Living abroad with depression
A few years ago, I wrote a post about living abroad with anxiety, a condition I have been battling for as long as I can remember and one that will most likely stick around in one way or another for the remainder of my life. Now I’d like to share how I live in a foreign country with anxiety's biochemical counterpart: depression.
Although I can't remember which came first—the anxiety or the depression—they have taken turns taking residence in my brain throughout my 33 years, often exacerbated during both difficult times and completely uneventful times. The unpredictability of these two mental illnesses means that I can be utterly inundated with symptoms with no chance to put on my cerebral armor.
While the severity of these symptoms waxes and wanes depending on environmental and interpersonal factors, all I can do as a host for these biochemical imbalances is to recognize the onset of effects and try to work through them using the tools I've honed after years of experience.
Living abroad with such mental afflictions is possible so long as you possess a sense of self-awareness and the ability to ask for help if needed. Here are my personal tips for living life in a foreign country while experiencing occasional bouts of depression.
Set up an international support system.
Modern technology offers an abundance of ways to stay connected with support around the world. Whether you seek a virtual therapist or have a close friend or family member who lives just a Skype call away, it’s never been easier to reach out. Time zones aside, don’t hesitate to lean on these figures of support while you’re still setting up a new local network in your new home.
Continue with daily routines.
Exercise, eat healthy, avoid alcohol, journal, and focus on work. Working through the feelings of depression can seem daunting as the comfortable cocoon of your bed lures you to sleep through it, but keeping to a schedule can help normalize each day and produce the feel-good hormones that combat the biological imbalance.
Objective, professional help is something I fully support and has worked wonders for me for more than a decade. A quick Google search can lead you to counselors in your area, while web services like Talkspace offer video sessions.
If months or years go by with no improvement or a noticeable decline in symptoms, take a moment to reflect on how your new life in a foreign country may be affecting your condition. It's often been said in regards to mental illness that, "genes load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger". What is happening in your environment that may be leading to thoughts, behaviors, and feelings that aren't serving you? If you've tested the waters and feel as though it's too much of a struggle, listen to this instinct. Some people move abroad thinking that it will solve their problems and quell their racing minds. Unfortunately, any issues at home will follow you and can even grow in strength in a new, unfamiliar, challenging environment.
If you also struggle with depression, what are your go-to coping strategies? Feel free to leave a comment below.