Between Two Worlds - Handel Behavioral Health
Mental Health Blog

Between Two Worlds

May 20, 2024

Amy Mauro

“I’ve always felt like I exist in limbo. I don’t necessarily belong to the United States, but after spending the majority of my life living here, I don’t belong to Argentina either.”

The immigrant experience in America is a complex journey filled with strength, loss, and hope for new opportunities, and for some, the search for a better life. 

For those who decide to leave their home and move to the United States with the intention of settling there, the integration into American society while maintaining one’s own cultural identity, beliefs, and values can be disorienting. 

In the following story, Mateo discusses culture and identity from his perspective, as an immigrant born and raised in Argentina who lives in the United States. He discusses the psychological and social challenges he faces as an immigrant, when he feels like he doesn’t necessarily belong to one cultural identity. 

As someone who came from a culture where mental health was stigmatized, Mateo celebrates the strength and wisdom he’s found from working with a therapist on cultural identity challenges in Massachusetts. 

The names in the following story have been changed to protect everyone’s anonymity.


I was born in Argentina, and lived there with my parents and siblings through my childhood. At 16 years old, my family started to dissolve, when my mom, an English teacher in Argentina, decided to move to the United States, and my dad and sister decided to stay.

I didn’t feel ready to leave my friends behind but I wanted to support my mom. We lived in New York, then Connecticut briefly, until finding our way to Massachusetts.

Where do I exist?

I’ve always felt like I exist in limbo. I don’t necessarily belong to the United States, but now, after spending the majority of my life living here, I don’t belong to Argentina either. 

I studied business in college, where I envisioned myself going back to Argentina to work for my dad. My connection to Argentinian culture slowly dissolved as my life sped up in the US. 

There are aspects of Argentinian culture that I feel very attached to, which to me, represent who I am. At the same time, I’ve had to let go of Argentinian culture to make space for my life in the United States.

Now I have US born children to create roots with, and a wife to build a future with. They create a feeling of belonging inside me, when at times, I feel like I’m just a visitor passing through.

Relating to others

When I came to the US, I watched a lot of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino movies. I’d try to mimic how they spoke, leaving out the swears. People assumed I was an Italian-American, which worked out well, with getting into social circles and finding jobs, but I was hiding behind a mask and living my life from the outside. 

Inside, I felt confused, ashamed, and alone.

Now that I’m older and feel more comfortable in my skin, I don’t wear a mask. My two closest friends are those who’ve also immigrated to the United States, who feel like they exist in the liminal space between two worlds.

Finding out who I am

Friendships have been a big topic for me in therapy.

After a big fallout with someone I’d consider a brother, I started to question my ability to make friends and maintain friendships with people who feel like family. 

My therapist has helped me to accept the reality that as we get older, our priorities change, as do our friendships. 

Many of those who used to be my closest confidants have drifted away, making space for new relationships and discoveries about myself, my family, my values and belief system. 

Instead of defining myself by the amount of friends I have or don’t have, I choose to nurture the friendships and family who bring meaning to my life.

Growth through the hardships

Working with my therapist has helped me to create new narratives about myself, and form a positive self-view that embraces all aspects of my identity. I’ve gained insight into the challenges I’ve faced, which has been an integral part of my growth and development as a person. 

I feel confident that I have the tools and strength to belong in the world, even if it means existing between two cultures.

Therapy for cultural identity in Massachusetts

At Handel Behavioral Health, our experienced therapists and counselors are here to safely support you on your journey to explore and understand your cultural identity. 

Our clinicians, with a wide range of experience in the field, come from all walks of life. 

You will have professional and compassionate therapeutic support as you navigate challenges pertaining to biracial identity, gender identity and sexual orientation, transracial adoption, dating partners of different cultural backgrounds, understanding multicultural family dynamics, intersectionality, and many other areas related to identity. 

If you’re hoping to explore your cultural identity with a therapist online in Massachusetts, or in our offices in Amherst, West Springfield, Franklin, Natick, or Wilbraham, contact us today at (413) 343-4357.

About The Author

Nettie Hoagland Headshot

Nettie Hoagland is a writer with experience in local news reporting, nonprofit communications, and community development. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. Nettie believes in the healing power of the arts to create connection and community. She is passionate about using writing as an instrument for personal and social growth in the field of mental health. She is currently based in Brooklyn, NY.