No way back?

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Fraud, debt, murder, suicide, love, grief, depression, psychosomatic illness, destitution, drug addiction, lack of job prospects, discord within the family, delinquency in the home … these are just some of the reasons (or consequences) expats face when there seems to be no way to return back home. A look at the newspaper is enough; many of the expat-related press reports basically describe people who see no escape from the tension of problems here in Asia on one hand and no option for a new start back home on the other.

Although emigration feels great at first and eliminates many of the pre-existing problems, frustrations or feelings of being ‘stuck’ – sooner or later, entirely new and unexpected problems or old burdens come back one way or another. Not only is there a cultural change to deal with that was often taken lightly when leaving, but we also take our ‘backpack of mental problems’ into the new country with us. Our ‘quirks’, weaknesses, interests and vulnerabilities are superimposed by the emotional high of migration, but gradually, most people increasingly find themselves dealing with the same old problems and difficulties again.

A man who suffered from depression in the States, will most likely also have to face it in Thailand at some point. Someone with a tendency to be aggressive can’t automatically leave it behind just by crossing the border, just as it is unlikely that someone who had difficulties in the West finding a life partner will find the perfect ‘dream woman’ in a bar. Often, the unpleasant awakening occurs months or even years later – often at a time when a return to the old home seems harder than ever, due to financial reasons, or because relationships have ended, or because a return would raise even more problems than they already face. The result is a feeling of running around, stuck in a dead end street from which it is difficult to escape.

Many expats facing such feelings try to drown them in alcohol or drugs, entertain themselves with superficialities, or their daily life increasingly turns into an interplay between periods of aggression and frustration.

Expat clubs, social services, or in emergency cases, the embassy can provide important support. Anyone who wants to improve his or her situation and achieve a sustainable change by clarifying the reasons for the difficulties and achieving a better quality of life might find surprising new perspectives while seeking professional support like coaching for a couple of months.

Live the happy life you planned! Richard L. Fellner is head of the Pattaya Counseling Center in Soi Khopai and offers consultations in English and German languages (after making appointments at 0854 370 470).