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I Asked 25 People About The Difficulties In Life...

[TW: This article discusses a few forms of trauma, predominantly sexual violence, substance use, addiction, and suicidal ideation.]

For the past year, many of our lives have been consumed by distance and fear as we have faced unprecedented challenges. Collectively, we have attempted to navigate a pandemic, persistent and pervasive racism, and a divisive political climate. These external struggles have led to increased rates of anxiety, depression, and loneliness, which many people believe they must battle alone. With so much behind us and an uncertain future ahead, I asked 25 people to reflect on what makes them strong, resilient, unique, and proud. Their responses indicate that perhaps we are more alike than we are different. Here’s what they said:

What’s the most painful thing you’ve been told?

HF: That he didn’t love me back”

EO:I’m the reason someone is still alive”

PI:Not good enough”

SH: “that I wasn’t a good enough friend”

PJM: “You will never get into medical school”

EL: “The most painful thing I've been told is that I wasn't good enough.”

CS: “That I needed that initial surgery”

MNR: “When I found out about the death of one of my close friends from a chronic illness”

CA: “That no one will ever love me and I’m not good enough”

ELC: “That I couldn’t be a certain type of engineer”

HAM: “Hearing of other people’s trauma”

NG: “That my dad might die”

SN: “That I miscarried”

JAM:Oh, how I could compile a list of inconsiderate things that have been thrown at me in conversation due to anger. I am a relatively calm person most of the time, and I think people either react to this harshly or just align with it. My dad recently told me that my future career choice was a joke (something along those lines). I’d repeatedly been told I was too skinny, which really hurt at the time. I was also recently told by someone I really cared about that they had no desire to care for me in any way. It sounds rubbish but that really hurt. I’d never ask someone to care for me but to hear it really sucked.”

II: “You’ve gotten really fat”

MAC: “That my first boy had suffered a prenatal stroke, that he was missing a large part of his brain, and as a result, he might never walk or talk.”

LFL: “Being told my grandma passed away”


What’s the greatest thing you’ve overcome (or accomplished)?

HF: I graduated high school and didn’t think I would live that long to achieve that”

EO: “Still being here”

PI:Making it through college lol”

SH: “Toxic relationships and health issues”

PJM: “I don't think that's happened yet- but it will soon”

EL: TW: eating disorder! The greatest thing I have overcome is very relative. To me, it is a huge accomplishment because I have struggled with disordered eating habits a lot, especially my senior year of high school, as I was mentally at the lowest point in my life. I lost a lot of weight because I was not eating properly, and was unable to gain it back no matter what I tried, or how much I ate. Years later, I am finally starting to gain that weight back. I am so happy to be getting back to a healthier (and a happier weight) as I have been struggling to do so for such a large period of my life. :)”

CS: “Overcoming 2 years of surgeries that left me very incapacitated”

MNR: “Running 2 marathons while being a full-time college student”

CA: “Overcoming one of my biggest insecurities”

ELC: “I will be an engineer!”

CN: “Depression”

HAM: “Graduating college with a physics major (almost)”

NG: “I overcame my eating issues”

SN: “Living as a sexual assault survivor with an ED and depression, PTSD, among other mental health issues, every day I wake up I feel like I’m overcoming and surviving and every day I am proud of myself.”

JAM: “Back in November of 2016 I had one of the worst experiences of my life. It entirely changed my approach to life. Essentially I had just smoked far too much and ended up “greening out” or having a panic attack from being too high. It was dreadful and left an overall haze of disassociation in my life for a bit. It’s been quite a long time since then and I still deal with the anxiety and depression aspects of the trauma, but I am far better off now! I think it would not be too much of a stretch to say I overcame it in many ways.”

LC: “I’ve overcome or am trying to overcome depression. I’ve struggled with it for a while, and I’m finally being able to have tiny little moments of happiness. Before everything was black.”

MAC: “I got clean when I was 23 and I’m still clean 33 years later.”

XC: “Suicide attempt/major depressive disorder where symptoms were exacerbated by an abusive relationship.”

LFL: “There’s a lot, but my depression (it’s a battle every day).”


What’s something you’ve never told anyone?

HF: I feel very lonely a lot”

EO:I want to kill myself every day”

PI: “Not sure, very much an open book”

SH: “stuff I hid about my toxic relationship”

PJM: “I'm ridiculously insecure”

MNR: “I tell people everything... I talk too much honestly”

ELC: “Nothing. I don’t think I can keep secrets that long”

EMS: “I’m anxious about moving far from my family”

HAM: “I have been questioning my sexuality since middle school”

NG: “That I used to starve myself and hide it behind stomach aches”

SN: “That I believe I am unlovable”

JAM: “Every now and then I disassociate really badly and feel like I am existing in a dream state. It’s really hard to describe how it feels but it’s like a week-long existential crisis. It is horrifying and grounding myself in those moments is nearly impossible. I have told a couple of people that I do regret who I was in the past. I wasn’t committing crimes or physically harming people, but I was incredibly ignorant. Looking back on those times really hurts, and I just wish I could erase them. I hate the rubbish saying that “it doesn’t matter because look at who you became”. I know I am better; it wasn’t hard to be better than who I was given how shit I was. But it still hurts.”

II: “I’ve had an eating disorder since I was 16 and it comes and goes”

MAC: “That when my son ran away when he was younger, I hoped that he would be found dead rather than taken by someone.”

LFL: “I was in an abusive relationship all through high school.”


What’s one thing you would change about the world?

EO: “The social norms of ‘going to college, getting a job, getting married, having kids, repeat’”

ES: I wish everybody was generally nice to each other. everyone seems to have a chip on their shoulder toward everyone”

PI: “Improving the quality of life”

SH: Overall systemic change; I’d erase any biases towards people and create a more sense of unity instead of competition”

PJM: “Allow people to walk around with open beers and not get fined”

EL: “I would change so many things about the world. The first thing I would like to change would be related to social and racial injustices throughout the world.”

CS: “No more millionaires, redistribute wealth”

MNR: “I wish everyone could just be nice and compassionate to one another. Love makes the world go around.”

CA:The amount of violence, racism, and sexism people face daily”

ELC: “Women wouldn’t have to worry about men”

CN: People think that they are more important than others”

HAM: “End all sexual abuse”

NG: “Social media it sucks! It causes more issues than helps.”

SN: “I would like to see the power of love to overcome the love of power.”

JAM: “Capitalism. I know that it runs rampant in the world, and I truly feel that a lot of the world's problems (homelessness, prison systems, hunger, mental health issues) are rooted in it. Money, in the end, is simply material. However, I am as guilty as the next being for attributing such power to a form of currency. It is so ingrained into society that undoing it would be nearly impossible. I would just like an alternative that doesn’t cause so much chaos.”

CM: “How stubborn people can be (myself included).”

MAC: “End poverty”

LFL: “The homeless epidemic. There’s no reason for anyone to not have a roof over their head.”


What’s something you would tell yourself one year ago?

HF:2020 is a rollercoaster”

EO: It doesn’t get better”

PI: It’s never too late”

SH: “you’re worth so much more than you think you are in this moment”

PJM: “Relax”

EL: “I would tell myself one year ago that everything WILL work out and things WILL get better. The future is always brighter if you let it be.”

CS: “Don’t stress. You WILL get through everything”

MNR: “Keep pushing - it’ll get better”

CA: “Don’t give up. You won’t believe what life has in store!”

ELC: “Wear your mask”

EC: “Invest in yourself”

CN: “That it’s going to get harder”

EMS: “You’re doing so much more than you think you’re doing”

HAM: “Make the most out of quarantine! Learn how to finally crochet, you’ve been telling yourself you would learn it for years now so just do it already. Make a good workout routine too”

NG: “Everything happens for a reason and just cause you’re sad now doesn’t mean it’s gonna last forever”

SN: “You think it’s bad now, just wait. It’ll get worse. So buckle in, but don’t forget to enjoy the ride.”

JAM: “Oh, you are in for a world of hurt about two times over. You’ll get your heart broken not once, but twice! It’s okay, everyone will tell you that everything happens for a reason. That fixes things, right? Jokes aside, you’re doing a lot better in general. A lot better than you would have a year ago in the same situation! You’re finally going to take the leap to medication, and you’re not going to regret it. Paxil sucks, that isn’t fun. Lexapro is fucking lovely. The second person who breaks your heart is gonna be one of the best people you meet. Still, be wary.”

CM: “Trust the process”

LC: “That life is going to suck, and it’s going to get worse, and you’re going to be really really upset at everything. But you also have to look for the little things that make you happy; your friends, or your one teacher, or your favorite food.”

II: “Leave that job your mental health is more important than your wealth”

MAC: “Buy masks even though they say you don’t need them yet.”

XC: “Genuine, uninterrupted happiness is the goal, don’t lose focus. It will all come out in the wash.”

LFL: “That senior year of college was gonna be the best year of my life :/”


What's your biggest question about the universe/world? Or what's a question you've never gotten an answer to?

HF: Why does life move so slow and yet so fast?”

EO: “Why do people say things happen for a reason when so many bad things happen every day? I don’t see how that can ever benefit anyone and have a positive impact”

ES:What’s after death? Is it something to be scared of?”

PI: “What is the correct religion? Would love to know the truth behind the ideologies that segregate so many individuals across the world.”

SH: “Who killed JonBenet Ramsey?”

PJM: “What happens after we die?”

EL: “If there is life beyond Earth? Imagine if there are countless other planets, with ecosystems and people, as there are on Earth. Thinking about it helps put my problems into perspective.”

CS: “Why is it so hard for some people to put themselves in another person’s shoes?”

MNR: “Why do people hate one another before even meeting them? So many problems in this world exist because humans have trouble understanding one another and because they have hatred towards people who are different from them. I guess my question would be: How would this world be different if we were all kind, generous, and understanding of one another?”

CA: “What else is out there in the universe besides us humans?”

ELC: “Are there other life forms?”

CN: “Is there a God? If yes, why does he do what he does?”

EMS: “What happens afterlife?”

NG: “What happens when you die?”

SN: “Why is there so much hate? Why is there so much hurt?”

JAM: “I’d like to know why the world chose to like Oasis over Blur?? Blur are miles better and it’s unfair to really even compare the two. Aside from this, I would like to know why people internalize things, and how is this unraveled? I, myself, like to internalize a lot (simply due to being socialized in the way that I was) and would like to know why it works in such a strong way? We all seek independence but our very flaws are the produce of dependence on other people's ideas.”

LC: “What do you do if you don’t achieve your dream? Do you just settle for being unhappy? How can someone just be happy with not accomplishing something?”

MAC: “Do we only get one life? I would like more than one so I can accomplish more.”

LFL: “Why are rich people so selfish?”


**Responses for this article were received anonymously and voluntarily. Participants were asked to provide initials, however, it did not have to be their actual initials; therefore, the initials above may or may not be real. Furthermore, participants were not required to answer all questions; they could pick and choose based on their level of comfort. Some responses have been edited for spelling and grammatical errors.**

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