I’m Moving Across The Country To Escape All My Problems (HA, JK -- But Not Really)

I decided to finally start listening to my own heart or head or whatever. And it's telling me, "California."
Publish date:
May 15, 2013
mental illness, recovery, moving, Los Angeles, nyc

There’s been a secret I’ve been trying to keep a secret since the moment I got back from Palm Springs back in February. And I'm horrible at keeping secrets.

I’m going back to California. Not for rehab! But to live in L.A. Soon. As in, the first of June. As in, “See ya later, NYC! You’ve been good to me these past three years!” [FLASHES MIDDLE FINGER.]

Like Zoe, I’m moving with only three large suitcases. I might be shipping a few boxes, too. I have a one-way ticket. My boyfriend, an L.A. native, is coming with me.

At one point I thought I was going without him. When I first told him I was most likely moving to L.A. in the next couple of months (our plan had been to go together in a year), he said, “Well, I’ll miss you.” I fumed about his unwillingness to come with, and sobbed over my feelings of abandonment to my therapist, until she suggested that perhaps I ask him if he wants to come with? And then I remembered: Oh, yes, communication.

I asked him, he smiled and hugged me so hard I thought my ribs would break -- and said of course. His parents, who live in the L.A. area, and who I met for the first time around Christmas, are STOKED.

My mom’s also happy, I think. She got a promotion within her company and is relocating there from Chicago next week. She keeps saying she needs someone to help walk the dogs. Also, she was confident I’d be stabbed in Chinatown since the second I got here.

Knowing I can crash at her condo while I look for work, even though I’m 24 and have been living all adult-like since the second I graduated college (other than the fact that I live with three people in a gentrified apartment in Bushwick), makes it easier to take the leap suddenly, rather than wait until that one-year mark.

And with my boyfriend coming, and his parents’ general excitement, and some freelance work already lined up, the stars are truly aligning. PALM TREE-SHAPED CONFETTI!

Although it feels like everything’s falling into place so perfectly, this is an extremely complicated move for me. That one-year mark I’d originally planned on? That was suggested from the dual-diagnosis rehab I left in February.

Part of your “discharge plan” involved vowing to avoid making any major changes within a year, like getting married, or even starting a serious relationship, or buying a house, or, let’s see, MOVING ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

Here are a few reasons why I decided to make the move now, though:


It became apparent upon my second week back -- and the waft of weed lingering from the basement, and one of my guy roommates suddenly getting really tweaky and vacuuming all the time, and some of my Klonopin mysteriously going missing -- that my living situation was going to have to change.

Anyone who’s moved in this city can attest that they’d rather get a fingernail ripped off than attempt to look for a semi-affordable, livable apartment (and that you’re probably going to get it ripped off when you try to maneuver your dresser down your narrow staircase, anyhow). Like, look at this Tumblr of the choice NYC rooms from Craigslist. YACK!


When I first got to NYC, my friend from college reassured me that this city’s going to kick you down, but that you’ll have to be strong enough to keep getting back up if you want to stay here. Over the past three years, I feel like I was kicked down, propped up onto my elbows as blood seeped from my mouth, and then sucker-punched in the face, repeatedly.

Granted, I’m in my mid-20s, which are supposed to be the worst, and I was also diagnosed with bipolar this year, which also, obviously, kind of sucks. So this situation is quite particular to me.

Let’s run through a brief list of everything that I’ve experienced since I moved here two weeks after I graduated college in Des Moines, IA, though:

I got fired from an internship after a month, had an intense relationship with a guy who initially pretended to be my mentor, my friend from college died of an overdose, I went to the worst psych ward in NYC (Bellevue), saw a woman have a drug-induced seizure, lost a contact, vomited from nerves, and went back to work the next morning. The magazine I worked at folded, I found out that mentor guy had a slew of other lovers (of course), a DJ came in my eye, a guy with an adorable dachshund spit in my mouth without my permission, I overdosed, and landed in another psych ward.

I started cutting for the first time since I was 16, started throwing up all my food, convinced myself that I was evil and needed to kill myself. I stopped taking my birth control because I thought it was making me crazy and Mentor Guy told me the hormones were bad for my body, I got pregnant, had a panic attack at an abortion clinic when my doctor, Dr. Jessica Simpson (real), told me she couldn’t give me anti-anxiety medicine. My nose bled, I hyperventilated pants-less in front of the seven-foot tall clinic director. They knocked me out, and I woke up un-pregnant. I got high alone in my room for two days, went back to work, still high, and got high or drunk and was either intensely sad or angry until I went to rehab in January.

See, wow. I’m really bad at keeping secrets.


We all hear those phrases like, “Wherever you go, there you are,” and that you can’t run away from your problems. In AA, it’s called “pulling a geographic,” a term that’s also been borrowed by many-a-therapists not associated with the program.

The point is that I can still experience these aforementioned issues in L.A. (and perhaps a ton of other star-studded horrors!). As my parents moved around a ton when I was little, and I’ve been lucky enough to travel a bunch later independently, I GET IT, OK? I think I’ve created too many negative associations with so many things that have happened here, though, and I need to start over.

Many of the women I was in rehab with went to sober living houses, moved home -- like, with their parents -- or stayed in Palm Springs. I went straight back to my life and acted like everything was better.

Most days, I don’t even remember I went to a $30K treatment center that made me do therapy until I passed out, or went on 6 a.m. hikes every morning, and sometimes watched the sunrise and realized that it was sad that my friend died, or that I was in that shitty Mentor Man relationship, or experienced some trauma, but that I felt hopeful, finally, and that I didn't want to die anymore.


When I had hundreds of hours to think of nothing else other than what I wanted in life while in Palm Springs, I realized one of my biggest issues with my situation back in NYC was that I never really wanted to be there.

I grew up like so many girls my age watching Carrie Bradshaw make a living from writing about her life and staring out of the window of her Upper East Side apartment and tromping around New York in her 700-dollar shoes. And I knew since I was eight that I wanted to be a writer. But I never wanted THAT.

Somewhere between the beginning of senior year of college when I turned 21, and sitting at my graduation ceremony with a stomach flu so killer, I was afraid I might throw up or shit myself, I became convinced New York would be the best place to go “for my career.” Once in NYC, I was convinced I should want to work at a fashion magazine, because that’s what’s big and glamorous here. And then I knew I had to do digital marketing, since the success of editorial now relies solely on integrating sales. (I am, undoubtedly, passionate about this industry. I also like money.)

I’ve learned so much in the professional experiences I might’ve only been able to have in this city. My contacts in L.A. have reassured me that with New York on my resume, I’ll be fine landing a job. (Except after writing this, I’m not so sure.)

But I realized I moved here to do what I thought other people wanted me to do, or expected me to do. Like, what did they think I wanted my "career" to be, anyway? I told them I wanted to write, and they told me New York would be the best place to be a writer. (I’m using “them” to encompass a ton of outside influences, which may or may not have included that "mentor.”)

Once I got here, it became about competing with the other women my age who wanted to become writers -- most of them still holding on to the dream of being Carrie Bradshaw. They all loved New York since they stepped foot in it. (I, on the other hand, find that “energy” everyone’s so in love with incredibly stressful.)

Because fashion’s huge here, likewise, I’ve been lumped with the Carries. I competed for the same gigs at fashion websites, but always ended up breaking down and acting like a complete imbecile during interviews, for there was a voice in my head screaming, “You don’t really want this!”

The plan I had when I first turned 21 was to stay at the health magazine I worked at, continue freelancing at the weekly alternative paper in town, save some money, and move West to write, swim, hike, and figure out what I’m really supposed to be doing in this world.

So I guess I’m going back to my end goal, really. I just took an unexpected detour. I learned a ton (including how to navigate an extremely complicated public transportation system), made a lot of good friends, met a man who helped me accept unconditional love, and got a lot of top-notch references for my fast-approaching job search.

And, despite all the crazy shit that’s happened, I realized something that’s invaluable: That I need to listen to my own fucking heart. And, in the end, I guess I became an adult.

Please don’t consider my Twitter account my new resume: @caitlinthornton.