It’s not about being brave. It’s about being honest.
When I go back to the States and see my friends and acquaintances in person, they ask, “How are you?” And I tell them the truth. I’m unhappy. To which, their response is, “But your life in Germany looks so great.” Yes, because what I’m posting on Facebook are photos of me on vacation or at the zoo or the park with my silly, wonderful daughter. What I’m not posting are the pictures of me sobbing or overdrinking or fighting with my husband or any of the other things that have happened (and sometimes continue to happen) with regularity since I’ve been abroad.
The last 3 years here have been difficult for me, and for the entirety of those 3 years, I’ve said that “here” was Germany. I truly believed that my being unhappy had a geographic basis, and everything would be sooooo much better if I just moved back to the States. In all honesty, though, “here” isn’t Germany. It’s my life.
I’d been through some really dark periods in the States as well. It’s just that I had (and still have) an awesome safety net in the US, one on which I could fall back easily. Perhaps too easily. My mom would drop everything to help me. My friends would drop everything to help me. In Europe, I don’t have that luxury. There is no one in Munich I could call for that kind of support. I simply don’t have a safety net here like I do in the States.
Being so far away from my family, living without deep friendships in my immediate world, I find myself opening up much more than I might have previously when people I know come to town. Now, when I talk to friends who are visiting, and I don’t mean my closest friends, I mean the spouses of my husband’s colleagues who I’ve known forever and like a lot, but who don’t know my history, I’m honest. And, it turns out, they’re honest, too.
I talk about my drinking, and they say, “Oh yeah, me, too. I go to a party and have 1 or 2 more drinks than everyone else, and then I come home and have another.” Really? But I thought I was the ONLY ONE who did shit like that!
Or I say something about my marriage and a friend will say, “Oh yeah, me, too. If it weren’t for my child, I probably would have left this relationship years ago.” Really? But I thought I was the ONLY ONE who had these kinds of thoughts!
I thought I was the ONLY ONE, because I wasn’t talking about these things with anyone. “Here” there is no one for me to talk to, but even in the US, I felt so ashamed by my problems that I told only a handful of people.
I think that’s how many of us are. We share the good stuff with everyone. We share the really crappy stuff with very few or no one.
Then, last week I publicly outed myself on my personal Facebook page, and I had over 400 views on my blog (emotional train wreck voyeurs?). More surprising to me than that was the number of people (nowhere near 400 of course) who commented on or personally wrote to me about my bravery in being so brutally honest about my life.
But I don’t think of what I’m doing as being brave. I think of it as a necessity, and there are 3 reasons why – fear, guilt, and denial. That’s how I got “here” in the first place. Fear that those people who think I have it together, who think I’m happy and everything’s great will find out what I’m really like (a depressed overdrinker). Guilt about my behavior, because depression + overdrinking = lots of irrational, stupid behavior. And denial that there are problems. Thanks, I’ll just stuff it down inside and pretend it didn’t happen. Surely, if I ignore everything, it will just go away.
Fear, guilt, and denial. Together, these three emotions are shame-inducing and that’s what got me “here” in the first place. Allowing these emotions to reign will destroy me if I let them. So, I won’t let them. I can’t be afraid of what other people might think of me, because, frankly, this is who I am, imperfect and human. Just like you and everybody else. And while I am sorry for all the truly embarrassing, stupid and hurtful things I’ve done in my life, I have to learn from those mistakes. I have to use that knowledge to change and get back on track rather than let the guilt consume me. Finally, I can’t ignore the difficulties I experience. Difficulties are part of life, and it’s better to acknowledge them, accept them, and deal with them. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is irresponsible.
I am being honest, here. I’m confronting my fear, my guilt, and my denial, but I’m not doing it out of bravery. I’m doing it out of necessity, because, otherwise, shame would destroy me.
So, thank you. Thank you, readers – friends, family, and even strangers (yes, there are in fact people I don’t even know who subscribe to my blog) – who love and support me on my journey. Thank you for sharing your own experiences with me and helping me feel like I’m not the ONLY ONE.
Let’s all be honest. I’m not the only one muddling through life. We are all in this together.