Forced to flee her business and friends, author Deborah Rodriguez opens up about finding your feet when all seems lost.

Author and hairdresser Deborah Rodriguez went to Afghanistan as part of a group offering humanitarian aid after the fall of the Taliban. Deborah became involved in the set up of a beauty school training program to give Afghan women a chance at financial independence. She later opened a coffee shop in Kabul.

Deborah wrote two books based on her experiences: The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and Kabul Beauty School. As circumstances changed, Rodriquez had to flee the country leaving behind her business and friends. Suffering Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Deborah pulled her life together and now lives in Mexico.

Q: Relocating and making new friends is difficult, let alone in a new culture. What can you suggest to help readers going through change/relocation?

Deborah: I had to focus on something other than the fact that I didn’t have my old life anymore. I did a lot of feeling sorry for myself. After I figured out that eating and drinking everything in sight might not help, I did my best to connect to my roots, which was hairdressing. I spent hours journaling my feelings, anger, and frustration. Getting some of my emotion on paper helped me identify what was going on inside of me. I also found knitting really distracted me.

You experienced first-hand how easy it is to get dependent in relationships. What was your ‘out’ trigger?

For a long time I knew I was trying to force myself to be happy in someone else’s relationship. Mike is a great man but he just wasn’t my great man. When Mike patronised me, I thought “you really don’t know me at all, you only know the weak Debbie. If you knew the old Debbie you would never say this.” So it may have been the kick in the pants I needed.

You undertook counselling. Do you recommend seeking help or is it more about connecting?

I am a firm believer in doing what is needed. It may be a professional or medication or as simple as a wise and loving friend. I do not recommend when you are feeling low or despair that you try to handle it alone.

Did you find when you could categorise what you were feeling (PTSD), it helped with recovery?

It’s always good to know there is light at the end of the tunnel and not just a bunch of glowworms. Feeling like I was getting some control over my life was a very big step in the right direction.

You are a nurturer by nature and perhaps a rescuer. Where does this come from?

I have asked myself this question a million times. I feel that it’s my job to give back. I have had many mentors and wonderful and generous people in my life and I guess this is my way of paying it forward.

You said that you like to be married. This was a brave comment and showed you didn’t fear love and commitment. Do you choose your family and your friends or do you let love come to you?

I am so surrounded by love here in Mexico. I have just brought my mother from the States to live near me. These days I keep it simple with Denis and my wonderful family and friends.

Deborah Rodriguez’s latest book, detailing her journey to remake her life, The House on Carnaval Street is out now.