A little over a year ago I was travelling along the M32 motorway in a big white bus, a few minutes away from Bristol. It was my first time in Bristol , my first time in England. And I certainly didn’t come for pleasure. Like most young people that currently live in my home country, Venezuela, I was forced to leave due to the current political and economic crisis.
I had to flee my country when I was 23, most likely forever, forced into ending my journalism career and preparing myself to start over from scratch. Even though my idea has always been to get back to that line of work, I knew that I’d have put the pen aside and don my blue collar shirt for a while.
Lucky enough, I found a job as a barista in my first week here – I had never worked as a barista before, but that’s not what my CV said! It meant I could start sorting out the usual challenges of moving to a new country: having a steady income, renting a place, making friends… But I still struggle with one of those challenges: my own mind.
If anything has been tough about moving to this great city (besides trying to understand the Bristolian accent), it has to be keeping my steadiness and inner peace.
Being an immigrant is hard, even in such a welcoming place like Bristol: the weight of loneliness on your shoulders gets unbearable, the feeling of not belonging and being immersed in an alien culture starts to drown you, and above all, watching time pass by without reaching your goals, making 200 coffees a day but writing 0 words, becomes a Chinese water torture.
After the excitement of those first months wore out, I had no courage to confront myself. I woke up every day trying to quietly tip-toe through my head to prevent waking up the demons. Most of the days, after work, I had a couple of pints to numb myself and drift away from what was really going on: feeling sad, alone, and so very far from the idea I had when I moved.
I slowly realised that, obviously enough, putting up a wall wasn’t the smartest way to break through. I decided to speak to myself.
The time I used to spend scrolling through social media, was now dedicated to confront my situation, to study it, to express what I actually felt. The change I started to notice was like the sun creeping up after a long rainy day: the more you learn about what’s going on in your life, the easier it is to help yourself and to lookfor help. I started being more open with my friends, talking about what was happening, and finally taking an active role to change it.
Slowly but steadily, a tiny snowball of hope started to roll and roll until it became a massive white boulder. Thanks to my introspection, and to the support of so many positive people around me, I started to see the Carlos I knew in the mirror again, I dusted that pen and regained trust in my skills, eventually landing a role as Communications Volunteer in Second Step, which allows me to be here today, writing this for you.
Now, I’m not saying my life is perfect, the demons still roam around. The difference is that now I look them straight in the eyes, until they look down and leave. I hope you read this not like a magical recipe to overcome depression, or a step-by-step guide to achieve mindfulness. This is just my attempt to tell my story, the story of how speaking with myself was the best thing I could do.
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