Can this be the same person? Living in the United States, you were confident in your own abilities. You were a capable person who took care of business every single day for yourself. You were a reliable rock for friends and family to rely on when they needed help. You had a group of friends who you spent time with to celebrate triumphs and bemoan situations that weren’t so great at the moment, but at least could be used as amusing anecdotes in hindsight. You were able to laugh at frustrating moments, since the majority of your life was relatively smooth and easy to navigate.
Flash forward to your current life abroad. You came here to be with your partner who had the chance of a lifetime to take an assignment abroad. It sounded like a great opportunity for you as well to travel and experience the adventure of living as a an expatriate in a foreign country. The move itself was a challenge, but you made it happen. Now that the boxes are all unpacked why do you feel so lost and unhappy?
It’s common that the “trailing spouse” starts to feel anxiety and stress once the honeymoon phase of the move is over. Your partner has a built-in structure to his life dictated by his work. He has an instant network of colleagues with something in common. He has regular feedback on his performance, whether good or bad, and resources when he needs help dealing with problems.
What about you? You may not have the slightest idea what to do. Small tasks that you could accomplish in your sleep back home may be looming as huge projects in your environment abroad. In addition, your language skills may not be great and that just adds another obstacle to every little thing you want to get done. And just who are you going to turn to for advice? What happened to the self-assured person who arrived here? And what right do you have to complain?
Loss of self-esteem is a common issue for expats living abroad like you. You start to feel that you can’t do anything right on your own. You feel like you need someone to help you with minor tasks, as if you were a child. You no longer believe that you are a capable person. A sense of anxiety creeps into your everyday life.
An important first step is to realize that you’re not alone – you’re not the first person to feel this way. An important second step is to ask for help. That help might be from other expats who you connect with locally. Or it might be a trained professional counselor who can quickly help you get back on track.