Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Expatriate, Interrupted

I was dead asleep the other night when a thunderstorm rolled through our town. The only reason I became aware of its presence was when it tripped our power and sent Justin Bieber blaring over our in-home stereo system at one in the morning. Talk about a full-blown panic attack. I jumped out of bed, hit my beautiful head on the night stand, and spun around in circles trying to figure out if someone with great taste in music had broken into our home. I went from room to room turning off switches, and then I found myself thinking of Switzerland. This wouldn't have happened there. Hell, we didn't even have air conditioning, let alone the luxury of a sound system in our shower. And for a few minutes, I missed my old, simple life.

I keep thinking I'm on an extended visit. I tripped while eating a creme-filled doughnut the other day, and I couldn't wait to get back to Switzerland and tell the girls how all of my fake nails broke off into the pastry as I landed on my ass. But then I remembered that I'm not going back in a week or a month this time. I'm in America, where I so desperately wanted to be.

Most people have parties upon their return; perhaps a soiree or a barbecue. Nope, not this gal. I went and had myself a good old-fashion nervous breakdown (sorry you weren't invited)! Everything was changing too quickly. The questions kept coming from everyone I encountered. "What are you going to do now?" "Are you getting a job?" "So what's your plan?"

I wanted to cover my ears and scream, "let me eat my damn McNuggets in peace!"

I just spent the last half-decade of my life acclimating myself to a new culture and language and entire way of life, and now everyone expected me to have the next half-decade all figured out, too. Here I was, back in my hometown, where nothing had really changed except for me. I had no game plan besides the next chain restauraunt I wanted to hit up.  What would motherhood look like in the states? How would my marriage fare? I overthought everything, and combined with the jet lag, it all just became too much. I woke up one morning with an emotional hangover, and for the first time in a long time, I was genuinely scared.

My doctor told me that I was overwhelmed by all the change, and thanks to my pre-existing OCD and anxiety, I went spiraling into a major depression. One minute I was euphoric to be back stateside, and the next I was crying my eyes out and desperately missing those who had been like family to me in Switzerland. I didn't know where I wanted to be, and more importanly, I didn't know where I belonged. 

I've bounced back, in case you were wondering. With the help of family, friends, sleep, and Prozac, I'm feeling pretty much wonderful these days.  Once in awhile, when I hear a certain song or I pass a particularly pungent cheese at the supermarket, I get a twinge of nostalgia and I transport myself to an auberge in the Alps where I'm sipping espresso with Dani and Shelly and Sarah, and all is right with the world. I wish I didn't fall in love with people so deeply---the goodbyes would be remarkably easier. 

We figured out our stereo system since the late night Justin Bieber concert. We're figuring a lot out these days, it would seem.