Fair warning: This post is sad, emotional, and it will probably make you feel uncomfortable.
It’s been a year since the last experiences
It’s almost been a year since my friends and I went back to the places we call home. It’s almost been a year since the last time I held them close in my arms, cried on their shoulders or goofily laughed with them till we no longer could feel our waists. It’s almost been a year since the last adventure, the last dance and the last meal. It’s almost been a year since I last formed a mental image of them in my mind. it’s taken almost a year for me to use up all the memories I have of them.
I remember when I first came back. I was confused and depressed, nothing gave me pleasure and it all seemed like a gray haze. I did my share of reading at the time and I knew that was normal. A couple of months of depression after a semester abroad is a perfectly normal thing, “readjusting takes time” and soon. I shall be stronger than ever, according to most articles on the internet.
Time passes by
I also had that spark inside me, that thing that drives you to excel. To fight through your depression to leave again, to see the world. That sense of adventure and curiosity towards all new cultures and all new places.
The first couple of months were relatively easy, you get depressed. You cry 10 times a day, you sleep a lot, but then through it all you know you’re human. You know that the same feelings that make you cry now have once made you extremely happy and in that sad little thought you find some comfort. Then time passes by, and those feelings slowly fade away.
You start getting angry
You suddenly start experiencing uncontrolled bursts of anger. In the middle of a perfectly peaceful day, driving home from a nice summer day at uni under the sun, a person cuts in front of you and you lose it. After a couple of hours of nice enjoyable fun time out with your friends doing your usual pre-exchange things that you used to enjoy so much a year before, you snap. During a nice conversation with your parents about all kinds of stuff. You get angry.
You start hurting people all around you, without really understanding why; neither do they to be honest. You get accustomed to the look of confusion in their eyes every time you overreact, you get used to the feeling of your heart pounding hard. Your blood rushing to your head and your breath escalating quickly every time something as simple as someone throwing a cigarette in the street happens. You realize you have a problem. Yet again, with time, you learn to control your anger. Some breathing exercises, a couple of relaxation techniques and you get over that phase.
From depression to anxiety
Then fear sets in. This is one of the things that amaze me most about the human brain. For in the span of 6 months, you moved from the depression phase, where you did not care whether you lived or died, on the contrary did dangerous things like drive crazy fast just to feel something, to the anxiety phase, where you cannot sleep at night because you fear something might happen to you.
You don’t really know how it happens, or why it happens, it just does. I’ve tried to find a psychological explanation to it, but who knows? It could be how fast time seems to pass in the routine-drenched daily life compared to how long it seemed with all the new experiences abroad. How it now just feels like one big repetitive circle. It could be the suffocating thought that time is passing you by while you sit around in your room wasting your life away. It could be the dreadful realization, which you still fail to accept. That the life you had abroad is 100 times better than any life you could have imagined before leaving.
It is not easy to open up
There are many reasons that a person can find, and unfortunately, almost all of us go through them on our own. Maybe we think people would judge us, maybe we just want to ignore it and pretend it is not happening. Maybe talking about it is just too hard. The fact stays that many of the people I know who had spent time abroad, have been through this. They many never open up about it unless you address it directly.
You are not alone
This post could be just me venting out. Just a thousand letters of negativity clouding your laptop screen, but they could also be a ray of hope to someone. A message to the small amount of emotionally unstable beings, like myself, out there. For those who find readjusting back to normal life after a semester abroad not as easy as people make it sound. It could be a message to those who need more than a couple of months to be “okay” again. Those who cannot just “shake it off,” or “get over it.” To those, who are still suffering in silence after a year and who think that they have bored everyone around them. You are not alone.
I think others have been through it and have managed to survive somehow. So, keep strong and try, as hard as it may seem, to keep your eyes on that ray of hope in the distance. You can also always share your experience here in the comments.
Written by Farah Kamal Zaghmout
Farah is 26 from Jordan, holds a master’s degree in German as a foreign language, published author, blogger, freelance translator and university lecturer.