The Anxiety Chronicles (II) – Expat Life.

First part of the anxiety chronicles is here.

As always, remember that I am not a qualified professional for treating anxiety, so what I share here is only my experience and it is by no means designed to replace professional help. I fully encourage you to seek adequate help (and by that I mean a therapist, not some super-life coach who got his diploma from an invented online course. Anxiety and mental issues are not a joke and should be taken seriously and treated accordingly by people trained properly to do so). Also, please take into account that some things you´ll read here may be triggering, so take care with that.

The topic of this second article on this matter is linked to the fact that I initiated this blog mainly to spread my love for Barcelona and its special treasures. It derailed a bit, it is true, because I found here a corner where could I express myself with freedom, so I´ll continue to explore everything my brain wants to produce 🙂 But today I want to share a bit of my experience of living abroad, far from my home country as an anxiety sufferer.

I feel the need to add some things to the disclaimer above: this is my story, although it can prove common, because many anxious people are quite reluctant to travel or change homes. I cannot share my whole story in a single article (nor do I want to, I have not decided if writing here is “right” or “wrong”; what I do know for now is that it is therapeutic for me, so I´ll take it), but context is important, so I´ll add that I did not come here alone (this time, I did live abroad alone for 1 year previously), my home country is not passing its brightest moment ever so the decision to leave was difficult, but pretty straightforward, I had a job to come here (although there were adventures around the way) and I already knew Barcelona quite well (having lived here previously and traveled around quite a bit). These are some of my circumstances.

So, a bit of focus is needed 🙂 Many people suffering from anxiety have a very hard time even changing from a room to the other, or having to choose a different road to get to work or present panic attacks when they have to meet someone new. Therefore it is quite obvious that changing the country, the job and your home while being away from your family and your web of friends and close ones is extremely difficult to manage. That actually applies for everyone, independently on their anxiety status, I think.

Some tips might be useful, so here they come:

1. If it possible, visit the city you are going to move to before actually moving!

I know, I am Captain Obvious today 🙂 This is very important, so do try to do it. It will help getting you settled, feel the vibe and decide what is best for you. I understand that nowadays these decisions can be taken online, but I think it is mandatory to see everything with your own eyes and not through a screen. Even try to find your safe place, where you can disconnect and find your calm in the midst of all changes.

2. Plan, plan, plan!

I know, it might not be the best approach, because there are so many surprises around such an important move that you can then get anxious because your plans did not work out. But planning does wonders for the brain.

Speaking of Barcelona as an example, you´ll find helpful information around here also 🙂 It is important to plan on how to find a place to stay – this is the most difficult part. Explore areas and options. Plan for your paperwork once you´re here (social security number, health coverage, residence permit etc.). Check out the phone and Internet offers. All that is important.

Also, if you are an old friend of anxiety´s hits, you already have a plan on how to proceed if you experience an unpleasant episode, but if you don´t already do agree with your therapist on a quick and efficient action plan for difficult moments.

3. Be patient!

This is actually the most important thing you can do. You leave home a network of friends and close persons that will be very difficult to maintain. I´ll go ahead and drop the bad news to you: It will vanish. If you don´t want it to vanish completely, you need to work on that, but don´t make that your priority, because you have chosen a new life and you don´t need additional anxiety triggers. In this new life, you´ll not find friends or even people to hang around just like that. That is also a lot of work and your life will change. It is a fact.

You might get anxious for so many reasons that a list would be endless, but just hang on in there. From my point of view, it is advisable to give time to your new adventure. Don´t decide that you made a mistake after just 6 days in the new place. Adapt and try to slowly, but firmly, discover your new home.

As for practical advice, try the meetup app, get out, go to the libraries, do some volunteering. Whatever you feel would be helpful, but cross a bit your usual limits (if possible, of course).

4. Don´t ignore therapy!

You can search for a therapist once you get to the new place or you can skype or talk with your usual therapist, but therapy is of major importance. We cannot control every little thing and every emotion that pops up and such an important move can stir things quite a bit, therefore do yourself a favor and find a guide through all this.

This topic is so complex that it is very difficult to cover, but hopefully you´ll find some useful tips here. I´ll end saying that my anxiety has gotten 100 times worse than it was back home, but I understand why that happened and I am not blaming the move itself for this situation.

As a final thought, I am unsure about one thing. For years I considered that I should avoid going back home too often (truth be told, I was running from problems back there which I childishly thought would stay geographically limited to those borders and that was not the case), but now my opinion is that I was wrong. Do whatever rocks your anxiety boat 🙂

If you have any opinions to share, please do so in the comments section. 🙂

Be well!

C.

Featured photo by Shwetha Shankar on Unsplash

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