I remember all too well my first Christmas away from my family home, away from the traditions that were so familiar to me, the Christmas songs on the radio, the carol services, mince pies, Christmas concerts, hot chocolate and ice skating, Christmas jumpers…. I could continue for another 5000 words on Christmas traditions, but I won’t as you probably get the point. I missed home and the various joys associated with Christmas. I felt rubbish. But honestly if I had gone home that Christmas, I probably still would have felt down come January. It wasn’t the joy of Christmas I missed, in reality, when I looked back over those first few months I had become withdrawn, lost my confidence, with no direction, or purpose. The reality, Christmas was a trigger for me to realise I had lost my identity. I didn’t know who I was or why I should get out of bed each morning.
I am sure 99.9% of people living abroad have had months, similar to this, some sadly may have even had years. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to meet with a fellow expat blogger Clara Wiggins. Clara has just finished a blogging series on Expat depression. It is such an insightful series. Thank you Clara for starting to raise the awareness of Depression, for encouraging people to share their own experiences and investigating how we support those going through it.
The beauty of blogging, is the honesty and the opportunity for people to start conversations. Until now, I have spoken to my mother, and husband about how sad I was back in 2010 and that was it. Each day I would get up, dressed and met my wonderful friends, smiled, laughed and chatted and no one would know how lonely and depressed I had become. I was one of the lucky ones, who had a wonderfully supportive husband (that simply made sure I was getting out the house each day and eating), along with a good community of friends that I was introduced too upon arrival in Joburg. I am fully aware that the transition is not so easy for the majority.
The second thing those Clara interviewed did was ask for help. How can people support you if we aren’t telling people how we truly feel, and asking for advice / support / help? Asking for help is actually a sign of strength. The quicker you ask for help the faster you can start to work on a solution.
Got a problem?
Dont ignore it,
Focus, get some help, create a solution, fix it,
If you are new to expat life, or even been abroad for years but don’t really like how things have turned out, ask for help, start to think what small change you can make to do things differently. How can you change your daily routine, what appointments can you schedule in? Keep trying different things, speaking to different people, and gain professional support.
If you dont have a work permit and would like to work again, then go meet people who have managed to make it work, take an online course, get some coaching. Do something differently and ask for help.
Don’t ignore the problem with your head in the sand and hope it will go away.
Don’t be an ostrich it isn’t the route to happiness or success.
For more information on Expat Depression please see Clara's series on the Expat Partner Survival Guide Blog here.