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Depression as an Expat Parent

Woman asking for help in a stressful situation

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 isolatingIt can be intimidatingIt 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.

Depression

People battle depression every day and they can manage this in the safe, secure home environments that they are used to, where they knew what to expect each day, where to buy the things they need and even how to manage their own homes. However, what happens when they move away from their support network of family and friends, their medical support for trusted medication from doctors and mental health experts?

What Happens When You Move Abroad?

The life of on expat undoubtedly brings many bonuses, the life it can offer your family far outweigh the life you may have been used to at home especially in terms of the quality of life for you and your family. You often have more time together, more money to spend, holidays to amazing places and the biggest bonus is that it offers the kids an education that was simply out of reach back at home.

But what happens to those shy, introverted people, the ones suffering from anxiety or depression, how do they throw themselves suddenly in a new uncertain environment?

Initially you find a school that offers a whole new support network of people, parents of your kids’ friends, you become busy with new routines and may even throw yourself into the school PTA or are able to work a little from home to keep yourself sane. But then things start to take a nose dive.

Quickly, and very easily you can slip into a rhythm of functioning but not enjoying. Of overcompensating with alcohol in order to make something fun happen. You go out late, sleep late, over medicate as medicines that previously needed a prescription are easily obtained over the counter in Thailand so that’s one worry you don’t have. You find yourself existing and without realising, you spiral into a sad, lonely hole that suddenly you recognise from previous times but can’t piece together how you got there again. What happens when you wake up one day but feel sad and lost amongst a sea of relative strangers, stuck in a gold fish bowl where you don’t want to admit your problems in fear of the stigma. You feel sad and lost and miles away from home.

Depression in teens

Reach out for a Life Line

First of all, there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, most parents at one time or another may feel exactly the same way, so open up to others to find your life line. There are good therapy options available in Bangkok that range from recommended psychologists to psychiatric help and a hospital that specialises in the treatment of mental health care. You may need to visit a few to find the right fit for you in terms of language and cultural differences and some private medical insurances may even have an allowance for therapy you may need, check the small print as it’s more often than not, hidden away.

Those with younger children seem to manage better as caring for young children gives you a purpose and a reason to get up every day. You have people that rely on you, which can keep you from ebbing too far from shore. A good idea is to ask your helper to start later so you have to get up with the kids, walk the dog, make breakfast, anything to stop you slipping back into a dark lonely bedroom.

Reach out to a specialist, tweak your medication, whatever works for you is the best advise for you, everyone manages things differently so remember what is a good fit for one, may not work for others. Dance to your own tune.

Good consistent therapy, coupled with some excellent love and support from family and friends will help you find that road to recovery and help you to start enjoying your life here. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been hiding your feeling, there is no need to struggle alone.

For anyone who is feeling this way, we can 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.

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