My struggles with depression while living overseas

It has been a few months since we moved back home and I wanted to share this for the benefit of those who might have similar struggles.

My husband and I were married for a few months when we decided to live overseas. It was a decision motivated by the charm of adventure. When the opportunity for my husband to teach overseas presented itself, we were super excited! Saying goodbye to family and friends was hard considering we had spent our entire lives living just five minutes away from our loved ones. But we knew that we would be back in a couple of years, which made moving overseas really seem like an adventure.

We arrived in our new home city in the middle of summer. Temperatures were not too bad and we loved the feel of the city. During the first few weeks, we tried to get connected with a church and a community around us.

It’s strange trying to establish relationships from scratch.

Since we had pretty much lived in our old home city all our lives, friendships and communities had developed organically over time.

In our new home city, we had to ask intentional questions about how involved we wanted to be and we had to seek people out to meet for coffee or meals.

I plugged into my “get things done” mode right from the start. Finding a local grocery store, learning about the city, working out our apartment lease, and registrations were all completed within the first few weeks. These chores kept me busy while my husband tried to figure out his work. We spent weekends exploring the city and trying out new places to eat. The first month went by in a flash and we felt pretty settled there.

Read related: Living Overseas: The First Two Weeks

Over the next few weeks I had very little left to do after my husband left for work. I tried volunteering but was limited by my language skills. I tried learning the language online and I spent a lot of time reading and trying to write. But boredom and loneliness would take over. 

In a few weeks, this loneliness started effecting my sleep schedules. I would stay awake at night often crying softly into my pillow so that my husband wouldn’t find out. I didn’t want him to think I was struggling because he seemed to be living his dream. I wanted to support him well. Waking up in the morning was another story! Some days I would wake up early and some days, it would be noon before I could drag myself out of bed. And even then I would just sulk around the house. I tried to reignite motivation and make the most of my time there but it was a fight I was losing everyday.

Since I am a Christian, I would pray, read my Bible and journal. But I couldn’t shake that heavy depressed feeling weighing me down. 

We kept in regular touch with family and friends back home. It was great but I couldn’t tell them about my struggles. I did not want them to worry about us.

In fact everyone who met me considered me a great example for expats because I seemed to be fitting in!

After the first year, my depression seemed to hit me in waves. There were still nights and days when I would sob uncontrollably with a sense of complete helplessness. It was almost as though this sobbing had become a ritual that needed to be done to get on with my life. I felt useless even though I knew I was valued and all that. The fear of being alone would ruin social events and I stopped enjoying adventures with my husband.

At the beginning of our second year, I finally decided to share my struggles with my husband. He listened intently and shared about his struggles with me, which to be honest, really surprised me. I was under the impression that he was doing better than that. The conversation did nothing to alleviate my struggles but it made me realize that I didn’t have to fight those feelings alone. 

It finally hit me – I was struggling with depression and allowing it to slowly win over me. It wasn’t just feeling lonely and homesick anymore. This had grown into something more powerful. I needed to make some significant changes and give myself a chance to enjoy my time overseas. Here are a few things I did. 

  • I realized that sobbing every other night for no apparent reason was not “normal”.
  • I also realized that the sobbing was worse when I was exhausted so I started going to sleep by 10 pm. It improved my ability to sleep through the night and wake up refreshed in the morning. I had more energy throughout the day.
  • I started praying with my husband and we started sharing and supporting each other more.
  • I started working out everyday – nothing elaborate but consistent workout with some goals.
  • I started reading purposefully.
  • I started eating better and learned to cook a few dishes that were our favorites.
  • I made the time to attend social events and plan adventures with my husband. No, I didn’t always want to but I needed to do them and so I did. And they usually turned out fun.
  • When I didn’t feel like talking about myself and answering questions during social events, I learned to redirect the conversation towards the other person and make them feel like the center of the conversation. It usually worked.
  • I started dressing sharper and I already had the clothes and accessories to do that. Dressing up prevented me from feeling like a slob. It’s amazing how clothing can influence how we feel and behave.

These small changes made a big difference to the rest of my time overseas. I still struggled sometimes but my mostly stable emotional state rubbed off on my husband and we made some crazy awesome memories!

My husband was offered an extension because he is amazing! We accepted the extension and spent three years overseas before returning home! During that extended time, the homesickness didn’t disappear but it no longer hindered us from having the best time there! 

If you need support during your time overseas, please don’t hesitate to seek the help of a counselor or mentor. With just a little help, your time overseas can be amazingly life-changing!


The author of this post has requested to remain anonymous.

You can write for The Overseas Magazine too!  Check out these suggested topics and email editor@theoverseasmagazine.com

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Our World: April 2017

Our World at a glance in April 2017

USA

As the State Department’s former North Korea point man Christopher Hill said recently, it’s as if the Trump administration is trying to out-North Korean the North Koreans. Matching brinkmanship with brinkmanship. Read more…

UK

Seek a second option when dealing with surgeries. A breast surgeon who “played God” and carried out “completely unnecessary” operations has been convicted of intentionally wounding patients. Read more…

Russia

Russians, in peaceful protest, call for Putin to quit. Several hundred Russians lined up in central Moscow on Saturday under the gaze of riot police to hand over handwritten appeals for President Vladimir Putin to quit, as similar protests took place in other cities. Read more…

China

Laden with whisky and baby milk, the first freight train linking China directly to the U.K. arrived in the eastern Chinese city of Yiwu Saturday after a 12,000-kilometre trip, becoming the world’s second-longest rail route. Read more…

India

IAS officers to adopt families of matyrs. The officer will not be required to provide any direct financial assistance to the adopted family, but support and handhold its members on a sustained basis so that they live with a sense of security and assurance that the country is taking care of them in their hours of crisis and tragedy. Read more…

Africa – Tanzania

9,932 Tanzanian civil servants have been ordered to resign after an audit named them to have gained employment with fake certificates. Read more…

South America – Venezuela

At least three people have been killed in Venezuela in protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Read more…


Featured image credit: Reuters

 

Public transportation in India

Planning to live in India without a personal car? No problem! The variety of public transport options that are available for you will take you wherever you need to go!

Buses

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Local buses with the conductor at the gate

Buses are the most common form of public transportation in cities and are most busy during rush hour. This means that you will most likely not get a chance to board it unless you make it to the starting bus stops or are comfortable pushing your way in. Routes typically cover as many stops as possible and they can take the longest time to get somewhere. Since the routes are pretty fixed, plan your travel with enough time to accommodate waiting in traffic snarls.

Fares are typically low, even on air conditioned buses and tickets can be purchased from the bus conductor using cash only after you board. Be prepared to pay for the tickets in exact change for a smooth transaction and watch out for pickpockets.

Some buses have separate seats assigned for men and women and designated seats for people with disabilities. 

Local Trains

Similar to buses, trains are packed to maximum capacity during rush hour depending on the direction of travel but are usually empty through the rest of the day. Local trains connect the city with it’s surrounding suburbs. Trains are usually on time but be prepared for last minute reschedules. 

Purchase your tickets using cash at the railway station ticketing counter. You can buy several trips at once if you need to use it regularly. Crowded trains also invite pickpockets so stay alert and keep your belongings secure at all times.

Local trains have a few compartments assigned just for women. Men are not allowed on these compartments but women are allowed on all compartments. 

Also read: Train travel in India for first time travelers

Metro rail

All major cities enjoy metro rail service. These trains are super fast, generally on time and connect all major destinations in the cities.

Low fares and convenient connections all around the city also mean that they are overcrowded to the point of discomfort during rush hour. They are usually also quite crowded throughout the day.  You can purchase your ticket at the ticketing counters at any metro station within the city.

Priority seats are marked and other seats are available for everyone else. 

Taxis

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Yellow taxis

Yellow cabs are still one of the most common taxis found in Kolkata and Mumbai. Other cities also have regular taxis that are usually not yellow in color. Taxis can usually be hired from taxi stands. In Kolkata and Mumbai, empty running taxis can be hailed from anywhere.

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Taxi meter

Fares are generated by the meter reading inside taxis. Payment is generally made by cash after you reach your destination and most of the time, if you can’t pay the exact fare amount, then you can forget about getting the balance change amount! Taxi drivers are also known to decline rides as often as they wish and often quote a fixed fare amount instead of using the meter. You can negotiate a deal that works for you. You can book the taxi all to yourself or use one as a shuttle service open to others as well. 

Uber

Replacing the monopoly of taxis in most Indian cities are uber cars. You can expect polite drivers who issue a printed receipt at the end of your ride. Uber services work pretty much the same everywhere – get the app and book your ride. In India you can pay for the ride at the end of the trip by cash. Uber services usually charge a little higher than other public transportation but they are fairly reliable and not fussy.

You can call the emergency number to resolve any disputes you have with an uber driver. The emergency number will connect you to your local police station where you can register a complaint and uber will call you back with a solution.

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Book your Overseas Coach

Ola

This cab service is similar to Uber but for some routes they are a little less expensive. They are available in most Indian cities. Ola rides can be booked through an app or you can hail and board an empty Ola ride without booking on the app. You can pay for your ride through your registered card or by cash at the end of the journey.

For any disputes, call the emergency number and fare errors can be adjusted during your next ride.

Ferry Launch

Some cities, like Kochi and Kolkata offer ferry launches to travel across rivers.

Tickets can be purchased at ticketing counters at designated zones along the river banks. Fares are low and you can escape terrible traffic snarls by using these water routes. Routes are limited to destinations close to the water bodies. People board and disembark in an orderly queue and you can watch the beautiful city lights as you escape the smoky streets. 

Auto rickshaws

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The notorious auto rickshaws

These are probably the craziest ride in every city. Autos are small vehicles that are open on two sides. They are ideal for short distances but some cities offer longer connections. In some cities the routes are fixed and some cities you can book them to take you anywhere within their permitted zones. You can board them from their stops and hold on firmly so that you don’t fly out. 

Fares are low and you will do well to pay in exact cash when you reach your destination.

Cycle rickshaws

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Cycle rickshaw

Need to get somewhere within a few kilometers but don’t want to walk by yourself?  Use the services of a cycle rickshaw. They are suited for narrow lanes within residential localities. They are especially useful when the sun is scorching hot or if the rains cause the streets to flood. 

Payment is made in cash after you reach your destination.

Also read: Living Overseas: Reflections about India

Tram

Kolkata is the only city that still has a functioning tram network and connects a few iconic places. Even though it is used as public transport, they are slow moving and ideal for a touristy ride of the city.

You can buy tickets after boarding the tram and before getting off at your destination. The tram conductor will come to you during the ride for your tickets.

Safe travels in and around India!

Which of these rides are you planning to use during your visit? Share with us in the comments below! 

Interested in featuring your city on TOM, email your article to editor@theoverseasmagazine.com

Questions you should be asking during your first overseas “check-out” trip

Visiting a place before moving there for long term is a great idea because it can prepare your mind and help you make moving decisions. Setting some strategies can help you make this “check-out” trip more worthwhile.

Whether you are someone, who enjoys just going with the flow or someone who needs it all chalked out – here are some guiding questions.

Of primary importance:

  • What kind of visa will you need to get?
  • What are some non-negotiable conditions for you to thrive in this new place? Think of food allergies, other allergies, medical attention.
  • What are some compromises that you are willing to make?
    • In several instances, the compromising attitude disappears when the going gets tough at the end of the glorious honeymoon phase. Giving this question some thought beforehand could help you push through challenges later on.

Know your limits

Everyday living:

  • What will housing look like?
    • Conduct a brief scan of the housing scenario and budgets
  • If you have kids, will you consider a local school or an alternative?
  • If your spouse will join you, what are things they could be involved in?
    • Include them in all these decisions.
  • Assess the public transportation system. Will you need a car? What kind of driver’s license will be required?
  • Will you be able to learn the language?
    • Learning the local language can help you feel more connected and confident.
  • Could you thrive as an outsider?
    • If you look significantly different than the local people, you will most likely get stared at a lot. Be aware of the attention you are getting and decide if you can handle the staring for the rest of your stay there. The staring doesn’t really go away although you might learn to live with it.
  • Do you like the food, culture, lifestyle?
    • Try the local food and decide from a daily meal perspective if that is something that you will be able to enjoy. Observe people and lifestyles. 
  • Will you do well with the weather conditions?
    • Weather often plays a big role in how productive and healthy we can be,
  • Will you be required to change the way you dress? Is that something you wouldn’t mind doing?
  • Will you have a local community that can help support you? If not, what are ways in which you can make your stay in a foreign land seem more like home?
  • Can you afford the cost of living?

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Work related:

  • Where do you fit in and how you can best support the role?

Staying in touch with family and your community at home:

  • Will staying in touch with family and friends back home be easily possible?
    • Whether you are close to your family or not, having a familiar community support your time overseas, even sporadically, can offer a great boost to your time overseas. 

Getting back home:

  • How can the role help your plans for the futures?
    • This brings perspective and focus so that you can make the most of your time overseas.
  • Throughout your overview trip, ask yourself if this will be worth the move – Is the work you are going to get involved in be meaningful enough?

getting back home

Exit strategy:

  • If your health or some situation demands an early departure, could you leave without any hassle?
    • Even though sometimes having restrictions on moving can be helpful in being tough through overseas challenges, it is good to have an exit budget and a plan in place in case you need to leave earlier than anticipated.

obstacles cartoon

Read related: Tips for Overseas Living – Inside Considerations for Housing | Tips for Overseas Living—Outside Considerations For Housing


Do you have other recommendations? Email them to the editor@theoverseasmagazine.com

 

Chai recipes

Give a man some chai and you cheer him up for a day. Teach him to make chai and you will cheer him up forever.

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We at The Overseas Magazine love teaching friends in the US how to make chai, mostly because then they can make some for us whenever we visit them.

A few months ago we shared our chai recipe with a friend named Jared. A few weeks ago, he invited us over to taste one of his recipes. Jared is a great cook and is fearless about experimenting with spices. Here’s his fancy chai recipe for one cup:

1 tsp Orange pekoe tea + half cup whole milk + half cup water + a slice of ginger + a tsp of licorice + a pinch of black pepper + a cardamom pod + a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Of course Jared did not use those exact measurements for any of the ingredients. He brought it all to a boil, let it simmer for a minute and strained the chai into a cup. We were skeptical about the taste but the chai was absolutely delicious!The ingredients had already made it mildly sweet so we skipped the sugar.

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.

– C.S. Lewis

20151212_110509There are many chai recipes serving different needs and cravings. We want to share a few of our favorites with you.

Basic chai recipe for two cups:

Bring about one cup of milk + one cup of water + two tsp of loose tea leaves to a boil. We prefer Orange Pekoe loose tea because of its amazing taste and flavor. When it rises, lower the heat or turn it off and let the chai simmer till the color changes to caramel brown. A darker color might mean that your chai is too strong and anything lighter might mean that your chai is not done. Strain it out, add sugar or honey and enjoy! 

I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.

– Dostoyevsky

Adding a few spices to chai is what makes it more exciting. 

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Ginger (Hindi: Adrak):  If you’re using the root, use a tiny piece for that mild flavor. You can add it to the milk and water along with the tea leaves. If you are using powdered ginger, add a pinch of it. Ginger’s inflammatory properties make it ideal for fighting a cold or chest congestion. 

Rainy days should be spent at home with a cup of tea and a good book.

– Bill Watterson

Cardamom (Hindi: Elaichi): This is another delicious chai spice. It makes tea taste like dessert in a cup, especially if you like Indian desserts. You can use one whole pod for two cups of tea. The chemical composition of cardamon makes it perfect for easing stomach cramps, morning sickness, assist with digestion and soothing nerves.

There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.

– Henry James

Cinnamon (Hindi: Dalchini): Cinnamon added to chai makes it feel Christimassy and it is also known to make your house smell nice. So add a sprinkle to your tea everyday, like we do! Cinnamon is a great source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also known to lower blood sugar levels. 

As far as her mom was concerned, tea fixed everything. Have a cold? Have some tea. Broken bones? There’s a tea for that too. Somewhere in her mother’s pantry, Laurel suspected, was a box of tea that said, ‘In case of Armageddon, steep three to five minutes’.

– Aprilynne Pike, Illusions

Spiced rum: Spiced rum works very well with all chai recipes. Add the rum after you have strained the tea out into cups and you can determine the quantity.

If you are cold, tea will warm you;
if you are too heated, it will cool you;
if you are depressed, it will cheer you;
if you are excited, it will calm you.”

– William Ewart Gladstone

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Tea can help you sleep better and also help you feel more alert – it’s truly multi-purpose. Let us know if you tried any of these and The Overseas Magazine team would love to stop by for a cup!

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea! How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.”

– Sydney Smith


Help someone thrive overseas by sharing your stories with The Overseas Magazine. Send an email to editor@theoverseasmagazine.com.

Our World: March 2017

March 2017 in a few countries around the world:

USA: Travel ban halted

The Justice Department has filed a notice to appeal a Hawaii-based federal judge’s ruling that indefinitely halted core portions of the President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban. Read more…

China: Trump and Xi meeting

President Trump and China’s Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet amid a range of pressing issues about trade, North Korea and the South China Sea. Read more…

UK: Westminster attacker

Westminster attacker Khalid Masood drove his car into pedestrians, killing three people, and fatally stabbing a police officer before being shot by the police. Read more…

India: Railway Network expansion

Giving strategic interests a further push, the Centre is exploring feasibility to connect India-China border district Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh with the railway network. Read more…

Israel: Settlement issues

Palestinians are resisting Israel’s settlement law by petitioning Israeli courts against a law that forces them to lease their lands to Israeli settlers. Read more…

Australia: Cyclone Debbie

Cyclone Debbie is causing serious concerns for areas prone to flooding. Residents in northern NSW have been ordered to evacuate. Read more…

Peru: GDP growth

Peru is expected to become Latin America’s top economy surpassing Chile, Uruguay, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela. Read more…

Too cool to ignore

A futuristic skyscrapper would hover majestically above the ground because it would be attached to an actual asteroid, in space, that is forcibly put into orbit around the earth. Clouds Architecture Office has unveiled plans for a futuristic skyscrapper dubbed the “Analemma Tower”.  Read more…

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Read more: Write for TOM

 

Flying to the US? Learn more about the latest electronics ban

Flying to the US with electronics just became a lot more inconvenient. Major airlines flying via countries in the Middle East and Africa will no longer allow electronics larger than a cellphone in a handbag. Passengers will be required to pack them with their checked luggage.

This step was taken by the US to avoid the risk of passenger planes being targeted by terrorist groups who might smuggle explosives in electronic devices.

Medical devices might be allowed on the plane after thorough screening.

Airlines impacted:

Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

Preparing for flights to the US:

  1. Check with your airline to determine how the electronics ban will effect you and pack accordingly.
  2. If you have medical devices, let your airline know in advance so that they can be prepared to screen them and allow them on the plane with you.
  3. Estimate longer layovers because of additional screenings. Pack some dry and permissible snacks and perhaps some reading material to make long layovers less painful.
  4. Prepare to be searched thoroughly, exercise patience and cooperate with officials.
  5. If you absolutely must carry electronics in your handbag, book tickets with airline who are currently unaffected by the ban.

 

Did the ban effect you? Write to us: editor@theoverseasmagazine.com

Read more about the ban here.