Thursday, March 3, 2011

Making Time For Me

I have to admit, I haven't been the most honest person with you. I've been stressed out this last month. A lot. Like, serious depression that made me not want to get out of bed. The sort of depression accompanied with hysterical sobbing depression. And I wasn't sharing it with anyone. I was bottling it up inside me and it was literally eating me away.

I had tried talking to Matt about it but he was quite busy with getting into the groove with his own work schedule and straining from his own stress. Eventually, I gave up trying to talk to anyone about what was going on inside my head and thought I could be strong enough to handle it on my own. 

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to and I just had to reach out.

I didn't realize how much I was internalizing everything until I finally Skyped with my good friend, Leigh Cambre. Leigh is probably the most positive person I know and he's probably the most positive person I will EVER know. In short, Leigh is awesome! He's also a Life Coach so you can imagine how helpful he is in a situation like I was experiencing. 

Leigh and I sharing better times

I told Leigh of all my trouble and woes of not finding a full time job in Hong Kong (revert to the previous Hong Kong posts for full details) and how I wasn't feeling like myself anymore. I felt unsettled, I felt lost and most importantly, I felt insignificant. Going in for interviews and being repeatedly turned away also made me feel increasingly useless.

Leigh expressed how shocked and surprised he was. According to him, my posts all over my blog, Facebook and Twitter were painting a much different picture where I was remaining positive and cheerful. Leigh said he had no idea what I was going through until I had sent him a frantic, desperate email in the middle of the night when I was in hysterics.

As Leigh and I delved further into the details of my spiraling depression and overbearing stress, Leigh showed me a little drawing he had done for me. It was a very simple pie chart. It showed a disproportionate amount of my time being allocated to "work and finding work" and a tiny little sliver given to sleep. 

What my life had become

That's when it hit me. I wasn't spending enough time on MYSELF. I was giving up all of my time to focus on the work aspect of my life (or lack thereof) that I was just wallowing in despair. This was me UNBALANCED.

A few days later, Miss Britt said she was also surprised after I confessed to her of my meltdowns in Hong Kong.

Since my chat with Leigh, I've been making a conscious effort in spending more time on ME and less time focusing on work. I'm taking walks, meeting new people, getting excited about the upcoming Hong Kong International Film Festival, dancing in the living room, watching more Glee and just relaxing.

It's not easy and I find myself wanting to crawl into bed a lot of the time but I just have to remember that the person hiding under the covers is not the real me. The real me is the person who left everything comfortable in her life for the wild, chaotic life of a digital nomad.

Things are starting to look up for me and I'm feeling much better these days. I have half a dozen students taking private English lessons with me, I'm still going out on interviews for a full-time teaching position and I'm feeling more settled in Hong Kong. Things can only get better and there's no point worrying about it anymore.

This is my first real test and I know I'm stronger than this.

Have you ever felt UNBALANCED? What do you do to regain personal equilibrium?

© Connie Hum 2011


  1. Dear Connie,
    As someone who's been living abroad six months, I can COMPLETELY, UTTERLY AND TOTALLY RELATE. What you just wrote describes a large portion of my time here. I'm just a student, and even I was worried about work, too, but once I stopped, work plopped in my lap. These things have helped me. I hope they help you, too.

    1. If you need to cry, cry. Holding it in will only make it worse. Same goes for screaming.
    2. Take walks. Walk until you're tired.
    3. Call someone you love and trust.
    4. Take yourself out on a date.
    5. Talk to a stranger. Let them do most of the talking.
    6. Buy yourself a present.
    7. Write down what you feel.
    9. Focus on your breathing. Try to get to a place where you can watch your emotions rise and fall, like the waves.
    10. Remind yourself nothing lasts forever. Everything cycles back around.

  2. @Marjorie It's hard to imagine something so wonderful as moving to a new country being the source of so much stress. Things will happen when they are meant to happen. Until then, I'm not going to stress about it anymore. Thanks for the advice! I'll keep them in mind the next time I feel a depression coming on.

  3. You already know my answer, but - YES, I feel unsettled sometimes. :-)

    In my case, I have to be really careful because of my depression. I have to make sure I'm taking my medication the way I need to first and foremost. Then I need to check my diet and sleeping habits (an overload of carbs and junk makes me more depressed).

    And then? Sometimes I just need to give myself a certain amount of time to feel it. Maybe that's a total day off of wallowing - maybe it's a weekend. But I take a break and just let myself be, even if that's being unsettled. That usually makes a big difference for me.

  4. @Marjorie Very good advice!! With two kids, so obviously I take NO time for myself, and moving to France where I don't even know the language, is being stressful. And since you think you're supposed to be on cloud nine cause you're in such an awesome place you get stressed because you're feeling stressed. If we let it take us over it makes the decision to move back home seem better than taking on the adventure. So to all of us, ESPECIALLY LOVELY CONNIE, the reminder to TAKE TIME FOR OURSELVES, is golden!! Remind yourself why you chose that destination and savor it, even if for one minute a day.

  5. Connie - I don't even know where to start. I'm the type who interlizes things a lot and then just kinda.....bursts and just has to vent and cry to my sister or I get how you feel because really - I've been there. I WAS there 9 months ago and slowly got myself out (wasn't in depression but very close i think). Things are not all sunshine and roses now but I feel better than I have in a long time and more confident about the future...I think this has a lot to do with me starting to find some faith. I won't get into that because I don't 'do religion' on public forums but if you'd like to exchange emails I would love to share with you. I also did a bit of a post about it on my own blog.

    You know, even though I don't know you I sensed (from your previous posts) that you were going through some things but trying not to blog it or discuss it. I am happy that you were able to talk to someone and are starting to feel more like yourself. Taking time for yourself is SO important - especially during tough times....but it is literally intergral to our well-being and mental health to take care of ourselves...even by doing something little.

    Hope this positive feeling continues. And I know it doesn't help much coming from a 'stranger' but things will get better. What's meant to happen will and I truly believe that! Hang in there :)

  6. OMG, why on earth did you not reach out to me for support??? I had no idea you were going through this crisis either. I'm glad that things are turning around, they always do, especially when you have a new perspective. I'm ALWAYS trying to find the elusive balance. I'm sending you love and light!

  7. I'm sorry to hear you've been going through this Connie, and glad you did finally reach out to friends. Part of the problem is that there's so much pressure put on us all the time to "think positive" and "be positive" that it's hard to admit you don't always feel positive. But we all go through struggles and yes, sometimes depressions. I'm glad things are starting to look up for you.

  8. @Miss Britt You're right, it is important to let ourselves feel whatever emotion we're experiencing, even if it's negative. I think one of the best ways for me, personally, to get over bad feelings is to just to allow them to take over in order to be able to move beyond it. I hope you're feeling more positive than negative these days too!

    @Shellee Nicols You are so spot on with your comment about feeling stressed about feeling stressed! The fact that I was feeling bad about living in a new and exciting place made me feel worse because I thought I shouldn't be, and that by feeling that way, something was wrong with me. Thank you, I will try to keep reminding myself why I chose this crazy lifestyle in the first place and I know that will help put things in perspective for me!

    @kay*(from india.with love) Sorry to hear that you went through something similar. It's such a common human emotion, but unfortunately feeling depressed still gets such a bad reputation that it's hard for people to be open about it. I have come to realize that what I need, not just now at my moment of despair, but also daily, is to take time to focus on myself. A little personal time a day does so much for the general well-being of people. And truth be told Kay, I don't feel like you're a stranger at all! I consider you a friend I just haven't seen in person yet! Maybe this year we'll remedy that? =)

    @Andi of My Beautiful Adventures Thanks for the love and light! To be fair, you're quite busy with your own wedding planning and complaining about living in Hong Kong just seemed so ridiculous to me. Besides, things ARE turning around for me and I'm sure they are going to continue doing so. By the time you come to Hong Kong this summer, I'll be back to my old happy self to welcome you!

    @Gray I think the mere fact of me talking (or in this case, blogging) about it, and getting feedback from other people has really shown me that I'm not alone in having these feelings of self-doubt and negativity. There is too much pressure to "stay positive" and although I'm not saying that being positive is a bad thing, I think societies should be more open and understanding that most people can't always be positive. Maybe just that simple acceptance can help take the pressure off and more people will find it easier to stay in their positive states. Thank you for the encouragement!

  9. UPDATE: I JUST GOT A FULL-TIME JOB OFFER HERE IN HONG KONG! Wow, I'm beyond happy! This just goes to show you that when you start focusing on yourself, life has a way of falling into place. Thanks again to everyone for all the love and support! Come to Hong Kong, we'll CELEBRATE!

  10. Congratulations on the job offer! I hope this will help you on the road to recovering from depression. I've dealt with the same issues while traveling and living abroad (and, frankly, while living in the States -- it's just, well, part of me... as much as I don't like admitting it). I think while living abroad, there's a desire to want to make your friends & family back home know you're fine -- so you write bubbly blog posts (or you don't... and then you get emails from your friends and family telling you you should come home!). But it would be impossible to be fine all the time, no matter where you live or what you're doing. Luckily, at least it seems to me, admitting your not fine seems to be the first step towards getting through it all.
    Best of luck!

  11. @Sally Thank you so much! You raise a good point that staying positive isn't easy, no matter where you are. Talking about it really does help and hopefully this post will encourage others who are feeling a bit down on themselves to reach out for help as well.

  12. Congrats! The universe has a way of aligning itself when love starts pouring in, doesn't it?

  13. I hope that you truly are feeling better Connie. I have let myself fall into similar types of ruts (if you don't mind me calling it that) and I'm not so good at hiding it.

    I think that it is important to really take a step back and let yourself sink into a moment, especially when you are feeling so overwhelmed. Stress is not going to fix anything! Unfortunately it's wired into our human nature. I'm glad you have such a great friend to help keep you balanced!

  14. @Marjorie It sure does! I hope the next time things seem difficult, I can remember that and just let the world take care of things on its own!

    @Annie I think it's better that you can't hide it, Annie, because only when you can get it out in the open can you start to recover from it. Sounds like you just get to miss the bad step of bottling it up inside.

  15. Goodness, yes. But I find if I get out & about with friends more helps :) I do think writing positive posts helps. So happy to have found you!

  16. @Happy Homemaker UK Me too! Maybe soon, I'll be Happy Homemaker HK? =)

  17. Hey! Sorry to hear that you weren't feeling yourself lately. Moving to a new country can make you feel 'unrooted' ... Do you have a support base in HK ? Expat friends? Relatives? Reach out to them whenever you need someone to listen to you, they might just rise to the occasion.

    But, congrats on the job!

  18. I'm really glad you're feeling better. I've felt depressed and anxious before, and I know it's not something you can just snap out of. But expressing your feelings, staying healthy, and exercising all help. If it's caused by feeling unstable, that full-time job is sure gonna help. You are definitely not alone in your feelings, as you can see from all these posts. Unfortunately, humans feel depressed sometimes, but we also feel love and pleasure and calm and all sorts of wonderful things too.

  19. Congrats on the job!! We all go through ups and downs in this thing called life...and we learn from it. In the end, it's how we bounce back up from it that makes us stronger. And no matter what happens, everything always works out. I pray all the time which helps me a lot. So when going through hell, just pray (to any divine you believe in, the universe, yourself). :) peace and ease. xx

  20. 19 COMMENTS!! This blog, coming from an authentic and genuine place of truth sure hit a spot with your readers!!! I am SO PROUD of you. And I'm not surprised in the LEAST that you suddenly got a job offer. I'm laughing with joy I'm so happy for you. I love you, Connie. Condragulations!

  21. @Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World Building up a network of friends now. I do have a couple of acquaintances but no one I'm close to. Yet! =)

    @ramblinbess I think all the wonderful feelings we can feel make it not so bad when we feel the bad stuff too. I just need to remember that the bad stuff will go away sooner than later. Thanks!

    @mi-an I'm glad that you found a way to help you through tough times. I think I will start my meditation again!

    @puhhLEIGHze Thanks for always believing in me, Leigh! And THANK YOU so much for helping me believe in myself! Honestly, I don't think I would be out here in Asia in the first place without all your support. I see what you've done with "congratulations" there. LOVE IT!

  22. YAY you're human! Seriously Connie, I was beginning to wonder if you ever had dark periods in your life :) Not from a mean point of view at all, just because, well, we all get them. It took ages for me to find work. I started looking mid August!

    Congrats on the job offer! It was only a matter of time!!

  23. @Phoenix Kassie, I was honestly JUST thinking about you today! It is true. I'm completely human and you know, I'm glad to know that it's okay for me to be just that. I don't know why I went around thinking I should be SUPERhuman before. We do all have dark times but it's also in our nature to overcome those challenges. Thanks for the congratulations! This means you can come visit me in Hong Kong now!!! =)

  24. Hi, Connie. Thanks for that brave and honest post. You know, I've felt the same way at home, where unemployment and underemployment have become a nagging problem for many of us. The economist Paul Krugman talks about "blighted lives," and there are many such blighted people in the United States right now, if it helps to know...

    Besides, I envy you your expat years (mine are over) and am glad to hear you are making the most of it by dancing in the living room. Sorry if I'm offending bloggy etiquette by mentioning this, but as explained in my most recent post, "Life's a Jolly Holiday," in my view all expats should embrace the glamorous lives they lead to the hilt. After all, you're the star of a pretty interesting film.

    More dancing, please!

  25. Congrats on the job offer!

    I've truly come to believe, especially over the last.....8 months, that what's meant to be will be..and if things don't go as you expect then it wasn't meant to be and something else is in store for you. This thinking has really helped me from stressing....

    And obviously you being in Hong Kong was meant to be!!

    (perhaps it didn't happen WHEN you expected it to happen (a few weeks ago) is because you were meant to learn to take time for yourself :)

    very happy for you! and yes, i think we should try and meet this year - maybe we can meet halfway between India and Hong Kong....

  26. I also have a bad habit of holding things in. Talking with a therapist has helped me a lot! I also try to make sure I have a good amount of me time, especially with my wedding coming up in a few weeks. Last week, I got a massage. Last night, I curled up and watched a movie. It's hard to do, but we definitely deserve to treat ourselves well!

  27. @ML Awanohara I don't mind you sharing your post at all! I'm planning on embracing living in Hong Kong to the fullest!

    @kay*(from india.with love) I keep telling myself that things always work out just as they should but when things are down and out, it's really hard to remember that it's supposed to be like this in order for things to turn out better.

    If I can manage it, I'd love to visit India again so we'll see what we can do about finally meeting up!

    @Emily Ooohhhh, congratulations on the upcoming wedding! I bet you're in need of some de-stress time! Good for you for treating yourself to a massage and a movie! I think when you're stressed and already feeling like you don't have enough time to do all the things you need to do, it's hard to step back from that make some personal time to calm and center yourself but it's SO NECESSARY! I commend you for putting yourself first! I'm going to make a habit out of treating myself better in the future!

  28. Oh I have had this happen to me many times Connie. I go through this same thing around the same time every year (the summer) when I am looking for odd end jobs to cover living costs in the summer when my regular teaching jobs disappear (Sept.-June only). Things have been better since I started school but I will then be looking for a full time teaching job after a graduate, and I am bracing myself for the immense stress.

    But my philosophy is to take it one day at a time, and then everything happens for a reason. Usually things seem to work out one way or another. But I am the same time of person, I like to bottle feelings up and not share with anyone until I literally get sick. I have learned to de-stress by taking dance classes, hanging out with friends (and Kfir of course), and enjoying life and where I am now compared to where I was even 5 years ago.

    Congrats on the full time job! I would love to come and visit you in Hong Kong sometime ;-) If you ever need to de-stress you can always throw my an email ;-)

    Hope all is well as we speak! Cheers!

  29. @Kristina Walton Glad to hear that you've found an outlet to help you de-stress! I need to be dancing more too! And of course, you're always welcome in Hong Kong!

  30. Thanks so much for sharing this - if more people shared how they are feeling with the world it really would be a better place!

    I can totally relate to how you are feeling - As someone who has moved across the other side of the world alone, I know what you are going through, and trust me, it only makes you stronger in the end.

    To leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill - 'When youre going through hell, keep going'. I always try to remember that when things get hard and it seems to help : )

  31. @Nicole @ WomanSeeksWorld Yes, I've come to learn that we are indeed, not alone in this world with our feelings. We need to be open and only then, can we start helping ourselves. Thanks for your added support!

  32. Hi Connie, My first 6 months in Portugal was one big happy-fest. Since then, the darkest depression has overtaken me. I didn't realize how leaving the U.S. would affect my bi-polar disorder! Now working with my new big city doctor, I am trying to pull myself out of it. Being a humorist and not finding anything funny is no joke! Also, Portuguese is one tough language to fala. I used to work in China and did better with Mandarian. I guess my message is to just keep trying. Get out and remember why you are where you are. Beijinhos!

  33. Hi Connie! Love to read your posts and so sorry to hear how you have been feeling. I can totally relate- I am living in eastern Europe now and lived in Hong Kong for 2 years. I must say life in Hong Kong is fabulous once you get yourself in balance again. It was a very difficult transition for me initially but once I fought through and focused on myself more, things really fell into place... making it quite difficult for me to leave. I wish you the very best and congratulations on a full time job offer! :)

  34. @Constance Glad to hear that you are working to help get yourself better! Things in Hong Kong are starting to look up for me so I'm finding myself happier and happier all the the time!

    @Anonymous Trust me, I SEE how fabulous Hong Kong can be! I'm finding my own little niche here and feeling better and better about my new, temporary "home."


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