About a month ago, I wrote this post, giving you all a small glimpse into my personal struggle with anxiety & clinical depression. I also promised myself that I would let myself become vulnerable if it meant being able to help another. If even one single soul reads my words and can relate, or even feel a little more at peace with their own struggles—-well then I’m more than willing to become a little transparent.
Well….in this past month I have really had to think about where to start, how deep to go, and how much to share. Mental health disorders are something that can carry extreme taboo in our culture, and I needed to think about the backlash (if any) and what it truly means to put yourself out there in such a way. It is sad, but we need to think about things such as “well what if I ever wanted to apply for jobs to work for anyone other than myself again?” Prospective employers could easily find this personal blog series and what then? Well, what then? Do we stay quiet and force people in our society to keep walking and struggling alone? Do we continue to only share what is “perfect,” and well put-together? Do we keep on making one another feel insufficient on a daily basis through social mediums such as Pinterest and Instagram? Both things that I absolutely love, but that—-without careful monitoring—can serve as negative triggers for my own insecurities and feelings of insufficiency?
My answer to those questions was no. And for that reason I am going to try and share, in a way that is as honest as possible, my journey from then to now. So for now, let’s take a few giant leaps back to when I first started to notice significant changes in my mental health, and began feeling things that were classified as a lot more than “homesickness,” or “feeling blue.”
As hurtful as it is to my husband for me to say it, my deep struggles started five years ago when we moved to the Netherlands (nearly) straight out of college. We married quickly after graduation and we, quite honestly, were on the “non-plan plan,” for a bit. From the start we had very serious “grown up,” visa and immigration processes to deal with when all we really wanted to be was a young and in love couple with the luxury of struggling through that messy transition from eating in the caf and pulling all-nighters……to wading our way into the waters of the 9-5. (Which, who are we kidding….has become the 8-6:30….)
We were not even a year out of college, and married for just six months, when I found myself living in his quaint and charming village in the south of the Netherlands. It was picturesque and everyone’s dream, right? Marrying Prince Charming and jetting off to Europe to be able to hop around and travel near and far. But for the girl who worked full-time hours throughout college and always provided for myself, I was now relying 110% on my husband for EVERYTHING.
Having no visa meant having no BSN number (the Dutch equivalency of a social security number), and without that I was essentially not a person. (Something that a less than kind worker actually said to me at our city hall during the application process.) I could not open a bank account, obtain my own debit card, have a cell phone contract, apply for any type or work or school program, or even get something as simple as a train card. Like I said, I was not a person…and with that came the feeling that my identity had been lost, seemingly overnight. Add the language barrier and it made for a very challenging time. To me there was absolutely no difference between listening to a podcast in Chinese or a Dutch conversation while riding on the train (something I did quite a bit that week to pass the time). I could listen as much as I wanted or as hard as I could, but the words zipped past me left and right. (I mean, did you know that there really is such a thing as LISTENING way too hard? Trust me, there is. Your brain tries to hyper focus on absolutely everything you are hearing and it, more often than not, leaves you with a pounding headache and a broken spirit.)
My husband was working full-time and we were living at his parents house. (His parents who VERY kindly held our hands and helped through every painful step of the staggeringly slow Dutch immigration process.) I was window shopping and spending a LOT of time on SKYPE with my mom. And just FOUR short weeks after the big move we received the surprise of our lives…..I was pregnant…..
***Follow along to hear how this story progressed and how the adversity and struggle, along with an imbalance in my body chemistry, were all of the necessary ingredients for a mild case of expatriate depression that , along the way, blossomed into postpartum, and eventually was officially diagnosed as clinical.*** Back to the beautiful wedding photographs dancing across my screen. Have a great afternoon everyone! Take care of yourselves and be kind to those around you; we have no idea what internal struggles our neighbors may be going through. Xx, Ashley Nicole.***
A quick photo of the THREE reasons I get out of bed every single day and continue my journey. (Yes, I include myself. Because we need a value ourselves and fight for US as well.)
Photo Credit: The talented Amy, of Amy Allen Photography.