Depression as an Expat Parent

6 March 2017, BKK Kids

Everyone appreciates that as a parent you can have bad days. But what do you do when those days turn into weeks, and the weeks turn into months?

Clinical depression can often be triggered or exacerbated by a life away from everything that you know and trust. Moving abroad is a huge step and as a parent, you’re the one that has to hold everything together. As a working parent, you have the guilt of not spending time with your children and family, which can be a huge trigger. As a trailing-spouse, you have the pressure of trying to keep the family functioning in a new environment with new people around you.

It can be isolating.

It can be intimidating.

It can be lonely.

All too often, mental health, particularly in the culture of expat lives, can be overlooked as simply settling down stress. “How could anyone possibly be ‘miserable’ in a beautiful place like Thailand?” “Life must be so much easier now that your financial worries are less?” “Look how happy your children are in their new life! Why aren’t you?” These are all questions I’ve personally heard whilst settling into a new life in Bangkok.

I’ve battled depression for many years, and in the safe, secure home environment where I knew what to expect each day, where to buy the things I needed and even how to manage my own home, I was pretty much on top of things. I had a great support network of family and friends around me. I had good medical support from my doctors and mental health experts. I was on medication and happy to be so. Then we moved abroad.

This was something I was really keen to do. The life it could offer us as a family far outweighed our life at home. We’d have more time together. We’d have more money. We could go on holidays to amazing places and offer the kids an education that was simply out of reach back at home.

The move was great, seamless even. We suddenly had a whole new support network of people. We had new friends, the kids had their new routines and I was able to work a little from home to keep myself sane… I made contact with a new doctor in Thailand who was able to keep my prescription going which was an initial worry… but, unbeknown to me, things started to take a nose dive.

Quickly, and very easily I slipped into a rhythm of functioning but not enjoying. Of overcompensating with alcohol in order to make something fun happen. I was still going out. I was still sleeping. I was still existing. But without realising, I had spiralled into a sad, lonely hole that I recognised from previous times but couldn’t piece together how I’d got there. There were tell tail signs that I’d ignored. But one day I woke up and I was simply sad and lost. And miles away from home.

As I was caring for young children at the time, I had a purpose which helped enormously. I had a reason to get up every day. I had people that relied on me, which kept me from ebbing too far from shore.

I’m pleased to say that, with a few tweaks to my medication, some excellent love and support from my family and a realisation that I’d stopped looking after myself, I’ve now started on the road to recovery where I’m enjoying life here. I relish time with my children and husband. I’m appreciating everything that I’ve been hiding from for two years, and feel that I’m no longer just existing, but thriving.

Anyone else that is feeling the way I did, this is just to reassure you that you’re not alone, even if you’re feeling isolated in a strange country. You will find your way. This won’t go on forever and you’re far stronger than you think you are. Also, seek out mental health resources in Bangkok. It may be harder to find the services in English that are right for you, but they do exist.

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