Navigating Mental Health While Abroad

Mental health is one of those things that spares no one and has no warning for when it will hit and lead to a mental decline. 

Packing your bags and curating a fresh start in a place where no one really knows you sounds dope in theory. But, if you are someone who has a rough mental health history like myself, things can get foggy. You’ll be left wondering why no environment is never a match for that said issue.

When you uproot your life and move to another country, temporary or not, the personal issues climb in your suitcase and come with you too.

They’ll be masked at first by new adventures, new food, new people, your new way of life, but as the days go by and you become more settled, those things you thought you left back home began to resurface in your mind and heart. 

I’m on therapist #4 in my lifetime, and I’m sure many more to come because of how much I move around and HATE Zoom therapy. 

I was extremely annoyed the first session because I thought surely they’re going to want me to start from the beginning of my story, which is 4 years’ worth of trauma I did not feel like explaining A G A I N. So I started from the present day. My needs now are a lot different than what they were the last time I was in Ghana. 

I’m recovering from my emotionally traumatic college experience, and it’s taking wayyyyyy longer than I expected. It’s impacting my ability to form relationships the way I used to because of my newfound lack of trust for others.

I come from a religious Caribbean household. While extremely different, African cultures tend to mimic a lot of the same “tough-love, shut up and get back on your feet” type of mentalities.

I didn’t know what to expect in Ghana if I needed mental health services, so I tried not to let it be an issue so I wouldn’t have to navigate the system–until I had to get tested for ADHD, results pending. 

I find that many of my Ghanaian peers, especially older ones, are not as receptive to hearing about my “tough days.” I’m usually mocked, or it’s made into a laughing matter. I take it with grace and a grain of salt because I know that culturally, they have probably never been extended the same grace I was looking for of being able to express their own mental struggles. 

Ghana is NOT what is causing my mental health struggles. These are struggles that existed before moving here. It’s more so about managing them in this new environment because I thought moving to Ghana meant they would disappear. I would not trade being here for the world.

Surprisingly, I have had a great experience so far working with the psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapist I have come across. Very professional and have helped explain to me the current mental health climate in Ghana. 

I’ll leave you with this:

Three Tips For Navigating Your Mental Health Abroad:

  1. Don’t let your preconceived notions of what the mental health climate in your new home country is like keep you from getting the help you know you need. You never know until you try.
  2. It’s normal to be anxious about your new life. Still, it’s not normal to have that anxiousness keep you from functioning as normal. Take note of what’s making you uneasy when it hits you, so you can take the steps towards receiving help.
  3. Never stop seeking your tribe. I’m still finding mines, but there are people who have made this journey incredibly easier than it should have been. 

 

Love Always,

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