We all struggle with anxiety on some level, I think that's something I can safely say. You don't need any numbers or statistics on it– it's something you already know.
If I had to guess, I would say that expats – or at least certain types of expats – see an increase in their anxiety levels once they jump ship and move to a new country. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – who I love and have a habit of bringing up in all conversations that last longer than five minutes – puts it beautifully in "Americanah":
“...to be here, living abroad, not knowing when I could go home again, was to watch love become anxiety.”
I underlined that about four times when I first read the book.
When you're away, it can be hard to appreciate the health and happiness of the people that you love back home. Instead of giving thanks for the fact that your loved ones are alive and healthy, instead you might find yourself waiting, always waiting, for something to happen.
Watching love become anxiety.
The second I landed in London, the physical separation of myself from my family – who are all in the States – gave every form of communication a dire quality. Each time I picked up my phone to read a text or check a missed call, I would assume that someone had died. If I'm honest, I still often feel that way.
As you might imagine, this anxiety is loads of fun for my family who constantly has to reassure me that everything is ok, no one has died today, and no – they didn't respond to my text because they were just waiting in line for coffee. No deaths, just coffee.
This is an anxiety I never had before moving abroad. Keep in mind, I wasn't exactly living at home before I moved to London either – I lived in New York for over five years before I came here and never felt these anxieties, but there's something about putting an ocean between yourself and the one(s) you love that cuts you like a knife.
These days, my anxiety has warped into something new and more recently manifested itself on an obsession with impermanence.
Because I'm leaving London next month, I'm living in a very temporary world. Anyone who's ever lived as the life of a non-resident visa holder will relate, as will anyone who's lived on the cusp of a big, fat life change.
Because I'm leaving London in December
Because my husband and I will will go (temporarily) go back to being in an international long distance relationship, which we did for three years before I moved here. (This part sucks.)
It's all very exciting, it really is, and I'm looking forward to all of the new things to come. The thing is, it's really, really difficult to live an everyday life when you know that everything is going to change soon.
Rather than freaking out about the fact that my everyday situation will soon look completely different, instead I'm having fleeting, panicked moments about the fact that everything changes.
You know the whole "Live every day as if it's your last" thing? It's as if that idea is playing on repeat in my head. Every beautiful day at the park, every bite of cake – it's all numbered, and while it is good to know this, it's a lot to be constantly living in it.
Thankfully this crazy existential anxiety doesn't take over my life every day, but when it does hit, it hits hard.
If you've made it this far in the post, my hat is off to you. I realize that this is kind of a heavy subject and that I'm basically using my blog as a free form of therapy, but whatever. As I've said before, the more we talk about these things, the more normalized they become. Even though they might sound a little crazy, these types of thoughts and fears are normal and we should have an open dialogue about them.
Anyway, if you've had any similar experiences I'd love to hear. Not so that we can all convince each other that the worst is happened, but instead because – at least for me – writing can be cathartic, as can sharing and connection.
For the worriers out there, give Adam Gopnik's "Cures For Anxiety" stream a listen – note that it starts about 20 seconds in, and his first suggestion is brilliant, and might become my new mantra.