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Mental Health Matters: When Moving to LA to Pursue Your Dream Breaks You

After four years of living in Los Angeles, I recently made the decision to move back home to Texas. This was a very difficult decision. I fought with myself for a good chunk of those years convincing myself I was happy living here and that going back home was a sign of weakness and a sign that I gave up. I was too stubborn swimming in denial to admit that I was unhappy. I was so fixated on making a name for myself in the music industry and getting my shit together by the time I was 25. I am now 26 and have yet to accomplish anything I set out to do, which has taken an emotional toll on my mental health.

I originally came to LA to pursue a singing career. I have been singing since I was four and aspired be a star like my vocal mama, Christina Aguilera. Long story short…that never happened. Since working in the industry, I’ve realized how incredibly naive I’ve been. I was one of those people who thought talent alone could get me instantly discovered and signed and fast-tracked to touring, which is what I would love to do. I quickly learned that’s not how it works and it killed my musical drive. Without the proper finances, time, and resources I wasn’t going to make it.

Following this realization, I decided to work behind-the-scenes at a music trade publication, one that’s been around for 40 years with a mission to help emerging artists with their careers. Just because I wasn’t pursuing my music career doesn’t mean I can’t help others, and I genuinely enjoy helping everyone that I can through the power of the magazine.

With any job nowadays—especially in the music industry—it’s wise to wear various hats skills-wise. Be a jack-of-all-trades and you will stand out and succeed. That’s great and all, and more power to the people who can manage to do that well, but there comes a point when you’re doing too much. I can’t imagine how independent, super DIY artists manage themselves and their careers on their own. There are so many components at play.

As Associate Editor, I’m in charge of putting together 25% of the magazine, editing and proofreading 75% of the rest, the website, the social media, the weekly digital marketing newsletters, the photographers, the internship program, among a myriad of other tasks (Be sure to consult the 62-page manual I wrote for my job), and I have to say that I am mentally and emotionally burnt out. The industry is constantly changing every day that I struggled to keep up with it and trying to keep the magazine in the loop with circulating news and buzz 24/7. I feel guilty that I can’t answer the hundreds of emails in my inbox every day because that’s another artist I can’t help.

Admittedly, I spent more time than I should have out of the office working in addition to the usual 8.5 hours in office. Friends and family pointed out to me that I’m working too hard from 5am – 11pm/12midnight every day and weekends, but I told them it was fine. I made myself believe I was fine because this was part of the hustle, this is normal, the hard work will pay off…But I wasn’t fine. I wasn’t happy and I didn’t want to admit it because I wanted so badly to make something of myself in the music industry.

In the last year I finally opened my eyes and admitted that I hated the industry, hated this city and couldn’t stay here anymore. I had only lasted this long because I truly love what the magazine stands for, the work I do in making a difference in artists’ lives and careers, but enough is enough. When you work so many hours just to barely afford sharing a bedroom, when you feel guilty when you’re sitting doing nothing like you should be working instead, when you literally don’t know how to relax, when a normal day includes at least one mental breakdown, when you feel like you’re never doing enough and work hard to stay busy 24/7, something needs to change.

Last Fall I drank alcohol more than usual to the point where I was using it to make my troubles go away, and throwing my hard-earned money away at that, nearly depleting my bank account to 0 with multiple credit cards to pay off. Also, I would be lying if I said I’d never entertained the idea of drowning any time I’ve taken a bath.

In December I experienced my first anxiety/panic attack—heart racing, nausea, couldn’t bring my heart rate down even with relaxing techniques—and went to see an internal medicine doctor. After speaking with her she diagnosed me with severe anxiety and prescribed me a daily anti-anxiety/anti-depressant medication. Within a week, my best friend/roommate told me she saw a major difference in me—I wasn’t anxious, worrying about every little thing, worrying about work and worrying about people. I was mellow and easier going.

I’ve also started seeing a therapist, which has been helpful with expressing boxed up emotions I’m too scared to share with my friends and family at the anxious thought of being burdensome. In talking to her, she seems to think I might have a panic disorder and should consult a psychiatrist.

In all my life, I never imagined I would be the type of person who would seek behavioral help or take daily medication like this. I was one of those people who didn’t believe in mental health and associated it with a negative stigma. But after working in the music industry in LA, I now realize mental health is very real, and we should all be talking about it—not taking it for granted. I’ve received backlash from family, who have tried to convince me to not take the medication and that I don’t have mental health issues.

Every day is a work in progress: I’m constantly implementing healthy mind, body and soul regimens to relieve my anxiety. In the past I’ve put almost everything before myself: a job, friends, family, boyfriends, among other things, but now it’s time to make myself the top priority and take care of myself. The first step was coming to the conclusion that I need to move back home. I need a mental rehab to detox. I need to learn how to relax and do nothing—not feel guilt, not feel anxious. I’ve grown to hate myself for not being successful, for not being good enough at anything, so ultimately I need to learn to love myself again.

Hailing from Texas, Siri Svay is the current Associate Editor/Social Media Manager for Music Connection magazine—but her last day will be May 26. Aside from the magazine, Siri is also a Twitch TV Affiliate streamer, where she live streams herself playing video games, cooking meals and singing (a cappella or with guitar). When she has spare time, Siri enjoys reading, finding new recipes, hiking and binge watching Netflix. You can see more of her story here. See more on her Twitch TV channel: www.twitch.tv/sirisvay


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Angela Mastrogiacomo

Founder of Infectious Magazine & Muddy Paw Public Relations. Lover of passion, ice cream, and books.

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