I’m glad your life has been difficult… said my friend
Last week I was sitting at a café with my friend, Amy.
I met Amy last November, after moving to the Netherlands, so we’re still getting to know each other.
When expat friends get together, it’s inevitable we talk about moving and settling into life in a new country. Amy and I agreed the Netherlands is lovely and an easy country to live in. A bit of a contrast from our previous homes (Saudi Arabia, India, the Philippines).
‘But, strangely’ I said, ‘I’ve struggled since moving here despite how peaceful and idyllic it is.’
Amy asked what I meant.
In the first few months here, I felt a disconnect between my internal world (lots of emotional turmoil) and my external world (quiet, peaceful, easy living).
I’m not prone to anxiety, but was experiencing lots of it, so I found a counselor. My counselor is helping me connect the dots between trauma in my 20s and its impact on me now.
I was tempted to avoid using the word “trauma” in my conversation with Amy, but part of my growth is learning to ‘call a spade a spade.’ There were many experiences associated with my first husband dying of a brain tumor that were indeed traumatic.
Recognizing the trauma is letting me better understand myself in the subsequent years.
Then Amy shared her experience with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) after being in a major earthquake in New Zealand. Minutes before the earthquake she had wandered into a restaurant and considered eating there. But it was kind of dark inside and not appealing, so she left.
Standing outdoors next to a crumbling cathedral was scary enough. Seeing the restaurant she had considered eating in flattened, even more so. It’s led to lots of emotional recovery work for her.
As we were walking away from the café Amy commented, “I don’t want to say I’m glad your life has been difficult, but I am glad to know I’m not the only one going through these things.”
I don’t want to say I’m glad your life has been difficult… uh, but the truth is, I’m kind of glad your life has been difficult.
Because so has mine and it’s easy to feel alone.
It’s so easy to think no one understands, no one else is struggling; look at the pictures on Facebook and Instagram, everyone’s got their life together; no one wants to hear my struggles….
There’s nothing farther from the truth.
We’re on this journey together. The journey’s full of ups and downs, joys and challenges.
We inspire each another by sharing our challenges, our strategies for getting through, and the hope we find in connecting.
It’s not always easy to share the difficult times. It’s vulnerable… a little scary, even.
But I’ve found the benefits to greatly outweigh the risks.
So next time you feel alone on a difficult day, let me know. I’ll be grateful for the company, too.