Not All Sunshine + Wine: Feeling Depressed During Your TAPIF Year
While getting the chance to live in France and teach English is a mostly wonderful time and opportunity, it goes without saying that living in a new country and very different culture can sometimes inevitably lead us to feel anxious, down, and depressed.
This post is a bit more on the somber side, but I want it to be a resource for any TAPIF assistants to use in the event of feel sad, homesick, or depressed.
Just a note: depression is a serious issue, and if you are feeling alone and depressed, please reach out to a trusted loved one to let them know how you feel. Sometimes sharing what you're going through is the first step to feeling a little bit better. And, of course, the feeling of not being alone can be the most reassuring thing in the world.
Some tips for you if you are feeling down and depressed during your TAPIF year living in France:
- If you'd like to see a therapist, your médecin traitent (main doctor) can recommend many different types of outside specialists to see - and this includes psychiatrists. Look online to see if there are any English-speaking psychiatrists in your area, and then talk with your main doctor to discuss your options.
- alk to family members or friends back home, with the teachers you work with (if you feel comfortable), with fellow assistants. Don't be afraid to reach out on the TAPIF Group Facebook Page about feeling sad, anxious, or depressed. There are absolutely other assistants who are feeling the same way.
- If you're comfortable, ask one of the teachers you work with how best to go about finding a professional to talk to. As the process may be different from what you're used to, it might be best to talk with a French person about your current situation.
- Are there any options for setting up a Skype appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist that you know back home? You might even be able to find an online therapist by doing a little bit of research.
- Take care of yourself. If you're feeling too down to go to school one day, take a mental health day and call in sick. Sometimes we might feel guilty about missing school, but believe me that it is OK. Those around you are more concerned about a healthy you than anything!
- Look for a support group for Expats either on Facebook or locally in your city or region.
- If you're feeling up to it, get outside for a little bit each day, even for just ten minutes or so. Going for a little walk and getting some fresh air will help you get out of your head for a bit. If you can, try to commit to a little walk every day until you can work up to something more.
- Try to stick to a routine if you can. This means trying to wake up and go to sleep at around the same time each day/night, and doing some of the same things each day. Your body will learn to expect certain things at certain times which will help you focus on the next task at hand.
- Meditate or do some thoughtful journaling - it doesn't have to be long, maybe starting with five to ten minutes each day and working up to more if you feel comfortable. Meditating and being still or putting some of your emotions into words will help you get out of a fog and help focus your mind.
- Remember to take everything one day at a time. When things get tough, just remember that: to take things day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Things will get better. I promise.
Warning signs to look out for:
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Staying in bed often/not wanting to leave your house
- Feeling tired all the time
- Zero motivation
- Unable to control emotions
If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be experiencing a little bit of depression. Go through some of the tips above and see what works for you. Talk with someone: a therapist, fellow assistants, family members, your colleagues. Things will get better, and you are 100% not alone!
Some lovely parting words from a current TAPIF Assistant, Sarah MacKeil:
"Whether you're thriving, struggling or (hopefully not!) leaving [the program] early to take care of yourself, you are strong and made a brave decision to leave the familiar, learn a ton, encourage students, and immerse yourself in another part of the world. There's no shame in facing challenges, and there's no 'ought to.' Everyone reacts to a new environment a bit differently."
If anything, please keep that one thing in mind: that you are the one who made that brave decision and that you have experience the highs as well as the lows.
That, and that you're never alone.
Thank you for reading this, friends. And if you are feeling down lately or need someone to vent or talk to, please don't hesitate to send me an email.