An expat adrift …
Andrew called to enquire about hypnotherapy sessions before taking up a new diplomatic assignment. With depression looming, he couldn’t concentrate on any of the administrative tasks he needed to complete to get clearance for the new posting.
In particular, he had the mental equivalent of a gag reflex about learning the language of his new positing. Concerned that deepening depression would complicate things, he talked to his GP and was put on a course of antidepressants. He felt the pills weren’t helping him feel better. However, he was now nervous of stopping the medication in case he ended up feeling worse.
I explained my policy – never advising clients to stop taking prescribed medications – unless and until they are ready. I recommend that clients consult their General Practitioner or a Psychiatrist for advice on medication. If a client is concerned about medications they are taking, I encourage them to get a qualified medical opinion.
This said, when clients who are taking prescribed medications come to see me, my guess is they are beginning to consider other ways to support themselves, beyond the stabilization they’ve had from antidepressants. If you are considering giving up meds, a crossover period with therapy or coaching gives space for exploring your options.
Stress increases on unfamiliar ground …
Andrew talked about the stressors that were impacting his enthusiasm for another international posting. Soon a picture emerged of how difficult it can sometimes be to juggle all that life presents to us. It wasn’t surprising that he needed time out to reconsider things.
In his native country, his elderly father was now requiring full-time care which his mother couldn’t provide. Andrew felt guilty at not being more available for his parents. He also felt the sorrow of witnessing his parents’ physical decline. His father was his greatest ally and the prospective loss of this close relationship added to his feeling of depression.
Depression asks “What’s the point?”
His marriage had recently broken down and waiting for divorce had left Andrew feeling increasingly lonely and adrift. Heanxiously questioned the point of planning a new posting abroad. Language classes and sorting out the ‘red tape’ for his new assignment became a focus for his sense of futility.
Andrew’s anxieties were as much about life in general as about the expat challenge of living as a ‘stranger in a strange land’. Something I realised long ago during a personal melt-down in Tokyo is that wherever you go, you take yourself with you. If you’re not in a good place, that can be terrifying.
“Don’t know” is a good response to depression …
In 6 months, we considered the issues Andrew brought to the table. Mindfulness and relaxation hypnosis helped him gain peace with his parents’ situation. We spent time talking about the ‘resolving power’ of getting comfortable with the answer ‘I don’t know’ to life’s big questions. “What can I do for someone near the end of their life?” “What’s the point of all this anyway?”
Learning to accept uncertainty, learning to say “I don’t know” and being comfortable with that as ‘the answer‘ is a powerful antidote to anxiety and depression. Andrew got good at this.
He was able to soothe the sore spot left by the break up of his marriage. He did this by making peace with his former partner inside himself. Soon after, Andrew reported bumping into his ‘Ex’ without experiencing the lurch in his stomach he had feared and tried to avoid.
Learning about himself as well, opened him up to the possibilities of new friendships and heart-felt connection. By our last session, Andrew had started the language modules for his posting. He said “I’m thinking about weaning myself off the meds”. With new enthusiasm for his posting, Andrew was confident of his skills. He had gained trust in his ability to meet the next set of challenges in his life, straight on.