Like most women, I’m sure, we all have one of those days where everything seems to be harder than normal, we are emotional for no apparent reason and you just want to curl up and have a good cry. Now I know these days are completely normal and quite frankly more often than not hormone induced, but I have found since moving away that these moments of irrationality feel like the world is ending, albeit for 24/48 hours.
The expat life initially is an exciting one, as you dive head first into your new life abroad the adrenaline kicks in and you run out of the starting blocks with as much enthusiasm and determination as Usain Bolt. The honeymoon period of exploring and embracing all that is new, the euphoria of finding the perfect apartment, making new friends and establishing you have a decent Indian restaurant in the vicinity settles you in for the long haul. The Skype calls back home are up beat, as you reassure your loved ones that you are fine and finding your feet, the Facebook posts of smiles and sunsets proving that you are living the dream and secretly hoping this sparks an ounce of jealousy back home.
Then life settles down, you are probably 6-9 months into your first year and things are stable, you have your routine and each day goes by with very little thought to where you are in the world, just that you are happy and this is now the norm. I love this stage of feeling truly settled and sitting down at the dinner table each night discussing the days events with my hubby, it’s the moment when everything has fallen into place and I feel like I am living this life and my location is secondary, its the adventure we hoped for all those months before. The anxiety, of whether we could make this work drifts away, the adjustment has been made and we are “home”.
If you are lucky enough, by the end of your first year abroad you may get a chance to return to your loved ones for a much-needed holiday. That first trip back to my little island 8 months after my last, was so exciting. I couldn’t wait to board the plane and get back to The Rock ( as us locals affectionately call our little haven) to see my family and friends and throw myself into everything English, which started with a bacon sandwich and a glass of wine – please note not at the same time! The 3 weeks seemed to fly by, catching up with all my friends relaying my adventures to eager faces over breakfasts, coffee, dinners and afternoon teas. Fair to say at this point it was hardly surprising I gained 10lb that first trip home. The familiarity of walking through town, which when I lived there I used to hate, due to the lack of decent shops and that you couldn’t get 10 yards without bumping into someone you know, now seemed quaint, friendly and comforting. So the day came to board the plane back to London my heart sank, not knowing when I would next be back and watching my family trying to hold it together. The long journey back to Kuwait seemed never-ending, sitting on the coach between Gatwick and Heathrow, walking round T5 trying to find a seat, attempting to cheer myself up browsing Mulberry and Cath Kidston and thinking if I had a sound track to this moment “All by Myself” would be blasting out of Dixons.
Here comes what I, and I know many of my expat friends find the hardest, the stage of readjustment (imagine the movie voice over guy saying it, it’s so much more dramatic). After weeks of home comforts, familiar faces, hugs from people who truly know you, you are thrown straight back into your life abroad and it all feels strange and different. Of course its the same and I got back into the routine of going to the gym, meeting the girls for a much-needed brunch to catch each other up on our trips back home, but I didn’t feel right. There were moments when walking round the supermarket you just wish it was Marks & Spencer, walking to the Marina you wish it was St Ouens and waiting for a taxi you think how nice it would be to be able to jump in your Mum’s Fiat 500 right now. None of this is helped by the thought that, not only am I getting back into routine but my loved ones and friends have too. You start to question whether anyone actually misses you.
The scariest thing about distance is that you don’t know whether they’ll miss you or forget you.
I think this sums up so much of the anxiety, emotion and unsettled thoughts that run through your head at this point of your return. Half of you wants to go straight back home and the other is thinking, maybe I shouldn’t go that often if it makes me feel this bad. It’s a Catch 22, which I have to be honest I have yet to decide on the best option. I start, what can only be described as self-destruction, by saying to myself I won’t call or text and lets see how long it takes them to actually remember me. As the days and sometimes weeks go past and I haven’t had any communication from my family its hard to not feel alone and so so far away, but let’s be honest I did this to myself by cutting myself off by choice – What the hell is wrong with me!?
Anyway these days finally pass and I’m back in the game. The good days are back and here to stay, months past with no dramas, the sun is shining, whilst back home are complaining of gale force winds and rain, I’m meeting new people, diet is on track after that 10lb gain and we are all shades of happy. Things are looking up then BAM! out of nowhere you get one of those days and its bad.
This is exactly where I was yesterday, for absolutely no reason (that I can fathom) I cried twice before breakfast. I tried to pull myself together taking a long shower, making myself an energizing smoothie and some gentle yoga to center my mind. But nope I was THERE, yes that’s right the depths of despair, my scruffs went on and I curled up on the sofa to wallow in my crappy mood. There is no reason that I should have felt like this, no event has happened to tip me over the edge, I had a nice hour Face Time with my mum the previous day, why? why? why? I quite literally cried. In a more reflective mood today, I suspect as it was a long bank holiday Easter weekend back in the UK, the endless Facebook and Insta posts about family walks on the beach, kids with their chocolate egg overdose, roast lamb family dinners subconsciously made me a little unstable.
There is nothing that can be done or said to help, so a cuddle from Hubby and curling up to watch Our Queen at Ninety last night seemed to settle me down; nothing like a bit of English nostalgia, Will and Kate and national pride to get you through the black cloud.
Luckily this was just a day of expat blues and nothing more, I have had friends that have really struggled with their new life abroad and deep depression does kick in. Being away and feeling utterly alone has to be one of the scariest feelings in the world and hard to articulate to people on the outside. I suspect this is a common feeling among expat spouses especially, wanting to support their partner and not add what seems like unnecessary drama, so battle alone.
I know I feel like I can’t just call home or text and say I’m having a bad day, it’s a pressure I put on myself not wanting to worry or stress my family, so I keep these emotions to myself and put on my happy expat face that everything is fine. I’m suspect this is my response to feeling unsettled because I don’t want to be faced with the inevitable statement of “just come home” which isn’t what you need to hear. I also don’t want to fail (that’s the Virgo in me) and it’s not that simple as run at the first sign it gets hard. My hubby and I will both have blips; one at a time, maybe at the same time, but we made this move together, that is what life and marriage is all about. We will get through the good days and the bad days together and I’ll always be an ugly crier.