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Finding Comfort in Discomfort – How I Combatted Repatriation Depression

How to find comfort in your most uncomfortable state is unfathomable, especially when you are right there in the glory of discomfort. These past six months I have, with all my strength, tried to reach a comfortable state of being with various moments where giving up was an easier option than not.  It will be dishonest of me to say that I did not have moments where I wanted to pack my stuff and go back to Barcelona, the city I lived in for the past six years. It will be an even bigger lie if I said I was enjoying the things I was doing. I found no interest or motivation in my daily interactions or activities. However, there were small snippets of light, where I was able to socialize and motivate myself to do things, like go on a hike or yoga. I knew that exercise would give me the endorphins necessary for replenishing my mind, which would in turn, turn the feeling of darkness into lightness.

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Reverse or repatriation culture shock does not discriminate. CNN, in their humanitarian travel section, has posted the difficulties and issues individuals have when they move back to their country of origin after living a certain period of time abroad.  When I studied International Education, my thesis treated topics on acculturation stress and depression amongst students who studied abroad. Now, the cases I looked at dealt with students who left for a semester or a year. In my case, I had made Barcelona home for six years. Six whole years, I had spent building a life, a relationship, a career, and a network of great friends. I had learned to navigate the hidden alleys that led to beautiful medieval aged buildings and churches. I had learned a new language and was navigating the linguistic details of Spanish for the purpose of my emotional and daily interactions, while balancing out the intricacies of academic English, which was the language I used at work. When I set foot on that plane back to Los Angeles, CA there were moments of extreme excitement to come back to a place where things were how I knew them well. I had not realized how large of a cognitive shift had really occurred within me. With all the discomfort I felt during these past six months, I had to make every effort to accept this reality shift. These were some things I did to help me through this:

1. Picked up an active practice of yoga. I got myself on my mat 4-5 times a week at a local studio in Silverlake called One Down Dog. The level of comfort that I found in sometimes difficult poses and classes that challenged my mind and body, was beyond what I can explain in words. The studio really has found a perfect concoction of instructors who are able to offer amazing restorative for instance by Brianna Welke to bad ass sweat yoga by The Girl with Purple Hair. These are only two of many awesome souls of many who make this studio so unique.  When I was in the process of coming out more than ten years ago, my yoga practice really grounded me and gave me the courage to live a truer and more honest life. So, I thought, why not try that again. It is of course working so far.  I am happy to start my yoga teacher training right there with teachers I trust, in a space where my discomfort easily becomes comfort.

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2. I pretended that things were business as usual. I found a job, leased a car, made appointments, found an apartment, etc. Now, there were moments where I wanted to say “fuck it” and just spend my days in my parent’s apartment aimlessly and carelessly. However, I knew that to move forward, bringing back normalcy was important, because I have worked quite hard to reach some of my achievements. Logic and emotion were definitely at play here and I am happy that I was able to let reasoning prevail.

3. I sought help. I found comfort in having deep conversations with friends. But most importantly, I put my pride, ego and cultural taboos aside and sought professional help through a cognitive behavioral therapist.

4. I gave it time. Once again, it would be a lie to say that in September of 2014, three months in, I was really “giving it the time” I needed. In hindsight though, it really is time we need to let things heal. In this case, the loss that I was feeling just needed true acceptance and time (and a lot of self work).

5. I forced myself to spend time with family and friends. Deep down inside I knew how much I did not want to be social (considering how social I am); but the paradox here was that I actually did want the social interactions. So these conflicting messages were quite annoying and confusing.

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6. Did nothing and it just came to me. Now, I can be extremely naive and claim that the last day on my recent trip to Rio, see previous post, I found freedom. Now, I do not discount that momentary mind shift that occurred, but it was a result of a lot of work previously put in. However, I promise that the moment WILL come where you will feel like all those months or years of anxiety were not worth it.

It is easier to say in retrospect that everything will be all rightHowever, if you are the person going through repatriation depression and anxiety you need to remember that everything will be all right. If you are a friend or a family member of someone who just repatriated, remember NOT to tell that person everything will be all right. They already know that. All you can do is be there for them, listen to them and let them annoy you about that time they were in XYZ city and they did LMNOP activity.

It is interesting that this article was originally inspired by my yoga practice this week, which I did in Seattle over the MLK long weekend. My writing clearly took a different direction and I will get to a more detailed post about my foodie trip to Seattle soon. However, I had the pleasure of going to Urban Spa Yoga, while in Seattle.

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Urban Yoga Spa – Yoga Mat room
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Kerry Park – Living on the Ledge

Even though it was 3 blocks away from where I was staying at Hotel 5 in Belltown and easy to get to, it was a heated yoga studio. I had promised myself to never enter a heated yoga classroom after my Bikram experience. However, this studio and the teachers proved me wrong. Apparently, 105 degrees Fahrenheit is tolerable compared to the monotonous 26-asana yoga in a 115F room. So what I did this week was intentionally put myself in more uncomfortable situations.  I bought some passes to a studio at Pilates Plus Los Angeles. I find myself most uncomfortable when I do pilates. In fact, time and again I’ve said how much I hate doing it.  It will be my long-term intention to seek these types of opportunities where I can challenge my mind and body. It is this way I will evolve and grow physically, mentally and emotionally.  Traveling and living abroad also lends itself to plenty of discomfort. In fact, what I have realized about my personality is that I do not thrive on comfort, but discomfort is what tends to give me the adrenaline rush I need.

NamasteBitches,

ArmenM

 

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11 thoughts on “Finding Comfort in Discomfort – How I Combatted Repatriation Depression

  1. Reblogged this on The Girl with Purple Hair and commented:
    There is nothing more healing than sharing our stories with the world to build bridges. I am beyond honored and thrilled to share with you #PackYourMat.
    Armen of Pack Your Mat is a yoga student, a friend, a son, a traveller, and above all someone who is putting it all out there. Read about his journey in yoga and honest approach while trying to heal. I love bringing my story with the world and I am so happy to bring you someone else’s tale.
    PS, there is a rad pic of me teaching at One Down Dog and that makes me smile.
    Enjoy the read. Follow. Subscribe. And always come back for more, xo.

    Like

  2. So raw and easy to relate to, even though I have not experienced repatriation depression. It is good to see people sharing personal experiences, because that can help someone else feel comforted and find direction. Keep packing your mat!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Armen, thank you for that post! As you know I left Barcelona too, after six years of making it my home like you say and I’m in London now! It’s been 6 months now and over Christmas we had long conversations with my partner and his family about how we should give london a chance and be positive about our new experience and on the moment, I felt like: yeah…let’s give it a go and make things work but on our first day back here in January I lost it and cried a whole evening, saying how much I want to be in Barcelona and that I hate london! I’m doing better now and try to focus on important things (I’m 4 months pregnant) and even though when I first lived in london 8 years ago I said that I would never bring up my children here, well here I am and I will have to make it a positive experience!
    I could be writing to you about this for a very long time…I just found these last few minutes quite helpful, I had tears in my eyes…maybe I do need to talk about it, write it down or talk to a professional about it!
    I can’t wait to read more of your blog!

    Thank you

    Chloe

    Like

    1. Honey, im so happy you clicked on my link. Im happy to skype you one day and we can chat about all this. Sending you lots of love. And Congrats on your pregnancy!! And please send it to anyone else you think might benefit from reading this. Reblog it, repost it, whatever will get it some attention. Besos!!!

      Like

  4. This is exactly how I felt after going home. Reverseculture shock really is tough to deal with, it helps knowing that other people have gone through it.
    I think the hardest part is not knowing if we’ll ever go back.
    I am now doing my end of study thesis on youth travels and the effects of returning home after long time travelling, it is really interesting to talk to people about how they felt going home, I feel like it is something really personnal and it tells a lot about someone when they open up to talk about it.
    Loved your post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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