Living abroad with anxiety
When I returned from studying abroad in Paris in 2006, my desire to return to the continent on a permanent basis grew immensely. First, though, I needed to graduate college, move out of my childhood home, and sort out a few things.
After college, a personal storm hit. I spent my early and mid-20s working through depression and anxiety, and recovering from an eating disorder. Although my yen for European life was strong, there was no way I could move overseas with such daily tortuous thoughts and behaviors still hanging around.
Throughout this personal journey, I came to realize that there is one aspect of my mental personality that I mat not ever be ever to shake: my lifelong struggle with anxiety. I am not sure I even like to call it a struggle. It's innate, and instead of struggling with it, I have accepted it and I am learning to live with it.
Anxiety has followed me wherever I have gone, and I know it will be something that I may not ever fully leave behind. Knowing this, I still left home with my arsenal of coping mechanisms and positive thinking, prepared to use them if and when they were needed.
Moving abroad is not for the faint of heart. I still live with anxiety and depression, and I have had some incredibly trying moments. But after years of working on these issues with professionals and learning how to deal with triggers and negative thoughts, I would not have left home if I did not feel that I was ready to face the world, with my defense tactics in my holster.
Living in a different country and dealing with these two mini monsters is possible, so long as you are equipped with the tools to fight when they rear their conveniently timed heads. Wherever I decide to land in this ongoing expat journey, establishing a safety network--using the tips below--is always my priority.
I visit my English-speaking Argentinian therapist every few weeks. I find that talking to a stranger with an unbiased and objective view of my life is one of the best ways to disconnect from the demons and open myself to positivity and new perspective. In the States, I had been in therapy for almost a decade, and while it may not work for everyone, it has been a crucial and invaluable limb in the tree of my mental homeostasis.
I am a freelance writer by occupation, so I write. A lot. But it is rare that I have time to write for myself, i.e., journal. I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go, but sitting in silence and writing my thoughts requires a dedication to and an honest focus on these thoughts for which I am not always prepared. Writing honestly and openly, though, is a supremely useful exercise in facing the ideas that are not as easy to verbalize.
A social network outside of the confines of the computer is critical when depressive and anxious thoughts seep in. As important as it is to come face to face with those thoughts, it can be just as important to remove yourself from them and refocus your energy on positive relationships and endeavors. If you're still in the friends-making stage in your new home, feel free to review my post about meeting new people as an expat.
Anxiety and depression may always be two ingrained aspects of my whole being, but with the appropriate support, coping mechanisms, and positive mentality, I have refused to let them prevent me from living out my dreams.
In what ways do you deal with mental trials when you have traveled or lived abroad?