On some days it gets really rough. Six months in and I still get a major case of homesickness every now and again. I guess it takes much longer for it to actually go away. After all, until last year, I’ve lived and built my entire life in a place that’s literally oceans away.
What is Homesickness?
Dealing with this feeling is one of the biggest challenges of living abroad for the first time. As defined, homesickness is an emotional response brought by the longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it. I didn’t think I’d be hit by it as much as it does, in fact, I thought I wouldn’t feel it at all. I have always been quite independent of my family, and have been the type to seek out my own path in life. It’s surprising to realize that you can actually really feel a tangible anxiety and emotional distress from your new environment, sometimes with the slightest provocation. According to this article by the BBC, “In extreme cases it can develop into a panic attack, she says, while it can also result in social withdrawal, sleep disruption, nightmares, and concentration problems.“
The Thoughts That Drown You
I am sincerely happy with my husband and the new friends and family that came with the territory of this new life that I now own. It is just difficult to adjust. At times, it feels lonely. Most times, it feels odd. I feel cut off from my support system, and get annoyed that I can’t just get on a cab and see them and laugh these feelings away with them. I am mortified of the idea of them moving on with their lives without me, so I either get overly involved or intentionally distant. I get extremely anxious and always want to know how my family and friends are when I read news from my city.
It’s not just the thought of home that makes you emotional. Your new surroundings also tend to make you feel small and insignificant, because everything is different to what you’re used to. I get confused and intimidated when I realise that there are more cultural differences to deal with than I have expected. I have a frustrating fear that I will one day lose my identity, because everything is so new… including me. I’ve changed a lot and I am still changing, and only the people whom I’ve left behind will understand just how drastically. I need them so I can cope, but obviously I can’t run to them.
The hard days don’t last very long. You get on with life and get distracted from the sadness. It feels like momentary bouts with insanity, because with all honesty, you really do try to fight it in your head. You remind yourself that you have bigger possibilities, goals, and victories ahead. There are no regrets with the choice that you made, just a lot of missing the life that you left behind. It’s natural. It’s okay.
Someone told me to “Snap out of it. It’s not like you’re never going back home.” It’s not about that though. I read this about homesickness, and it is bang on.
“You’re not literally just missing your house. You’re missing what’s normal, what is routine, the larger sense of social space, because those are the things that help us survive. ” – Josh Klapow, University of Alabama’s School of Public Health
Kindness and Understanding
I really, really want to move forward, and I’m trying and will get there slowly but surely. I really appreciate the kindness and understanding of people at this stage of my life. My friends and family make me feel this by their constant reassurance that they support me and will always be there. Then there’s the people around me, who are maybe getting tired of my stories of the Philippines but still listen with genuine interest. I love where I come from and the people there, and will always do. Someday, it will get better and I will have better things to talk about, but I appreciate that for now, at least I am able to surround myself with people who get it. People who are awesome and are just relentlessly encouraging in showing me everything there is to love about my new home without rushing me into it.
It is very embarrassing to admit that you are feeling homesick. I’m a grown adult, and I literally, more than a couple of times, have lost sleep over this feeling and silently cried for my mommy. I admire my dad and all the overseas workers so much more for living through this emotional roller coaster.
It is all part of the growing pains of transitioning from one home to another. I’ll eventually get over this and learn how to deal with this. On the bright side of things, I have never felt a stronger desire for connection and love towards my home. We have a saying in the Philippines –
Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinaggalingan, ay di makakarating sa paroroonan.
“The man who doesn’t know how to look back to where he came from, will never get to his destination.” Someday I’ll be able to move forward and look back without clinging on too tightly to the past. But for now.
I miss you all.