Depressed in a Tourist City

Noelle McGee University of Edinburgh, Scotland


October 10, 2017
Editor's note: If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, please reach out for help. In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are on an Arcadia program abroad, contact an Arcadia staff member to be connected with professional mental health support, available at all of Arcadia sites abroad

Week seven has come to a close and I must say that I am have reached the end of my honeymoon phase being abroad. The nights are now longer due to Daylight’s Savings, the air is getting more bitter, and my depression is slipping in the space that was my excitement.

I am coming face-to-face with the realities of being abroad, especially when I’m here for the year. I am outlasting everyone else around me, the ones who have made a trip to another country every weekend, and the ones who have already travelled around the city to see everything. Since I prioritize my schoolwork, I didn’t mind that I had friends going on weekend trips; honestly, I thought it was pretty carefree in the third week. However, people from home began to send me messages and asking how I was doing and my response would be “I’m okay.”

After my essays were finished, I noticed how long it was taking me to get started on tasks and even get out of bed. I could sit in my bed for an hour just on my phone, scrolling through Twitter (Black Twitter is my refuge) and other social media, avoiding my emails from weeks ago that are simply check-ins from people back home, and re-considering how long I could go doing nothing before I had to go to my class, event, or meeting that day.

I’m not pursuing counseling currently; I had an awful experience when I first arrived and attempted a counseling session and I have yet to find a new one. The ideology of Europe being over racism and that it’s all centralizing in the States is alive and well, and it has deterred me from seeking help from any resources while here. There is a different hyper-awareness in the U.S. about issues of race, oppression, and privilege; even if you are not actively having these conversations, you are aware of racial inequality. Even deniers are aware because if they weren’t, they would not be in denial about there being an issue at all.

However, my adjustment here has been very different. I ran away from my home university, in all honesty. There were so many toxic environmental factors that were pushing me to extremities of my mental health and chipping at my tolerance, so I made sure I got out of there. I had one parent call me a quitter and a coward when I made the announcement, but I didn’t care. My pride was too strong (and still is) to take a medical leave from university, and I knew that I would die first before I left my college campus and not graduate on time. The anxiety I have about academia and failure, surrounded by the high expectations of my home university and people around me, and the fast-paced, intensive school schedule was suffocating me, my dysfunctional family was stressing me out over my decisions and dedication to politics and what piercings I came home with, and I was scared to repeat it all again after three months.

So I left. I left my friends, my family, my mentors, my pets, and my support system in Chicago, and I just hoped for the best because I was still juggling too many things during the summer that I put my mental health plans on the backburner. So here I am now, in my room that never gets warm because there’s a draft from my window and the heaters only last 20 minutes before they must be turned on again; my sleep schedule is still incorrect and keeps me up until the sun rises and has me wake up when the sun is now setting; no jobs I applied for called me back and I am running out of money; and I cannot socialize with my friends back home because the time difference never makes them available when I need them.

I spent half of this week sulking. I went to my room, and I cried from pity and confusion. Then I called my advisor from back home, and I cried with her on the phone as well about how I didn’t think I could still be here. This week I came face-to-face with the fact that I hadn’t changed as a person even though I crossed the Atlantic ocean. I’m still the same procrastinating woman from Chicago, who doesn’t know how to spend money wisely, doesn’t have any hobbies because all her time was invested into school and grades, watches too much Netflix and too many YouTube videos, and who runs away from all of her problems. It all hit me in week seven, and I went to my advisors for Arcadia and told them I wasn’t sure if I could do this anymore and am considering going home.

Adulting is a process; I know that. I imagine going abroad by yourself is similar to when you move out and have your own place as a young adult. No one told me how ugly that process was though, and no one told me about how my depression was going to sneak in as I stayed in Edinburgh, trying to get through for the rest of the semester.