Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How I cope with homesickness.

Today marks day 65 of my UK life.

I'm less homesick now than I was when I wrote my previous blogpost in a crying fit, but I know that the wave of homesickness will happen again. And again. And again and again. Especially with the festive season coming up.

I've read somewhere that when someone close to you dies, you need 365 days to properly grieve. Now geez noone died and I'm not trying to be melodramatic (at least not yet), but the theory was that you have to celebrate every festivity and every birthday and miscellaneous event without that person by your side. You have to learn to be without that person; to stop relying on that presence through the ups and downs.

I think that theory applies to every transfer student too. I think for the whole first year, everything is rediscovered through the eyes of the newly-independent. Be it doing domestic chores or having a night out, suddenly you don't have your parents there to nag you or help you or yell at you if you go out the door dressed like a tramp.

You don't have your family with you for Christmas either. Or your friends for New Year's Eve. Or them both plus your crazy extended family for Chinese New Year, and so it goes. And until you experience all typical special dates in a year in your new surroundings, it'll probably always feel weird and depressing to be so far away. I'm fully expecting to cry during Christmas and all other special events.

But then again, I can't keep going through life here in a downtrodden state. And I guess that's the main idea to hold on to.

It started out with a lot of crying, and a shitload of binge eating. Like seriously. The number of biscuits I have freaking devoured since I've got here is likely 10 times the amount I've eaten the first 9 months of the year. It was so strange and terrifying; the cycle begins when a wave of homesickness hits and I'd reach for a digestive so I'd focus on something else, any bloody thing else other than sobbing my eyes out again.

Half a packet later I'd finally come to my senses and put the cookies away, but not without feeling disgusted and hating myself for the binge. Didn't I know how bloody fattening it all was? So I'd just go to the gym the next day and make sure the machines tell me I've burned 500 calories before I was allowed to leave. But then the homesickness would strike again that same night and then the cycle would repeat.

I was depressed and self-loathing. The worst part was that I also became more selfish and self-absorbed. I kept telling my family and closest friends how much I missed home and wanted to go back. I even cried once whilst skyping the family, even though I usually always try not to in front of people.

I forgot that it couldn't be easy for them too. Even though they weren't displaced from their home, I didn't once think about how hard it was for people back home that I wasn't there, especially of course the family. I just wanted to whine and be comforted by people who love me.

And then my mother told me a few days back that she wasn't sure if she wanted to skype me sometimes. Because I was always in such a bad state, and she never knew if having contact would be a good thing or bad thing, and she wondered if constantly seeing the family over the computer so many times a week was making it harder to cope with being away, not to mention how much she hated seeing me sad.

Which was when it hit me: I'm making my problem everyone else's problem to solve.

I'm not that kind of person. Noone likes that kind of person. It's not that I didn't want anyone's help, it was just that I didn't want to get better at all. I just wanted to wallow in sadness until by some miracle I woke up and found myself home. It's just time I accepted that it isn't bloody going to happen, and no amount of cookies are ever going to change things.

I recently dreamt that my mom and sister (easily my most missed people) were for some reason stopping by the UK for a day before heading home, and my mother asked my in the end if I wanted to go back with them for a week. And even in my dream, I said that I couldn't go back home, because if I did so I would never be able to bring myself to come back to finish my studies here.

Even in my dream I was practical about my situation. Like it or not, I'm stuck here until July. So, might as well work on finding ways to cope with homesickness other than whining.

#1: I just have to keep my eye on the prize. I may have come here to have a life-changing experience and all, but the only reason I'm here in the first place is to study my ass off, so hopefully my grades will fit my Asian stereotype. Then maybe my parents won't say they wasted a huge chunk of money sending me here.

Never thought I'd be thankful for my workload, but it has been keeping me really busy, as we're heading into the end of the term now. As I'm typing this, at the end of a week where I've had freaking three tutorials to prep for, I'm worrying about having my first language assessment next week as well as a non-assessed essay I fully intend to hand in. And the week after that, I have another three tutorials as well as two non-assessed essays to hand in.

Safe to say I am insanely inundated by work now. And there is nothing like the pushing force of raw kiasuness to make you forget about all else.

#2: Remember that I'm responsible for my own emotions. If I try hard enough to keep myself otherwise occupied, I'll be more able to keep my negative emotions under control.

Inevitably there'll be bad days where things just spiral out of control, but for the most part, I can find ways to lift my mood, or at least vent my frustration. Music helps a lot, and so does exercising. And watching movies and tv shows, usually while snacking on something I shouldn't be having. So much for all my UK diet plans.

#3: Know that I'm not alone, in the physical sense where I have many dear friends here, and in the emotional sense where many, if not all, of them are missing home just as much as I am. When things feel too much to handle, I know I can talk to them, because of course they'd understand, and it doesn't hurt that misery loves company.

Sometimes when I feel an onslaught of homesickness is going to hit, I call up a friend and ask if I can study or just hang out with them. Because there's nothing worse than being alone in your room when that onslaught arrives. So its just better to remove yourself entirely from that possible vulnerable situation.

I know I've already mentioned this in my previous post, but I'm just so immeasurably grateful that the collegemates here have formed an amazing family and have allowed me to be a part of it. We meet up practically every week now just for the heck of it, and even if I'm bum exhausted and too lazy to move from my spot on the couch, there's just something so comforting about being in the midst of good-natured bickering chatter in your native tongue.

#4: Give myself a break. Stop hating myself every second I feel unable to cope with things.

The transition hasn't been easy, but it was never meant to be easy in the first place. If I don't find myself missing home at all after never having left it all my life, it would be a complete abnormality. So some days I just tell myself its okay to whinge and binge and cry when nothing's going right.

#5: Count weeks. Not days or months, but weeks. The time will seem to fly faster that way. I have 25 weeks to go till the end of May and the end of my finals, which seems so much closer than 135 days or 6 months.

It tricks myself, if only momentarily, into mentally shortening the period of separation between me and everyone at home. This small little trick has been a huge help to me, and I highly recommend it.

#6: Pray. I have faith He can give me strength and comfort, and will provide for all my needs. I just have to be more patient and pragmatic about it.

But time here really is fleeting. I can't believe its already been two months, and the end of the term and all its promises of fun and freedom is so tantalisingly close, you can feel it zinging in the air.

When I arrived here, the average temperature was a delightful 14-16 degrees, and now there's no such thing as a double digit temperature reading. Soon enough snow will come! And people like me will happily frolic in it for a week before making incessant complaints about the wet and cold mush. Then hopefully, spring won't be late, bringing about warmth and sunshine to lift our drooping spirits.

Am I getting ahead of myself now? Sorry; am just hoping the cold weather will zip by as quick as possible. For a person with zero affinity with low temperatures, I sure have picked myself a lovely country to study in.

I just want to feel at home again. And I hope that soon, eventually, I'll manage to find it here.

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