the luck and a happy life in China.

  5. You wrote one part about being screwed by the teaching company and that is an important lesson. A LOT of the companies that deal with international students/work programs seem to screw the clients over. I saw it a lot with the ones coming to work with us. You have to do it knowing that you won’t get rich…you will probably lose actually. You are there to gain in personal experiences which will be with you forever.

    Good luck and once you return you will see home in a whole different light. Trust me on this!

  6. Sounds like you’re doing exactly what you say people shouldn’t do… “If you’re trying to run away from something, don’t come to China.” Just saying, a lot of your posts later on sound like you’re very lost and haven’t found your “thing, either.” I hear a lot of contradiction being spewed. Maybe it’s time to take yourself away from the computer and stop focusing on what advise others should take from you.

  7. Dude, you’re a rock star. I found your blog from the “23 things to do..” I’m 23 and I still have a desire to explore and grow. The strongest people I know, have experienced more and grown more before they decided to get married and start a family. And, I too, miss my therapist EVERYDAY. Stay strong!

  8. Hi Vanessa, I just stumbled upon your blog and I just have to say that I love your awesome style of writing! I’m not a wanderer like you but I, too, have left my home country to settle down in a non-English-speaking country. I totally understand your frustrations arising from language barriers and communication. Mandarin is my second language (almost like my first language since I was raised in a bilingual environment) and I also have many Chinese friends so if you ever need any help with Mandarin feel free to drop by. Keep your awesome posts rocking!

  9. All I really have to say is…thank you. I feel that I am a wanderer at heart, but I don’t currently have the means to do so. I just graduated college, and I’m working in a field that is quite unique, but my soul hungers for more. I’m really not satisfied with anything at this point and I was beginning to lose hope, but your blog has given my dreams a new breath of life. I definitely appreciate your skillful writing, but more so the message in each post. I’ll keep you in my prayers for safety! Peace sister!

  10. Why are u not making money from your website are u sure u doing the end commerce correctly ? Don’t give up. But it’s OK to take a break . How bout an English speaking can center ? Or a professional private English tutor ? Also medical students aspiring to come to United states like to learn Spanish … how bout the . May be none will help . . But I can go home for a while n come back so what if how many ever million people are watching u r mom misses u too ? Get a return ticket n go

  11. I think you are brilliant and amazingly brave to go live in a different country let alone China. I love to travel and see new places, but I have always stayed within a comfort zone. Thank you for inspiring me to seek something where I might not make it, because at least I will know I tried.

  12. Pingback: Recent Viral Posts That Drive Me Nuts…Thoughts? | Running Wind River

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