self care first

Self-Care Guide: How To Deal with Emotional & Psychological Trauma

There are two possible ways to see the situation. The chosen path will lead you to another condition. Those accumulated situations, (in)significant, (un)controllable, will, in the end, define your life.

Let me tell you through one of my stories:

It was winter around November/December. At the time, I have lived in Belgium for about one year, and I had finished the highest level of a Dutch language course. I had to wait for the next Academic year to enroll at Ghent University, but I could already work.

I updated my curriculum vitae, and I visited several interim offices to help me find a job. When I finally got a temporary job as a cleaning lady in one office near my house, I was pleased.

I came to work on time & introduced myself excitedly. I had to team up with another cleaning lady who already worked there for several months, if not years. She didn’t smile nor was friendly when she knew that I had come to help her for four consecutive days. I was a little bit nervous at that time because we could only communicate in Dutch. She said no word in English & I had little to no confidence in speaking Dutch with her. Her Dutch sounded unfamiliar for me as I had only learned official Dutch, which is slightly different from spoken Flemish in Belgium.

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We meant to work for four hours a day together. She explained in a few minutes what I needed to do, and then she also did the same or other tasks. She showed me how to clean office tables, empty rubbish bins under the table, disinfected phones and keyboards, etc. In my opinion, I did all the tasks my colleague asked me, but it seemed that she was a bit grumpy and wasn’t happy with me as her helper.

We have done all the tasks in the office first then moved to the kitchen. My colleague asked me to put all the cups into the dishwasher. She gave this instruction in Dutch as she didn’t speak English. I stood there, asked her to repeat & still didn’t understand. She then started to take & put dirty cups in the dishwasher impatiently. I realized right away what her order was and helped her. She was mumbling things in Flemish that I didn’t understand. A few minutes before my shift was over, she said to me that she was displeased, and she didn’t understand why her company sent someone who didn’t speak Dutch to help her. I smiled at her and left. At that time, I saw no point in arguing things with her. She was not my employer, and I convinced with the quality of work I delivered.

Imagine this: I was a tropical girl who has lived in Europe for almost one year. I went home from my first job as an immigrant. It was winter, snowing outside, and the path was slippery. I drove my bike home, I fell a few times from my old bike, and I burst into tears.

I cried loudly because her judgment was not right. I had a feeling that she acted like that because I wasn’t the person she expected (I am not Caucasian). I cried as I felt that she put me so low like I was no one.

I cried because I would have never done this job in my country with my degree.

I cried because it seemed life was so hard on me.

I cried further while I was continuing biking. Soon, I arrived home, and I let all emotions out with no filter. I told everything to my husband while crying.

At that moment, my confidence disappeared, and I slightly started doubting of my competence. I cried hours, even when there were no tears anymore, and my eyes were swollen.

Finally, I calmed down a few hours later. The next day, I called the company who hired me and explained the situation objectively. I thanked them for the job opportunity but wanted to work in a different post if there was a possibility.

At this very moment, I put the emotion aside. I made a list of progress I made since my immigration to Belgium and a list of persons who helped me (most were Caucasians). I hugged myself, and I enjoyed my hot ginger tea.

I went further with life. I regret what she did to me, but I avoided to generalize this experience as a “normal” experience with my future colleagues of future employers. The problem was her as a person with her frustration in her job.

*Back then, I knew kopje as a cup, and she said tas as a cup (this word is generally used in Flanders, Belgium).

Now imagine, if at that very moment, I gave up all my hard work, I lose my confidence and accept all bad things that happened as my destiny. It would never bring me to where I am now.

You can’t control how people behave to you.

You often can’t control every situation and the outcome, but you can manage your reaction and how you deal with it.

If you are still with me, I’ve provided a way to respond to a similar situation to help you after an unpleasant situation happened. This self-care list helped me, and it will help you too.

Self Care Chart

You can download here for FREE. Save it on your phone or print it and hang it in your room.

Please share this card with friends as they might need it one day.

With Love,

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