You hear this all the time: “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” and they are right! I can only agree with that statement. If you can overcome an insurmountable obstacle, then you become stronger. That is a fact. We all have been through some tough times; we have all been through situations we never thought we could overcome. Yet, we did. We became stronger. We are better equipped to face the same problems today. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any residual effects. That doesn’t mean we didn’t pay a heavy price to be where we are today.

You don’t usually come out of a difficult experience totally unscathed. There is always a wound, at least, no matter how small. No one is bulletproof, or immortal. When you face an obstacle, you fight to get over it. Hopefully, you will succeed, most of the time. However, during that fight, you will get hit left and right. You will sustain mental and sometimes physical injuries. After that, bitterness and suspicions might take over your mind. Fear and hate could very well cloud your judgment for a while or forever.

The obstacles you face and go through can have a considerable impact on your mental health and physical health. You might come out as the victor, but no victory is ever obtained without giving up something during the battle. There is always a price to pay for everything we do, it is inevitable. Imagine, even when you play a game of monopoly, the laziest game ever in my opinion, you end up getting tired because of the mental effort it took you to make decisions and the sitting around as well. Let’s not even talk about a game of tennis or basketball and how physically drained one ends up being. It is the nature of the world.

I grew up in Burundi, surrounded by war. I am one of the few lucky ones who never sustained a physical injury, and I don’t have PTSD. I strongly believe I have slight PTSD as proven by how my heart jumps out of my chest every time, I hear a loud noise that resembles a gunshot. I know I am not the only one. Many of my countrymen weren’t half as lucky as me unfortunately. Their traumas run deep. Their PTSD runs even deeper. I saw, heard, and felt things the average human being will never see, hear nor feel.

Yeah, the war made me stronger. It fucking did. It took me years to fully understand the war’s effect on my mental health and my worldview. When you grow up hearing gunshots all night, as frequently as I did, you start understanding how fickle and unstable life can be. You start appreciating life. You start being thankful every time your parents come home safe. You start being thankful to see your friends and family alive and safe. You hear about death and you also see death. You somehow know what death looks like and it scares you to your core. Moreover, war brings disease, instability, poverty, sometimes famine and the problems people encounter increase exponentially. This mix of problems affects one’s brain easily. The war did make me stronger, it made me appreciate life and it taught me to be thankful for my blessings. Yet, the war also left trauma in my young mind.

Please understand. I am not complaining. I would never do that. I am a functioning individual. I can claim with a tremendous deal of pride that I am a productive member of society. The residual effects of that senseless war that claimed so many lives never stopped me from taking care of myself and be functional. Once again, I am one of the lucky ones. All I am saying is, as I grow older, I sometimes revisit my past. I do so intentionally. As soon as my mind does the jump back in time, I realize how affected I was by the war and all its dark consequences. Who am I kidding? The war still affects me today but not with the same intensity.

What I have lived through, made me the individual I am today. Nevertheless, I would never want my own children to live through a war. Is that hypocritical? I do not know. I don’t think so. I know I have certain qualities acquired amid that God-forsaken, wretched war. I know I am more resilient, more appreciative of life and of every breath I take. I am more hopeful, more optimistic. I fully understand how volatile life can be. I respect and fear death because I have seen what it does to people and to families. I have seen poverty, disease and I know how devastating they can be to societies, let alone to individuals.

The man I am today, the qualities I have acquired, they came at a price. Am I still paying the damn price? Maybe I am. I know for example I have no desire whatsoever to go back home and live there. It might have to do with the war or how slow and semi-chaotic life is back home. To each, their own rhythm I say! To this day, I am reluctant to start a conflict with someone because no one ever knows how conflicts end as demonstrated by the war. I hate people who lie because liars get themselves and others in trouble. I think my friends and I never got into serious trouble because we spoke true and bluntly amongst ourselves. Sometimes I find myself not being able to draw long term plans. I went to a therapist once and he said that was a consequence of the war. The latter brought an uncertainty regarding the future so as a defense mechanism, sometimes, I don’t think about the future or most likely, I choose to ignore the future. My list could go on. Something tells me I am not the only one with a list.

We celebrate the strength we obtain when we go through tough times. Yet, we rarely stop and examine the physical and especially mental toll the tough times took on us. We like to brandish our swords and shields, we like to show our battle scars, we like to show off our muscles and we forget to mention how we obtained all those battle trophies. We forget the steep price we’ve paid to be where we are, to be who we are. Do we genuinely forget? Or do we intentionally forget? Are we even aware of the mental toll? Or do we intentionally choose to ignore it? Are we afraid the truth might take away our strength? Is it because we associate the strength of a character with the absence of weakness? Even Superman had a weakness. Strength and weakness coexist anyway. They are inseparable.

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, sure! It also leaves you with scars, trauma, wounds, insecurities, fears and so many other things. I talked about war, but it could be anything; rape, death, disease, money problems, divorce, painful breakups, poverty, and so many other things I couldn’t possibly list. There is a plethora of obstacles and even more ways to overcome them. There is a price for everything. Sometimes we are fully aware we are paying it and other times, we have no fucking clue we are paying for our strength with our mental purse, which can be emptied at any time.

Don’t forget your strength came at the expense of something else. Remember that no matter how strong you are, deep inside, you are also vulnerable and if you don’t take care of your mental health, you’re only delaying a problem that’s festering and becoming stronger like an infected wound that’s left untreated. I will never suggest therapy enough. I believe we all need it, to stronger and lesser degrees.

Be strong but take care of yourselves.

Just one man’s opinion.

Now smile and go on with your day!

Freeman. B


  1. Love your text! Love everything about it, especially the part about therapy and the trauma that is left behind after we go through rough times. Thanks Freeman for speaking the truth. A truth that is unpopular in our Burundian culture. 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone


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