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Living Abroad And Dealing With Depression

6 posts in this topic

Posted · Report post  


Hi everyone. Newbie here!

I am currently living in Japan, and I am having an incredibly hard time. It's not culture shock - coming to Japan was a dream come true for me. It is dealing with the other non-Japanese people that are my colleagues and surrogate "family".

Living in the countryside in a place like Japan means you have to make bonds and friendships, and you have to stick within those boundaries. Because of my depression, I am very socially awkward, and so pretty much no one really gets me, so it's hard. I was ok with that for a while. I thought I had friends who did understand me and liked me in spite of it. One of them also suffers from depression, and I thought that we were close.

Turns out I am horribly wrong. I recently found out that the 3 people I thought were my friends have actually been gossiping about me behind my back, saying really, really horrible things. Discussing my depression, saying I am only seeking attention with my poor social skills, laughing about my appearance and telling each other how much they can't stand being around me, and how everyone hates me.

I am usually quite a strong person - living with depression helps you come to terms with who you are. I have tried to pretend that I don't care what people think, but obviously I do. This has really broken me. I am finding it hard to go to do the most basic things, and it's making me want to give up my dream and go home so I don't have to be around these people. They were supposed to be my friends. I don't want to confront them about it, because we live in a very small community and it would be another 8 months before I could actually leave, but it seems unbearable. I feel like a total failure, and my self-loathing is extreme. I don't hate my friends, I hate myself. Logically I know that I shouldn't, but that doesn't work well for me.

I don't really know what I need or expect, but I had to just tell some body who isn't going to gossip about it and hate me for me being me. The isolation amplifies everything and there is no escape from these people.So

Sorry for the long post, and thanks for being here to let me vent!

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Posted · Report post  

Oh, I so know how it feels... Self-loathing is something too familiar to me.

I wasn't a popular child at school and other kids bullied me. I come from a broken family and my mom seemed to hate me cause I am my father's daughter (he's a recovered alcoholic, that's why they got separated). I had really rough teenage years and on top of all that hell one day I was sexually assaulted. And approximately 18 months after that my depression broke out.

So it's really hard for me to trust anybody and make friends.

It's hard to look in the eyes of those people who aren't nice to you behind your back. Cause you know what they really think of you.

But you have a dream and you should pursue it despite those people. If you can beat it now you can beat it for the rest of your life.

If you think about it then you'll see that it's not about you, it's about them. People often group up against different ones because they don't understand them or/and feel threatened.

I know it's hard to be solo in a place where everything is new. Friends are essential, we need to feel we belong somewhere.

Sometimes it's best to just leave it, mind your own business and let other cool down. They'll keep going only when they see that it affects you.

I found comfort from reading tons of books... Basically focused on other things.

And now I really don't care what others think of me. I don't have many friends but the few I do have are the best.

Good luck!

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Posted · Report post  

I know you don't want to confront these people because you have to live with them the next 8 months but nothing will change if you don't at least talk to them. Ask them why they're saying the things they do. Perhaps they would be willing to get to know you better. Suggest an outing you could all take. Generally people don't like in others what they are hiding from in themselves. I have seen this time after time.

If you feel you can go the 8 months on your own, it's okay to be solo. I prefer it that way. Get lost in the country side and the beauty around you. Write, read, really enjoy your dream experience. Perhaps you can become friends with people in the village where you live. It's all about immersion isn't it? Getting the whole experience of the language and culture. This would put you miles ahead of anyone else. I think most people enjoy teaching others about the place they live.

Another thing you could do is write a book about your travels. Write about the wonderful things you are seeing and doing. Something you can take out years from now and enjoy the experience all over again.

I think it's very cool what you're doing. Would love to see you post some pictures in the gallery. Let me know if you do. Take care and live your dreams!

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Posted · Report post  

Hey DawnJapan,

I am also living and working in foreign country...Argentina. I live in Buenos Aires which is a huge New York like city so I feel its the opposite effect of feeling isolated in a crowd of people. I am dealing with depression currently and I have no friends just students that I can speak English with and have to keep the relationship professional so definitely no confiding in them. I have been here for 4 months and I want so desperately to have friends that I can trust. I also have Bipolar disorder which is really hard to explain to people in general.

Also, I studied Japanese for two years it is also a dream of mine to live and work in Japan and I agree with the above posts to immerse yourself in the beauty of the countryside and to take a year of self reflection much like the sage's that lived in the mountains. You could pick up writing calligraphy, go to zen temples, etc. to calm and ease your mind. I hope things have improved for you since November.

I and everyone else on this forum, which is a lot of people, understand and can be there for you. I also agree that you should (I hope you have already) confront these people in a respectful way to show them that you are human and you deal with depression as much as someone might deal with a physical disease. They speak behind your back out of ignorance and immaturity. I cannot stand that just because you can't "see" depression it is not respected as something that effects your everyday life just like any other illness.

Keep your chin up and try to find people in the community that are genuine and nice and maybe stay away from other American's and find Japanese friends if you can. I have found that American's here are just as bad as they are in the States not respecting or empathizing with me about my bipolar and depression.

You are living your dream. Don't let anyone take that away from you. I know its hard but remember why you are there and how hard you worked to be there!! This is your life and not theirs to judge. Anyways...I have had my ups and downs being here and not having people I trust yet but I have never had much time in my life to self reflect and its been so far lonely but beneficial for my well being. I hope my words help and that you have found some comfort and friends to confide in!

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Posted · Report post  

Ohayou DawnJapan!

I have live in about 10 different countries, but never to Japan.

I have many Japanese friends though. They are very shy.....more accurately respectful.. so you need to take the first step.

Plus you are in a new place-your chance to redefine your self in anyway.

As for friends-that is socially indulged concept. Find things to do, places to be and you will be quite surprised how annoying those friends can become.

Photography is a great hobby. People are vain and they would love to be your friends for a decent photo.

I was never bullied by friends so am not sure how to advise. I'm somewhat tall, with a strong personality, so quite intimidating- i guess they wouldn't dare, not would i care what they think.

Stay who you are, don't take things too closely to heart.


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Posted (edited) · Report post  

Hi dawnjapan. I was wondering if anyone else has been experiencing the same loneliness that I've been feeling, though how we've reacted to it is probably very different.

I was hired by a teaching program in Japan. I thought I could handle being sent to an isolated area of Japan, had prepared myself for it, and I knew that I was strong enough to tolerate, even enjoy, being in one of the most isolated areas in the country. I was good at English and couldn’t wait to teach it to my students. I looked forward to working full-time again. Besides, I liked my alone time, where I could just read a book or surf the internet. Being a student who shared an apartment with 4 other girls for the past 5 years, and then moving back home for half a year where I was constantly under the watchful eye of my parents, I thought that being alone would be a nice change. I would finally have my own space.

I was dead wrong.

Yes, I had my own space, but I was completely wrong about how I would react to that much…alone-ness. The teaching program that hired me had stuck me with about eight other foreigners. And yet! Those foreigners all lived close together; only one other foreigner besides myself lived in ultimate isolation—isolated districts in an already isolated “city.” (I would not dare call it a real city, more like an enormous rural town.)

Cut off from my friends back home and speaking only survival Japanese (though I’m currently studying to become stronger in the language), I quickly found myself utterly depressed. I’m a socialite by nature. While I love my alone time (or used to), in the end I always chose to be with friends over being alone. Furthermore, I’d never had a single moment in my life where I didn’t have at least one good friend to share my thoughts and feelings with, to hang out with.

I never thought I would crumple so easily when faced with a lack of friends and lack of a social life in general. I didn’t just crumple; something in my brain snapped like a twig…and I literally lost my frickin’ mind.

Let me just say that I come from a conservative, religious background. I was one of those girls who other girls did not want to invite out because I was the ultimate party-pooper. I was cautious in everything I did, and I demanded that my friends show common sense in everything they did, too. I never did anything that would jeopardize my dignity, such as sleeping around or doing drugs or anything that would bring disapproval from my parents.

However. This one-month period of total isolation was all it took to make years upon years of conservative habits and deeply ingrained caution to simply…disappear. As though a switch in my brain had simply been flicked off, the bright light bulb that was me, intensely watchful and ever-cautious…turned off. And I simply went crazy.

After having a good cry on the floor of my apartment and feeling the sheer weight of my despair keep me on that floor for a good couple hours, I got on the internet.

First, I sought out a man online and found a Japanese salary man living in Tokyo. Despite not knowing the subway system very well and having never done anything this independent or spontaneous, I boarded a shinkansen and went to Tokyo with 30,000 yen in my pocket. There, I met up with the man and stayed at his house for 3 days. During this time, I drank a ton of alcohol and repaid his hospitality with my body.

Shortly after, I returned to a city outside of where I lived and stayed at a run-down motel in a shady part of the city. I noticed another salary man eyeing me as I opened my hotel room door, and I knew that if he asked me to join him in his room, I would. I was beyond caring. Something inside of me had literally snapped, and I just. didn’t. care. about anything. Luckily for me, perhaps, he made no such invitation.

Somehow, my desperation for friendship or SOME kind of social interaction has transformed into this insatiable lust. After returning home and having yet another good cry over my insane loneliness, I began looking up dance clubs and decided that I would try hitting up every damn dance club that was in a hundred or so miles. I would get wasted and sleep with anyone who I deemed to be attractive.

Even now, I have not returned to normal. The need to GET OUT and go searching for people, for clubs, for sex, is overwhelming to the point where it’s distracting. I show up to work almost always in a foul mood and want nothing to do with my fellow coworkers. Although I care about my students, I feel like I’ve failed as a teacher because I have brought nothing innovative to any of the lessons I’ve taught so far…I basically just suck at my job. I re-hash games that have already been invented by my predecessors, and for everything else, I’m on auto-pilot. Gone is the enthusiasm to teach, and in its place is a profound depression.

I don’t want to teach. I feel like I’m just counting down the days until the next 3-day weekend so that I can go off and be free again, exploring new places and faces and indulging in my newfound craving for physical contact, preferably in the form of sex.

I’m so lonely that I feel like I’m just dead on the inside when I’m not bawling my eyes out over the lack of friends in my life. I’m so depressed, I can’t stand it. Every day feels so hard, like just getting out of bed is a chore for me. I suffer from pain in every ligament of my body, which I know is a symptom of depression. I barely eat (can't work up the appetite) and have lost over 5 kg since I arrived in Japan.

If I had just one close friend, I feel like I could recover from this weird bout of insanity. I could focus on my job. Maybe I could even motivate myself to be a good teacher. I dunno.

Edited by februarysky

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