This month we have a blog from Vicki van Eeghem, she is in our International Panel (the feedback panel while we were developing SGE International) and now Vicki is helping us with some administrative tasks.
Read her story about when she arrived in the Netherlands.
“When I first moved to Eindhoven from Canada, life here was new and exciting. I was living in Europe! So many new experiences, a new language and places to see. I had recently married my Dutch husband so our lives were in the honeymoon stage. We travelled to destinations I had dreamed of, we set up our home and I was eager to learn Dutch. I thought that my new life here was going to be picture perfect with no worries, no challenges and no struggles. I believed that everything would come easy to me and that I would have this fabulous life that others would envy. Then reality set in.
No one explained to me that I would experience a wide variety of emotional, mental and physical challenges with moving to a new country, a new lifestyle and a new culture. Perhaps I was naïve thinking that life would continue as I knew, thus I was unprepared and unable to recognize the changes within me. By the end of the first year, I spent most of my days laying on the couch. I didn’t often leave home because I was sad and lonely. We couldn’t afford for me to continue with Dutch lessons, I had made no friends and the results for looking for a job here were disastrous. I was so discouraged that I cried daily and began to eat to feel better. Now I have always been heavier but during that first and second year here I gained a quite a bit of weight. This affected not only my self-esteem but also my health as well. I noticed I was having stomach problems and my skin and hair looked horrible. My mood swings were beginning to affect my marriage and although I did have support from my husband and family, I felt that I was alone because they hadn’t left their homes to start a new life. I felt that no one had ever experienced what I was going through. I didn’t want people to know that I couldn’t cope.
While I was going through all my struggles, I didn’t know about help networks within the Eindhoven community. I had not heard of SGE and SGE International was just in the development stages. I was not aware of any places for people where they could get the emotional support they need. Fortunately, I did meet someone who encouraged me to join two women’s social groups within the city. By getting out of the house, although at times I really didn’t want to go, I made new friends. As I grew closer to them and began to share some of my feelings I realized that I was not alone. That what I was going through (and still am) varies from person to person yet we all have similar stories. By being able to share with someone, different than my husband or my family, helped me to feel better about myself but also break down the walls that I had begun to build. These walls, I thought, were there to protect myself from fear, rejection, loneliness and sadness but instead they were keeping me isolated and in this constant circle of not being able to heal emotionally, mentally and physically.
Today, Internationals in Eindhoven have a variety of places where they can go to seek counselling and professional help. At SGEI, for example, they have a wonderful Psychology Nurse Practitioner, Patricia, who is there to listen, support and provide advice and guidance. As well, there is a new initiative within the city called the International Peer Support Network (IPSN), that both SGEI and ESI (Expat Spouses Initiative) support. In this group, you are welcome to come and meet with other internationals (your peers), share stories and develop connections to help you with the challenges we all face. You are welcome to check out both services on their respective webpages or Facebook pages.
As January is Mental Health Month, I would encourage anyone who has or is going through the same or similar struggles as myself to see your family GP. They are there for the health of your whole being. Your GP can help you find the people you need to encourage and support you. For those of you, who see family, friends or colleagues withdrawing, you also need to encourage them. It might be by taking them for coffee, to an appointment or an IPSN evening or just listening to them. Trust me it does help.
Lastly, ladies and gentlemen, I would really like to encourage you, as one who has been there, I know that changing your lifestyle is not easy and it may/will affect you in ways you do not even realize. Please remember that you are not alone so you need to stop feeling that you need to do this alone. Asking for help can be frightening and that in it-self may tend to keep you from seeking the support you need. Don’t keep quiet; reach out even thogh it will not be comfortable. You can do it. I have faith in you.”