Like many before me, I fantasied about moving to Taiwan and starting a brand new adventure. I imagined myself making new friends, having an actual social life and perhaps being the centre of attention. I thought the excitement of living in a new country would liberate me from my insecurities, allowing me to embrace life, but instead I bought all of my insecurities with me.
Before moving to Taiwan I had scored a dream English teaching job. I envisioned myself growing a social circle with my colleagues and even potentially finding a soul-mate. It didn’t take long before I realised things weren’t going to turn out how I had imagined.
My school was somewhat rural, so of the few socialising opportunities I did have, I wasn’t able to make the close friends I was hoping for. My Taiwanese colleagues at the school were nice, but shall we say “reserved.” Getting them to open up to me as the foreigner wasn’t a trouble that I had originally anticipated, but it was surely one that I faced. I started having issues with my boss due to a cultural difference in employer-employee expectations. I was left doing tasks that I thought were unfair and was looked down upon by my local colleagues as lazy.
It wasn’t long before the isolation from my colleagues at work and lack of a social life had me creeping back into my depressive tendencies. Eventually I reentered my old routine of seclusion and was experiencing the full-blown depression that I had been trying to escape.
How do you deal with depression in Taiwan? This is the exact question I had asked myself 2 years ago after finally coming to terms with the fact that my highly anticipated “adventure” wasn’t going to live up to reality. Luckily for me, I was able to talk to the right people and get the help I needed.
I can happily say that I’m still living in Taiwan and loving my life more than ever. I have a great job, fantastic friends and an active social life.
So, how did I deal with my depression in Taiwan – the most important message I give those who are going through the same ordeal as I did, is that just because you are in a foreign country, doesn’t mean you should treat your depression any differently. Moving to an exciting new country doesn’t excuse yourself of your old problems. It is important to face the issue head-on, just as you would in your home country.
Here are the tips I’ve given to others to help deal with their depression in Taiwan.
- 1. Talk to a local about your situation
Despite the common conception that Taiwanese are reserved about discussing emotions, they have a keen sense of knowing when it matters.
If they feel you are genuine about your struggle they will most likely find a way to help you. They may have some consoling words or be able to recommend a doctor for a referral. It is important to let someone know about what you’re going through.
- 2. Talk to a doctor
You’ve probably heard that Taiwan has a fantastic healthcare system, but if you’re anything like me then you’ve wondered whether it caters well to foreigners. On top of that, you’re probably concerned whether mental health is taken seriously.
Either way, talking to a doctor is the first step in treating your condition and will allow you to get a professional opinion.
- 3. Seek help online
Thanks to the internet era, finding professional psychological care online is easy. Websites such as BetterHelp and Talkspace provide fantastic counselling services with accredited therapists at an acceptable price.
Simply facing the issue head-on and having an opportunity to get your emotions off your chest, may be all that it takes to get well.
- 4. Talk to your family back home
It is common to experience homesickness after moving to a new country. Loneliness combined with feeling out of place and being away from your supportive environment means experiencing homesickness at some point is almost a certainty.
In my experience, people who move to Taiwan from other countries tend to experience homesickness at around six months. However, in most cases it is simply a temporary hardship that is naturally overcome.
Speaking to loved ones back home is a great way to deal with sadness in a foreign a country and will help you make a better decision of what you want to do next.
- 5. Perhaps Taiwan isn’t for you
Sadly, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Sometimes we have to face up to reality that things aren’t how we imagined them to be. If you’re feeling lonely and can’t see an end to your troubles, moving back home is a rational decision to make.
In saying that though, if you believe your situation is temporary and you think that Taiwan is the place for you, sticking it out is a commendable decision to make. Being stubborn has served me well, and if it wasn’t for my determination to stay in Taiwan, then I wouldn’t be enjoying the awesome life I am now.
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