Lets Talk About “It”

August and September 2015

I have wanted to write about recent family events for some time now, but couldn’t really find the words. I would rather not divulge into all the messy details, so I am going to try to keep this simple. In May 2015, my parents started the process of getting a divorce. This didn’t come as much of a surprise to me. I always knew that something just wasn’t quite right between my parents, but I wasn’t prepared to have everything explode while I was halfway across the world. Divorce is never easy and when there are kids involved it seems to get even more complicated.

I have shared several phone calls with my parents, but the last six months have still felt like a dream sequence. Everything that was happening in Taiwan felt so real and everything that was happening back home felt like some bad dream I hadn’t woken up from. The distance has helped buffer some of the pain and drama surrounding the divorce, but I knew the emotions would catch up to me sooner or later.

My mother suggested I talk to a counselor, which I agreed to. I waited nearly a month for a counselor back in America to agree to participate in Skype or Face-time sessions with me. They finally replied back “no”. At that point I felt helpless. My first language, and the only one I am confident speaking in, is English. I could speak to a Taiwanese counselor, but the cultural differences would be hard enough and so would the language barrier. I also am well aware of the discrimination Taiwanese people have towards mental health and didn’t want to deal with that either. Through a friend and the help of the Taichung Info Exchange group on Facebook I was able to locate an American, English speaking counselor.

The sessions have been rough, but necessary. I’m not exactly going to these sessions to talk about the funniest time in my life, and I know I will not leave the happiest either.

I am not an expert by no means, but here are a few things I think can help anyone while they are going through a tough time abroad:

  1. Updates: keep the people in your life updated on what is happening in your personal life. When I knew my parents were getting a divorce I told my supervisor at work and my closest friends. I knew I wasn’t going to leave Taiwan, but I still wanted them to know why I wasn’t the happiest or couldn’t dedicate all my time to work or hanging out.
  2. Outlets: sometimes being in a different country means you lose the hobbies you once had back home. I bought a journal and an adult coloring book. I bought a happy book to read and I started finding recipes that I really wanted to cook. If I was going to be stressed at work, or talking to my parents, at least I would have an outlet when I had free-time.
  3. Balance: It is great to surround yourself with good people and a lot of laughter, but it is also important to check-in with yourself. How do YOU feel about the situation? You can’t communicate with your parents about how you feel if you aren’t truly assessing your own emotional state.
  4. Counseling: I don’t believe in leaving feelings pent up. I was talking to my friends about the divorce, and they were amazingly supportive, but they are also not counselors. It isn’t cheap to hire a counselor, but it is effective. I have someone to talk to with an unbiased opinion and a different perspective from my own. If it is financially feasible; do it.
  5. Routines: If you go see a massage therapist bi-weekly or workout or whatever; don’t stop! Keep some normalcy in your life even if it feels like everything is changing and going to your favorite boxing class sounds exhausting.
  6. Online Forums: there are several online forums for children or adult children who have gone through or are currently going through their parents’ divorce. I looked at few and decided I didn’t want to read about someone’s parents’ divorce, but I’m not everyone. Try it out and see if it is for you.
  7. Visit: If it is something that appeals to you and you can afford it then visit home. Sometimes when your family is going through a hard time the best thing to do is either create space between you and the family or to visit them. Everyone deals with issues differently. I told my mother, “Do I need to come home? Yes. Do I want to come home? No.” I know myself enough to know that being back home would be devastating and stressful for me, so facing these issues here in my happy place in Taiwan is what I need to do.
  8. Health: This one may seem like a silly one, but keep taking those vitamins. Increased stress can cause wear and tear on your body and lead to you being more susceptible to illness. To avoid catching a cold keep taking those vitamins and eating well. (I was so stressed out I got acid re-flux. Don’t do that to yourself!)
  9. Travel: If you really want time to yourself then take a trip. When my parents were finalizing their divorce I was traveling around Cambodia and Vietnam. I let both of them know I couldn’t talk while I was gone, so I had two weeks of time to just think and enjoy being alone. You don’t need to travel to another country. It could just be to the next town over or to a beach.
  10. Express: If you are living abroad and your family is going through a tough time I think it is very important to tell them how you feel. My parents would be absolutely clueless on how I feel being abroad while all of this was happening if I hadn’t told them. I know it may be hard telling your parents how you feel, but your parents not understanding your situation could be even worse.

Are things improving within my family? Eh. The lack of communication I am having with everyone except my mother has been really difficult. I feel a huge disconnect from my family. I am trying to be patient and wait for them to be able to talk, but being an adult about situations that involve my parents is a personal struggle. All I can do is wait and see what the future holds for me and my new form of family.