When change happens in our lives, our concept of who we are changes too. It is not as obvious when the change is something we find pleasurable. But when the change is less positive, or more challenging, then it is more obvious.
When I returned to live in Australia, after eight years living in another culture, it was challenging. Initially I was excited. I have moved to a new area and there was much to see and do. That honeymoon period is well known. Even when bad things have happened, we can have a honeymoon period of sorts. If you talk to people who have lost their homes in a bushfire, they will tell you they are happy to be alive. They will be buoyed by this knowledge. But come back later and it will be a different story.
After the novelty of the new or the relief at surviving is over, reality sets in. That is when we it becomes obvious that who we are has changed. The change may be subtle. We may not even be aware of it. But most people will find themselves feeling lost, unsure how to respond to things. They may feel unstable, constantly changing their reactions to things. They may just feel they don’t know what to do. They may feel life has a meaning that is not compatible with them anymore.
The problem can be exacerbated by those close to us changing in a different direction. Relationships may need to be renegotiated, adding to the burden of change.
When I came back to Australia the person I was, was not the person I had been when I last lived in Australia. Nor was Australia the same Australia I had lived in all my life. The meaning I had for my life and the understanding of who I was, was gone. I was living in a country that was familiar and not familiar. The people I encountered were not interested in who I was. The things that mattered when I lived in another country did not matter any more. I did not matter any more. It was a very difficult time.
It took me years to renegotiate with myself and learn who I was now. I now understand the impact even seemingly minor changes can make to our concept of who we are. Changing jobs, moving to a new area, ending a relationship, losing a loved one, having a body organ removed, losing a limb, a cancer diagnosis – these are all changes, some minor, some major. All will involve a renegotiation with self to learn who am I now?
It can be helpful to see a counsellor to assist in this renegotiation.
It can be helpful to know you are not mad and someone has your back.