In this issue SAbona launches the Ask Heidi column for anyone who has a question to ask clinical psychologist Heidi Germann. If you would like to Ask Heidi a question, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Missing ‘Home' More Than Ever
I have been living in Australia with my husband and three children for just over a year now. I thought that I was over the most difficult settling-in-time, but recently I've found myself missing my family, friends and familiar things in South Africa more than ever. Why do I feel this way now? Sue
It is very normal to miss familiar faces and places at different stages. Adjusting to life in a new country can be challenging and bittersweet. Sometimes people can initially feel settled in quickly, but then start to feel homesick. It is possible that all the ‘new' experiences distract you from your feelings.
Now that things are more familiar you may start to become aware of what is “missing”. It is important to go through this stage and acknowledge your feelings. Speak to people and let others know you may be struggling at the moment. Be kind to yourself and remember to allow for moments of mourning for what you feel you no longer have.
Then remind yourself of all you have gained through the move and distract yourself with an activity or an outing.
My husband and I have recently arrived in Oz. He is working and I am trying to find a job. We have grown up children who are still in South Africa. I don't know how to make friends. Please help me. Katrina
It can be difficult to find yourself in a new home, new town, new country and then feel isolated whilst your partner goes off to work. Making friends would go a long way to feeling more settled and connected. It is important to be aware that the people around you probably have their social network and so it might be up to you to reach out. Your mindset is important in that you should feel confident in yourself and your worth as a friend. I would suggest joining a gym or finding about community based exercise programs. For some joining a local church is a wonderful way to make friends. Alternatively volunteering at a charity could be a way of helping yourself and others. Taking up a craft can be another way to meet like-minded people. It is really important to go out each day – interact with people, make eye contact, smile and strike up conversation wherever possible. Remember as Emerson said: “The only way to have a friend is to be one”.
Depressed After Losing Job
I lost my job a few months ago and have been battling to find employment. We're doing okay financially as my wife is working, but I'm becoming very depressed and feel like I'm not contributing anything to the family. Matthew
It can be demoralising to be unemployed. I understand how that can create feelings of depression in people. It is really important to remember that your worth to your family is NOT measured by your ability to contribute financially. There are many other ways of contributing. For example, being involved in child care, assisting with household duties and being emotionally available to your family. If you start to feel more depressed and experience any of the symptoms below I would suggest you make an appointment with your GP, who might be able to refer you to a psychologist to talk through your concerns.
· Irritable mood
· Diminished interest or pleasure in activities
· Significant weight loss when not dieting, or weight gain
· A change to your sleeping patterns
· Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
· Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
· Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness.
Remember, depression is treatable and many people feel much better after a few sessions with a psychologist. I would encourage you to not struggle through this alone and to get assistance.
Heidi Germann is a clinical psychologist who works in private practice. She relocated with her family to Australia from Cape Town three years ago.