The hardest challenge of moving halfway around the world from the place you call home is overcoming these colossal changes you need to deal with the moment you set foot in the new country. The adjustments are brutal that if you lack the ability to adapt and cope with these life alterations, your likelihood of becoming depressed is tremendously high. Having to experience one myself few years ago, I did have some moments of questioning why I ended up being shipped off in a place where I didn’t want to be. Those memories of locking myself in my room while constantly begging my mom to send me back to the Philippines and calling my ex-boyfriend (Yes, he has been one of my closest friends until now :)) in the middle of the night bawling my eyes out are still vivid. It was a vicious cycle of waking up in the middle of the night in a fetal position crying and begging for someone to yank me away from the unbearable torture of being oceans away from my friends and family. Homesickness sucks, and it cripples.
Homesickness is one huge reason why new immigrants especially teenagers tend to emotionally suffer during the few years they move to a new country. Culture shock and the inability to make new friends right away due to language barrier maybe contributing factors as well. And it’s no help that these children have to learn to live with their parents whom they have not seen for decades. For Filipinos, it is very common for parents to leave their children and sacrifice taking care of them, so they can go work abroad for their children’s future. My mom for instance left me when I was three years old, so you can only imagine how difficult and exhausting it was to live with a person who was practically a stranger to me when I moved here in Vancouver.
As I sit here mulling over the things I have gone through, I am still thankful that the thought of slitting my wrists to escape the agony of homesickness never crossed my mind. Yes, being clueless of my stepfather’s existence and that I have to live with him for that matter was a huge shock. He was and still is a stranger that I have to endure living with whether I like it or not. And of course, having to live with my mom whom I only had seen once every three years when I was still in the Philippines was another massive challenge that I had to go through. I was not used to having someone hovering over my shoulder or someone who was nagging at me all the time. I was spoiled, immature and stubborn who preferred to do things on my own, be it good or bad. And for whatever reason, my grandmothers who raised me did a good job of tolerating my faulty behaviours while I was in the Philippines. My mom on the other hand did not condone these misbehaviors that it became her fervid mission to change how I was brought up.
I was not alone with my struggle however. There were others who suffered the same fate as I did. In fact, I have heard horrendous stories from my friends who became depressed and had thought of committing suicide due to the life alterations that they had to go through. They were very open to admit that they became suicidal when they first settled in this country. Two of my friends decided to move out because they did not get along with their parents. The sad thing is it took years before they could finally make amends with their parents and started talking again. Whereas another one had involved herself with people who were alcoholics and who smoked pot like a chimney, another guy I know was sent to prison for stabbing her stepmom to death. I don’t know why he did the stabbing in the first place, but the guy I remember was a good man.
Seven years later, I can now say that the homesickness abated. It has not completely vanished, but the jolting in the middle of the night crying finally stopped. The constant dreams of being in the Philippines tapered down as well. I eventually got used to surviving the ordeals of being halfway around the world from the people I care about. So my two cents for those people who plan to move to a new place or work abroad, don’t give up and don’t be afraid to spread your wings and make new friends. Go out there and explore the world with passion and confidence. Being away from home sucks, but it will eventually get better. It might not be today or tomorrow, but the time will come. It always will.